House on Haunted Hill was the second of two movies released in 1999 featuring haunted mansions and based on gothic novels/films of the late ’50s and early ’60s. The Haunting was produced by Steven Spielberg and outgrossed Haunted Hill. But, even though Hill was the cheaper production and sold fewer tickets at the box office; it’s the slightly superior film of the two.
Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) is an amusement park designer with a wife (Famke Janssen) who harbors a perverse side. She wants to celebrate her next birthday at a long-closed former mental hospital that is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in the world. So, she asks her husband to invite five guests to the party. The guest list is mysteriously changed and five strangers with no connection to Price or his wife are the sole party guests. They are offered one million dollars each if they can survive the night in the house on haunted hill.
Horror is a genre that truly proves the film is a director’s medium. A good filmmaker can elevate a pulp story into art, resulting in cross over mainstream success if a film is deemed worthy by general audiences. House on Haunted Hill isn’t expertly directed nor is it a classic in any terms, but it provides modest thrills and a few jumps that stick in the memory. Geoffrey Rush chews the scenery and gives a thoroughly entertaining performance. A mixed review but ultimately I can’t recommend this flick to those looking for quality scares. Although I do recommend it over the deadly dull, The Haunting.
Director: William Malone
Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs