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The 100




House on Haunted Hill, The
(1999)
Reviewed by Diane Squires
Rating: 7.5 Beans

ust for the record, props are not scary. Sure, a nice severed head or two can give a dungeon a certain flair, but let's face it, they don't really up the spook factor all that much now do they? If they were CGI severed heads and could jump around or spit blood, that would be scary. However, what we're talking about are just plastic props that sit there looking like props. No matter how many plastic carcasses you line up on your shelves, they are still just plastic carcasses, and they can't present any danger to anyone. Essentially, "The House on Haunted Hill" is trying to squeeze a cheap thrill out of a trip to the prop room.

Surely you know the drill by now. Random people go to some spooky old house where everybody who goes in there always dies. They are fully aware that everyone who goes in there always dies, but does this deter them? Oh no, not them. They always come up with some lame half baked reason to go in anyway. By the end of the movie, most of them drop dead, just like we all knew they would, but waiting around for them to hurry up and die, is supposedly suspenseful. Hell, maybe it would be suspenseful, if the ending wasn't always telegraphed to you before the opening credits are finished.

This time around, our intrepid haunted house hunters are Famke Janssen and Geoffrey Rush, playing an unhappily married couple, and a bunch of twenty something we neither remember nor like. Apparently, Famke has decide to have her birthday party here, but the forces of evil have changed the guest list. You see, you can't have a horror movie without ex-teen model cannon fodder, so the house was thoughtful enough to invite some. Now Geoffrey, knowing that the producers couldn't afford very much for cgi effects, has stocked the basement with as many cheap plastic corpses as he could find over at the hollywood bargain barn. When you can't scare people with the plot, or the actors, or effects, then go out and milk that spooooooookeeeee atmosphere.

Instead of sticking together like they should, the cut rate Scooby gang splits up, so they will be that much easier to kill. They run around and look scared because plastic horror movie props are soooo very threatening, aren't they? The blond dim-bo wanders into one of the evil haunted rooms and vanishes in a puddle of fake blood. Maybe she melted, who knows? Famke also turns up dead and Geoffrey gets blamed, so our heroes decide that the best thing to do, is lock him up in a big... prop. While he is out of the way, Famke comes back to life, stabs her lover, I guess the house invited him too, and chops off his head. Oops, maybe the knife slipped. I think some other random security guards die too, but I forget when it happened. Everybody freaks, and Geoffrey also ends up pretending to be dead. He and Famke have it out, she falls through a wall and oh no, dearie me, the CGI effect (note: I said effect, not effects plural. There's really just the one) is awakened!!

So it turns out this house was a loony bin, full of psychotic doctors who tortured the run of the mill crazy people. Now whether the evil house made the crazies, or the crazies made the house evil, is anyone's guess, but it doesn't matter because a big amorphous blob of CGI is out to get us all. Seriously, it's a big amorphous blob, it's almost as creepy as a charcoal briquet. It also turned out that all the characters are related to the psychotic hospital staff, so that makes it all make sense or whatever. Anyway, the special effect kills everyone except the two people you knew would survive from the very beginning. Some ghost saves their butts at the last minute. If anyone knows whose ghost it was please tell me. I thought it was the beheaded lover guy, but my sister swears it was the guy played by Chris Kattan of SNL fame.

I like horror, but this isn't horror. This is a warehouse tour at universal. If you're going to have one special effect, it should at least be good. If you're going to create atmosphere, you need a little more imagination and a little less acrylic paint. Suspense is all about plot, not about mood lighting and a nifty looking set.

Frankly, I preferred "The Haunting". At least it was funny.







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