REVIEW: RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

CAST

Amanda Righetti (Friday The 13th 2009)
Cerina Vincent (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Erik Palladino (666 Park Avenue)
Tom Riley (Da Vinici’s Demons)
Andrew Lee Potts (Alice)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Return to House on Haunted Hill

Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti) is the sister of Sara Wolfe (Ali Larter), a survivor of a publicity/birthday event hosted by Steven Price eight years ago in the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. In the 1920s, the asylum was overseen by the sadistic psychiatrist Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs). Sara claimed that ghosts of the house residents killed Price and the party guests, and that she barely escaped with her life, but no one believed her. She later commits suicide and a bereaved Ariel tries to find out why. Ariel discovers a diary written by Dr. Vannacutt that reveals the history of the Institute. She and her friend Paul (Tom Riley) are then kidnapped by an unscrupulous art dealer, Desmond Niles (Erik Palladino), who knows a great deal about Sara and Vannacutt’s hospital. Ariel quickly realises that Sara didn’t commit suicide: Desmond killed her. Desmond forces Ariel to help him find an artifact allegedly located inside the old Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute, a figurine of the demon Baphomet. While Desmond’s henchman Samuel (Andrew Pleavin) holds Paul captive outside the asylum, Ariel, Desmond, and four of Desmond’s accomplices enter the building. Once inside, they encounter Dr. Richard Hammer (Steven Pacey). Dr. Hammer has been lured into the asylum by his assistants Kyle (Andrew-Lee Potts) and Michelle (Cerina Vincent). Desmond is one of Dr. Hammer’s former students, and Michelle is Desmond’s lover. Michelle seduced Dr. Hammer to learn what he knew about the sanatorium and the Baphomet idol, and then lured Hammer and Kyle into the asylum so they could help search for the statue.
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Several loud noises are heard, and Ariel explains that the building has been rigged to keep everyone inside for at least 12 hours. The group splits up to search for the idol: Desmond with Ariel, Michelle with Richard, and Kyle with Desmond’s accomplice Norris (Gil Kolirin). The remaining henchmen, Warren (Chucky Venice) and Harue (Kalita Rainford), each go off alone. Warren is killed when his body is sucked into a wall when he receives a vision about a patient being locked inside the wall, set up by Vannacutt. Harue is seduced by several lesbian ghosts, and has a vision about Vannacut ordering his staff to kill them in their electric head bands. She dies when her face is sliced off by the ghostly Dr. Vannacutt. Ariel is separated from Desmond and dragged into a padded cell. The ghost of a dead inmate (George Zlatarev) traumatizes her by showing Ariel the depravity he and the other inmates suffered under Dr. Vannacutt. These images reveal that Vannacutt was driven mad by the idol, and later performed experiments on the mentally ill. The dead inmate led a revolt against Vannacutt, during which the sanatorium burned down. (The audience is shown footage from the 1999 film House on Haunted Hill, which depicted these events.) The deaths of characters in the previous film were assumed to be caused by the spirits of dead inmates seeking vengeance. But now Ariel is shown that the dead are actually forced by the idol to do Vannacutt’s bidding and did not willingly kill. Ariel falls unconscious. She wakes to find herself in a straitjacket, and screams. Her cries lead Desmond, Dr. Hammer, and Michelle to her cell and they rescue her.

In the asylum’s entrance hall, Norris, who has a vision about a patient being dismembered too, is dismembered by ghosts. Ariel, Michelle, Desmond, and Dr. Hammer hear Kyle scream and rush to the entrance hall. Although the 12 hours are up, the master locking mechanism begins to lock the house down again. Ariel escapes before the house is sealed again. But she discovers that Samuel and Paul have entered into the house to look for her. The main door opens as if to invite her in, and she goes back inside. In the entrance hall, Samuel swears he heard Desmond tell them to enter the building. While Desmond and the others discuss the situation, Samuel is lured away by a shadow and killed by the ghost of Dr. Vannacutt. In the ensuing chaos, Paul, Kyle, and Dr. Hammer subdue and disarm Desmond and Michelle.

