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House on Haunted Hill: The One With Chris Kattan, Not The One Without Chris Kattan Review
by Doom and Generalissimo Furioso
guest starring Eddie Murphy
SWEEEET DREAMS ARE MAAAAAAADE OF THIS
Evil loves to party? Fuck you.
I've actually seen the original House on Haunted Hill, and I own it on DVD. While it's not actually what you'd call good, it did have Vincent Price. Vincent Prince alone puts the original over the abominable 1999 remake of it, also titled House on Haunted Hill (Hollywood is anything but original). At the end of the 1990s, the craze of remaking old horror movies was just coming into popularity. Before then, the common thing to do was make progressively shittier sequels, as evidenced by the 80 Friday the 13ths and the 15 Nightmare of Elm Streets. But although this movie was there at the start, the horror remakes of this style died out in the early part of the decade. See, House on Haunted Hill is old. Now, people do remakes of 1970s and 1980s bullshit, like Michael's Bay Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake or the new Hills Have Eyes. So this is something of an amusing oddity, like the unicorn or Furioso's penis (which, like the unicorn, does not actually exist). Thus, we felt the need to review for purposes of Schlocktoberfest and for our ongoing anthropological examination of hilarious failures.
That production house logo is never a good sign.
Dear god this is a terrible movie. The basic premise follows that of the original in which an eccentric millionaire invites various people to spend the night in a haunted house in exchange for money...IF THEY SURVIVE. Of course, this is where any and all similarities end because well... I don't know. Essentially, like any modern horror movie, it attempts to walk a fine line between convincing the audience that ghosts may not be the cause of everything here, and it's just a cover for very human evil machinations, and going all out for phantasm freakiness. Good for us that like most other modern horror movies, they completely bypass that point pretty soon and use special effects to assure us that ghosts are fucking real and they will murder you in the worst way possible because of reasons that are poorly explained and incredibly contrived. Even Chris Kattan's death was not enough to salvage this movie (unlike Mr. Brooks with Dane Cook). Nothing can salvage this movie, nothing! It's just a load of fucking people in a fucking house for over an hour. Christ.
It's Vincent Price! Oh wait... Shit.
Much like other horror movies made at this time, the cast is a smattering of well-known names and bizarre choices which suggest someone in the casting department toked before getting on the phone and offering some roles. Look, no matter how sympathetic you are to mutant Chris Kattan, you fucking know he doesn't belong in a horror movie unless he's playing the monster. Yet here is, playing the fidgety nervous guy. A role true to his life, yes, but nonetheless unneeded for this film. Although... The line "cause I want it, so you give it!" makes me believe Chris Kattan could play a spectacular rapist. Listen here for yourself. Other 'stars' include Geoffrey Rush, who plays the role of pedophile mustache which Vincent Price played in the original, Jean Grey as the wife, Nikki from Heroes the ostensible protagonist, Taye Diggs the black black black man. Geoffrey Rush chews as much scenery as he possibly can whereas Jean Grey is cold and unemotive like most of her characters. Nikki is fucking awful and Diggs is a, well, you know what Michael Richards would say. The interplay between the barely sketched characters fails to produce any memorable moments beyond their deaths and that kind of shit. I mean, I like Geoffrey Rush and all, and I love to fucking hate that worthless something Chris Kattan, but that is not enough for a retarded ensemble picture like this.
The foreignland subtitles hardcoded to the DVDrip increase the hilarity of this already funny image. Also, fun fact: Kattan is credited in the opening as "and Chris Kattan". Remember the bad old days when Kattan would have any kind of special credit? Now he's probably one of the Seven Dwarf costume guys at Disneyland. Hey, it's one way to get laid...
The most infuriating part of the movie is how slowly it goes. They have to set up the premise, set up the characters and then their dynamics, in addition to creating a lot of fucking ghosts and strain to connect said ghosts to some sort of underlying mythology characters can try to figure out throughout the film (because "crazy shit happens" is no longer an adequate explanation that audiences will accept). Despite the wackadoo cast list, none of the characters are interesting or memorable. Geoffrey Rush cannot save every role, you see. He may try, but sometimes he fails and other times he gives up without effort, says "fuck it" and collects the paycheck. Here he's, I don't know, somewhere between two and three. On second thought, two, since there's some fine scenery chewing and some funny line deliveries (Geoffrey Rush sells every single "fuck"). Rush portrays a rich theme park entrepreneur (those exist, definitely) named Price (get it? Vincent Price? Eh? Eh?) who hates his wife. She hates him back too, and there's a lot of passive-aggressiveness, culminating in Rush holding her birthday party at the titular house on haunted hill. Through the power of ghost magic, the guest list alters from his their handpicked choices to some strangers. Yes, the first act of ghost magic is rewriting a Word document. No, the culprit does not turn out to be Ghostwriter. Nevertheless, Price lets them test out his challenge of getting 1 mil if you last the night. Things go how you expect, and you'll be able to predict what happens long before it actually does.