Ariel convinces the group to search for an exit through the sewer. The group first goes through the hydrotherapy room. Desmond knocks Kyle into the water and flees with Michelle. Ariel tries to save Kyle, but he is dragged to the bottom of the pool by a ghost and slain, and one of the ghosts gives Ariel a vision about the patient being thrown into the water and drowned while struggling to get to the chain. Dr. Hammer and Paul pull Ariel from the water and save her life. Elsewhere, Desmond and Michelle argue over whether to keep looking for the idol. Convinced Michelle wants the idol for herself, Desmond attempts to kill her. Michelle flees but is killed by Vannacutt. Desmond resumes the search alone. Ariel, Paul, and Dr. Hammer discover a grate leading to the sewer and a way out of the asylum, but it is blocked by iron bars too narrow for a person to fit through. The ghost of the rebellious inmate gives Ariel another vision, showing her that the idol is in a hidden chamber behind an oven in the asylum’s basement crematorium.

Ariel, Paul, and Dr. Hammer descend to the crematorium, locate the correct oven, and discover a secret exit at the oven’s rear. They walk down a corridor and discover the “heart of the house” (composed of living flesh). Ariel tries to destroy the idol with her handgun but it is indestructible. She removes the idol, reasoning that if it is flushed down the sewer and leaves the building all the spirits will be freed. The team travels back up the corridor and out of the oven, but are ambushed by Desmond. With the idol threatened, the spirits begin attacking. Desmond is seized by ghosts and pushed into a furnace where he is burned alive after he has a vision about the patients being sick and also one of them is being sent to the oven to be burned alive. Paul avoids death by fleeing into the oven and back down into the heart of the house. Ariel and Dr. Hammer rush to the sewer grate to flush the idol before Paul dies. But Dr. Hammer is overcome by the idol’s evil and tries to strangle Ariel. They fight, and Ariel encourages Hammer to resist the idol’s influence. While Ariel and Hammer are fighting, the ghost of Vannacutt and inmates appeared, but Vannacutt ordered the inmates to halt and watch Ariel and Hammer fighting, hoping one of them will die. Later on Hammer recovers his senses, but the ghost of Dr. Vannacutt appears and begins killing him. Ariel seizes the idol and throws it through the grate and into the sewer. The spirits begin vanishing (saving Paul’s life at the last moment). Several spirits attack Dr. Vannacutt, tearing him apart. With Vannacutt no longer controlling the locking mechanism, the building comes unsealed. Ariel and Paul leave.In a post-credits scene, a man and woman are shown about to make love on a beach. The woman feels something under the sand beneath her. They dig, and pull the Baphomet idol into the light.

Return to House on Haunted Hill

Not as good as the first one but was still very enjoyable. There’s not much of a story but plenty of gore. If you like nudity, gore and plenty of ghosts ready to inflict the next gruesome death, then you might like this one.

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REVIEW: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999)

CAST

Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare In Love)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Ali Larter (Heroes)
Taye Diggs (Basic)
Peter Gallagher (American Beauty)
Chris Kattan (Undercovr Brother)
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Billy Madison)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
James Marsters (Caprica)

Still from House on Haunted Hill (1999)

The head of a now abandoned asylum, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs), once performed grotesque experiments on the patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was closed in 1931 after the patients escaped from their cells, killing the entire staff (except five who were not present) and setting fire to the hospital. Vannacutt had rigged the building with numerous iron gates, activated by cranks and levers that cannot be reset for twelve hours, to keep patients from escaping. He closed the gates during the fire, dooming the patients and himself to death. Decades later, during reconstruction of the facility, several unexplained deaths result in the building being dubbed “The House on Haunted Hill”.
Still from House on Haunted Hill (1999)
In 1999, Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen), a spoiled trophy wife, is in a disintegrating marriage with Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humor. Price leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), for Evelyn’s birthday party. Evelyn gives Price a lengthy guest list; he shreds it to spite her and then creates one of his own. Five guests arrive for the party – Jennifer Jenzen (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Pritchett himself. The guests are not the ones Price invited—neither Evelyn nor Price know who they are. Despite this, Price continues the party’s theme, offering $1 million to each guest who stays in the house and survives until morning, with any person not making it having his money added to the pot.

The security gates are tripped, locking everyone inside. After finding some hand guns, Jennifer, Eddie and Pritchett decide to take one of the guns. Meanwhile, Price scolds Carl Schecter (Max Perlich), a company employee – who has developed a series of harmless traps to scare the guests— for not letting him know he planned to pull a stunt like closing the iron gates. When Schecter states that he is not responsible, Price believes Evelyn is responsible. Meanwhile, Pritchett, Eddie and Jennifer go into the lower levels to find a way to open the gates. As Eddie and Jennifer explore the dungeon-like basement, Jennifer confesses to Eddie that her real name is Sara Wolfe, and that she’s an out-of-work assistant to the real Jennifer Jenzen. And that she attended the party in Jennifer’s place because she needed the prize money. However, the two are separated, and Sara is nearly drowned in tank of blood by a ghost impersonating Eddie. Though the real Eddie arrives in time to save her.

Melissa disappears when she wanders off in the basement, leaving behind a massive trail of blood. After Melissa’s disappearance, Price goes to Schecter to accuse him of faking the killing and hiding her; when he turns the seat around Schecter is found brutally murdered. Price sees a doctor walking through the room with a bloody knife on a surveillance monitor and fruitlessly chases after him. Shortly after, Evelyn dies in front of the others, when they find her mysteriously strapped onto a hypercharged electroshock therapy table. Furious, Price pulls a gun on the guests, demanding to know which one of them killed his wife. Sara nearly shoots him, but Eddie knocks him out before either one can kill the other. The remaining guests lock Price in the “Saturation Chamber”, an archaic device that Vannacut used to treat schizophrenics. Blackburn volunteers to stay behind to guard Price, while the others search for another way out. Seemingly clueless as to what the machine is or how it works, Blackburn turns the chamber on with Price still inside, and leaves him trapped. The chamber bombards Price with moving images and ghostly hallucinations until it drives him catatonic.

Meanwhile, Sara and Eddie find Vannacut’s office. Inside, they find a portrait of all the head staff, most of which have their last names, as well Price’s and Evelyn’s maiden name, on a staff picture from the asylum. Pritchett explains that that the spirits themselves created the guest list specifically to include the descendants of the five members of Vannacutt’s staff who did not die in the 1931 incident. The only exception is Blackburn, whose name does not appear amongst the staff.

Blackburn is revealed as Evelyn’s lover and they are working together to kill Price. Evelyn, who was brought back to life by Blackburn, kills him and uses his body to frame her husband. Sara, who heard Melissa moaning in the basement, comes across an incoherent Price in the basement, still delirious from his “treatment” in the saturation chamber. Believing that he is Blackburn’s murderer, shoots him as he begs her to help him. After the others return upstairs, Evelyn approaches Price to gloat, and Price, protected by a bullet-proof vest, attempts to kill Evelyn. The two scuffle before Price throws her through a decaying door. Inside the rotting room, the two realize they just stumbled upon the evil core of the house. The Darkness – a dark, shape-shifting creature composed of the spirits in the house – awakens and begins to take form. Evelyn is captured by the Darkness, which assimilates Evelyn into itself, killing her while Price watches in horror. The Darkness emerges in front of Price, revealing that it is composed of “everyone who died and is responsible”. This force begins to pursue Price. Pritchett is killed by The Darkness, allowing Price to evade it. Price tells Sara and Eddie that “the house is alive” and deduces that the only way to get out is through the attic. The three flee as The Darkness begins to seep through the house, manipulating the walls and shattering the floors as it chases them.

As they flee, Sara trips, and the Darkness uses Melissa’s form to try to lure her to it. Price activates a pulley that reveals an opening in the window of the attic. When the Darkness seeps into the attic, Price sacrifices himself to give the others time to escape, but the Darkness reactivates the iron gate after Sara escapes, trapping Eddie inside. When The Darkness confronts Eddie about his ancestor’s actions, it takes on several forms of all the guests who died during the party. Eddie screams out of desperation that he was actually adopted. As the Darkness prepares to assimilate Eddie, Pritchett’s ghost appears and opens the iron gate. The Darkness is distracted by Pritchett long enough for Eddie to escape out the window to Sara on an outside ledge. Pritchett’s ghost and the Darkness then both fade away. As Sara and Eddie watch the sun rise, they notice an envelope on the ledge. It contains all five $1 million checks, made out to cash. After the credits, a black-and-white film shows the patients torturing Evelyn and Price in the afterlife.