OH MY CHRIST THE GHOSTS ARE EDITING A WORD DOCUMENT RUN FOR THE HILLS
The house locks down and Kattan suddenly becomes Bill Paxton in Aliens, confirming to all that the house is evil and alive and everyone will die, which makes me wonder why he let rich people rent the place out in the first place. Still, the movie wants to have it both ways, alternately showing the ordeal to be the work of a husband who wants to kill his wife or a wife who wants to kill her husband. But that goes out the window whenever you see ghosts, which is pretty damn often. The plot splits with Taye Diggs, Ali Larter and Kattan trying to figure a way out and the rich white people crossing/doublecrossing/Geoffrey Rush hams it the fuck up. Rush gets some one-liners, but it's still pretty dry stuff. How dry? Approximately 12% of the movie consists of Price and his wife criticizing each other and making clear to everyone their marriage is a sham and both want out through murder. While it may be fun to see Geoffrey Rush call Jean Grey a stupid whore, the novelty wears off after a while. It taking a good 45 minutes to kill somebody off doesn't help make it exciting either.
Real scary, eh, kids?
House of Haunted Hill makes a lot of easily avoided mistakes. Like, the ghost "main antagonist" is played by Jeffrey Combs. Jeffrey Combs, everyone! Known for starring in an episode of FreakyLinks and playing the partner of Stephen Dorff in Feardotcom! Yet the filmmakers make the baffling choice to have his role as a non-speaking one. People love his voice. Why the fuck do you think he appears on so many cartoons? It's not his roguish good looks. Also, lnstead of letting the audience learn the backstory of the house organically through the film, the filmmakers decide the audience would be too confused, so woooooo prologue. It shows exactly what happened 68 years ago, and the prologue morphs into a newsreel story to hammer home the point that this happened in olden times and House on Haunted Hill the original also occurred in olden times so why not include some black and white, you know? Then the newsreel becomes a show hosted by Peter Graves, who goes on to explain the entire fucking thing. 7 minutes in and we already know the asylum inmates' and the doctors' ghosts haunt the place. Since the movie spends so much time and exposition unraveling the mystery to the characters, the audience should've learned this shit when the characters did. A solid third is Kattan giving a tour of the basement with all the insane asylum rooms. Jesus. One thing they don't explain is why the fuck an asylum would have ever have this design. Or why they used electroshock therapy in 1931.
This isn't freaky, all black people have shiny eyes.
Since the script doesn't bother to make any likable besides Geoffrey "Magnificient Bastard" Rush, House must make do with fulfills its genre promise: terror and mayhem. The scares leave much to be desired, as do the deaths. There's a significant body count relative to the number of cast members, true. That means nothing if the deaths aren't shockingly gruesome, meaningful, unexpected or novel. House on Haunted Hill contains none of those ingredients for a good death; the best one is Famke stabbing the guy who looks like but isn't Greg Kinnear to death. And that's not even supernatural! The other deaths involve characters being enveloped or shoved into a black dust cloud of evil spirits. Yeah, I know, 1999, you thought CGI was cool looking. Doesn't make it right. Speaking of which...by the conclusion, the true villain emerges when a fight between Rush and Famke results in smashing open a door that held an evil amalgamation of all the people who died in the house in the last 68 years. It tries to absorb everyone into its ghostly form for some reason. I'm certain the script had a lot of "for some reason" in it. Just a hunch. There's something about the guests being the descendents of the five survivors of the asylum, even though there are seven people there, and one is using someone else's identity...but it doesn't matter. Ghosts don't adhere to our human "logic"!
I kept expecting Count Floyd to pop up.
As for scares, they mostly consist of a decrepit building falling apart when you don't expect it to, accompanied by an overbearing score confirming, yes, the cast nearly died from falling debris. When not stinging like crazy, the sound design uses ghosts whispering to try to unnerve the audience. It didn't work in our case; instead, the whispers became annoying, like someone behind you in the movie theatre trying to explain the plot to someone else. "SHUT UP! IF YOU'RE NOT RIFFING, SHUT THE FUCK UP!" There's also the carousel of images, wherein the director and the editor quick cut as many spooky images together in as short a time as possible. They're not disturbing, unless you're Joseph P. Kennedy and you didn't know what asylums did to your daughter. Scratch that, Kennedy wouldn't have given a shit regardless, that dickhead. The fact that the Darkness, the final foe for our heroes(?), is nothing but a Rorschach blot made of dead people shows the lack of imagination from the effects crew. I got bored a lot during House of Haunted Hill. Even in bad horror, you're not supposed to let your audience get bored. Yet there I was, bored out of my mind, watching effects of what seemed like if Silent Hill was adapted in 1999.