Overall the film starts like any other Hollywood horror but the clever direction, creepy music and imaginative visuals of Dr Vannacutt all create a creepy feel to the film that is better than the gore that also comes. The final section slides back into standard fare with the old CGI evil coming to get us – but up till then it’s surprisingly good stuff.

REVIEW: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

CAST

Vincet Price (The Fly)
Carol Ohmart (Wild Youth)
Richard Long (The Big Valley)
Alan Marshal (After The Thin Man)
Carolyn Craig (Giant)
Elisa Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)

House on Haunted Hill (1959) still

Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five people to a “party” he is throwing for his fourth wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), in an allegedly haunted house he has rented, promising to give them each $10,000 with the stipulation that they must stay the entire night in the house after the doors are locked at midnight. The five guests are test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long); newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum); psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), who specializes in hysteria; Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), who works for one of Loren’s companies; and the house’s owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook). Pritchard disapproves of Loren’s use of the house for his “party,” making it unclear how Loren acquired access to the house in the first place.

Still from House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Arriving late at night in separate funeral cars with a hearse leading the procession, Loren’s guests are told the rules of the party, and each is given a .45 caliber pistol for protection. Forced to attend the party, Loren’s wife tries to warn the guests that her husband is psychotic, causing them to be very suspicious of him. Nora becomes convinced that he’s trying to kill her when she keeps seeing frightening ghosts, including the ghost of Annabelle, who had apparently hanged herself some time during the night.
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Almost as frightened as Nora is Watson Pritchard. He is convinced that the house is genuinely haunted by the ghosts of those killed there in the past, including his own brother, and that those ghosts have the power to “come for” (kill) anyone in the house. Schroeder is attacked in a basement room, but is convinced his attacker was real, and tries to calm Nora’s fears. It is eventually revealed that Annabelle, in league with her lover, Dr. Trent, faked her death in an attempt to frighten Nora so badly that she will be compelled to shoot Loren. After being driven into a fit of hysteria by the repeated frights she has experienced during the night, Nora, seeing Loren walking toward her in the basement with a gun in his hand, does indeed shoot Loren. After she flees the room, Dr. Trent slips in and tries to get rid of Loren’s body by pushing it into a vat of acid there (which had been used by a previous resident named Norton to kill his own wife), but the lights go out, and the sounds of a struggle and splash are heard followed by hissing and rapid bubbling.
Carol Ohmart stars as the beautiful but dangerous Annabel Loren
Hearing the gunshot, Annabelle rushes down to the basement to confirm that her husband is dead, but finds the room empty. Suddenly, a skeleton rises from the acid accompanied by Loren’s disembodied voice. As the animated specter approaches, Annabelle recoils and screams in horror, accidentally falling into the acid herself. The real Loren then emerges from the shadows, holding the contraption that he used to manipulate the skeleton which is now revealed to be Dr. Trent’s. Triumphant, he states that when Annabelle and Trent were starting their “little game of murder” and planning to kill him that he was “playing too.” He then tosses Trent’s skeleton in the vat to dissolve in the acid. Nora tells the other guests that she has shot Loren in the basement, but when they all arrive there they find him alive. He tells Nora that the gun she fired at him had been loaded with blanks, and explains to his guests that his wife and Dr. Trent had been trying to kill him and that they have each met their end in the vat of acid, adding solemnly that he is “ready for justice to decide” his guilt or innocence.

Watson Pritchard, still an avid believer in the supernatural, looks into the acid and declares that Annabelle and Dr. Trent have now joined the ranks of the house’s many ghosts. With a terrified expression on his face, he announces that the ghosts are now coming for him, then, he turns toward the audience and adds, “And then they’ll come for you.”

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Vincent Price is definitely the star here — creepy, intelligent, debonair, and he has an acid comment for every occasion (“Don’t stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me. It makes wrinkles”). Ohmart runs a close second with her seductive, devious trophy wife who openly admits that she wants to be a “lovely widow”. The assorted other actors do solid jobs as well, although Craig doesn’t do much except shriek periodically. House on Haunted Hill is a deserving vintage horror movie — a twisty plot, and Price at his finest. A must-see.