The movie tries to meld a throwback to the classic William Castle feel with modern sensibilities and it never works. You can't really mix 50s operatic score with Marilyn Manson, no matter how many attempts are made. They just don't mesh, man. Moreover, the supernatural spectres are really fucking violent; one of the characters is decapitated, cut into sections, etc. It's like the filmmakers wanted to show that this wasn't your father's House on Haunted Hill, yet Castle's version was a lot more creepy, and Vincent Price was better than Geoffrey Rush's fake Vincent Price. I would've liked it if they went full on cheese and camp. Might not've been good, but it'd likely be a hell of a lot better than the rather dour version William Malone cranked out. The only moments of fun are unintentionally humorous dialogue. For instance, Ali Larter asks "but into an online computer, through the Internet?" when Kattan explains the ghosts can manipulate electricity...for some reason (Malone would later to go on to disgrace science with Feardotcom, a movie I can safely claim makes no fucking sense whatsoever). To compound his warnings, Kattan says "this house is pissed. It has no morals, cause it's a fucking house". That may have meant to be a joke, but I'm including it anyway. Otherwise, grotesque creatures, lots of yelling, and scenes of people trying to outrun a house (seriously). Yep, reminds me of the retarded shit like The Haunting all right.
Eddie Murphy knows a thing or two about haunted houses and starring in movies about them, having appeared in Haunted Mansion several years after this piece of shit hit the screen. Let's see what he thinks of the product that, uh, "inspired" his work.
Heh-heh-heh! I'm going to murder you all! No, I'm just kidding, heh-heh-heh. Now, you Daily Raider writers are accusing me of ripping off this House on Haunted Hill for my box office smash family film The Haunted Mansion. That ain't true and you know it ain't true and I don't care if I have to make you tell the truth with a knife, I'll fucking do it. I've killed people before. Lots of 'em. That tranny hooker was shocking because it was the first time I was seen with a living transvestite hooker. The Haunted Mansion is better than House on Haunted Hill anyway. Haunted Hill had a lotta faggots like Geoffrey Rush and that Kattan fella, whereas The Haunted Mansion had me, Eddie Murphy! A-heh-heh-heh-heh! No, seriously, I am STILL an A-list star and all of you need to admit it or I'll kill you. I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU. IT WON'T BE THE FIRST TIME! You could've left it all alone and given me that Oscar for Dreamgirls, but no, you had to make me upset.
Uh...well said, Mr. Murphy? Actually, I would've liked to have seen him in the Diggs role. He'd make shit more hilarious, by which I mean he'd fuck a tranny and then try to cover it up by killing it.
The 90s were generally the nadir for horror; besides Scream and its imitators, one is hard pressed to come up with much in the way of "seminal" horror from that decade. So yes, by process of elimination, I'd put House of Haunted Hill on there, if only because it was one of the first remakes of a classic, or at least a well-known, film. It occurred in tandem with rubbish like The Haunting, which was like House on Haunted Hill only a lot more boring and about a stupid bitch who loves ghostly manifestations of children. While not as ridiculously 90s as The Craft, this still is so fucking 90s it sometimes hurts, from the eclectic cast that includes people who'd be confused for being dead a scant five years later to the multiple uses of Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)". I think it's important to recognize how awful the 90s were; we may (and do) bitch about horror in the current decade, but at least it's a lot more interestingly bad than the generic crapola the 90s had. Just like WWI spawned the lost generation, so did the 80s. The aftermath of the slasher craze resulted in the lost generation of horror.
Uh...don't ask me.
If nothing else, this and Resident Evil prove any horror film containing Marilyn Manson music is doomed to failure. As much as I like the guy and his John 5 kicking out habits, horror that chooses his work lacks in the scriptwriting department. And the story department. And the acting department. And everything else. In House on Haunted, his cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" plays, quite inexplicably, when Price types the list for his wife's party, the computer deletes and rewrites it (GHOST IN THE MACHINE!!!!) and a montage of all the people invited to the party riding in limousines and reading their invitations. Other films which failed for their Manson inclusion are: Gamer (which used the very same song, even...in 2009), Trick R' Treat (again, "Sweet Dreams" and in 2008), Blair Witch Project 2, Dead Man on Campus...look, if I continued both of us would be here all night. The point is, don't put Manson in your movie as the chances of it sucking increase. Can you name a good movie with well-placed use of Marilyn Manson music? No, you can't, can you? Exactly my point.
Ugh...yes, Chris Kattan's ghost saves the two survivors from imminent death. The true hero of House on Haunted Hill is ghost Kattan. Kinda makes me want to become a ghost...
Despite the shittiness of this and 13irteen Gh0s!s, I await more William Castle remakes aimed at a contemporary audience of stupid teenagers and horror lightweights. They have a certain cheesy, shitty charm about them which is lacking in the glossy, slick, soulless Platinum Dunes reimaginings. No way would Michael Bay's company cast such eccentric, oddball choices as Geoffrey Rush, Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, Chris Kattan and last but not least Jeffrey Combs (the patron saint of everything the Raider holds dear, which is mostly Jeffrey Combs). If I may be so bold, the end of the Castle remakes signaled the end of the 90s even though they stretched into the 00s. Without the glories of 90s schlock, we're in the tar pit of commodity masquerading as horror. I want more Castle remakes, goddamnit, and they will revitalize Dark Castle if created. How fucking sick is it that we're at a time that compels me to argue for more of these movies? Savage new times, Max. Savage new times.
How many drinks do I need for this to be good?: 303