House On Haunted Hill starts with a TV documentary clip about the Vannacutt lunatic asylum, and how it was run by a murderous ‘doctor’ who was to the patients of the 20th Century, what Harold Shipman was to those of the 21st Century, as he butchered the inmates and then, thanks to lax security, was burned alive when they fought back and destroyed the place.
Where did all this happen? Yes, that’s right, in the House On Haunted Hill! The clue’s in the title, y’see.
Five people – including Peter Gallagher, Taye Diggs and Final Destination‘s Ali Larter – have a ‘golden ticket’ to stay one night in the house, courtesy of fairground park owner millionaire bloke Stephen H Price (Geoffrey Rush), and if they survive, they’ll get $1m each. Or if there’s just one left, then $5m to themselves. Once accepting this, some incredibly weird stuff starts happening – one of the more bizarre being through the camera of an actress, and results in something akin to the 1997 video for Aphex Twin‘s Come To Daddy.
And as for how they all come to be in this place… it’s plain daft, so don’t expect this movie to make a whole lot of sense.
I haven’t seen the 1959 original, with Vincent Price in the lead role of Frederick Loren – and no doubt renaming the lead character’s surname to Price was an homage to him, but this lifeless film would have him spinning in his grave, since there’s just not enough going on in the 93-minute running time, and certainly little that’s scary.
This is the first release I’ve seen from Three Wolves, and to say there are problems with the presentation is an understatement. Presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, there are print flecks aplenty at the start, which then settles down so I can forgive it if the print has a few teething troubles initially, but soon after that, the print ‘sticks’ a bit, making it look like you’re watching through a zoetrope. I thought this was an effect for a particular scene, but it stuck with it from then on and throughout. I knew this came from the transfer and not a fault on the disc, as I checked the disc for dirt/scratches etc and there were none. I tried other discs to make sure it was my machine suddenly not going on the blink, but no. In all my years of reviewing, I’ve not yet seen a disc do this so badly and so often. A definite quality control issue!
On the contrary, there’s some neat split-surround SFX on the opening credits, and the audio is a frequent treat in DTS HD-MA 5.1. It only the same had gone for the picture.
There are no extras, the menus are silent and static, and while Blu-ray menus are meant to flow between each one fluidly, these have been encoded like a DVD menu, making your player jerk between them. There are also no subtitles. On the plus side, though, the menu says there are 12 chapters, but Three Wolves redeem themselves slightly, but going to town on the chapters with a massive 31 across the film, including one for the post-credits scene.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Three Wolves
Released: April 6th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: William Malone
Producers: Gilbert Adler, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay: Dick Beebe (based on the story by Robb White)
Music: Don Davis
Stephen H Price: Geoffrey Rush
Evelyn Stockard-Price: Famke Janssen
Eddie Baker: Taye Diggs
Donald W Blackburn, M.D.: Peter Gallagher
Watson Pritchett: Chris Kattan
Sara Wolfe: Ali Larter
Melissa Margaret Marr: Bridgette Wilson
Carl Schecter: Max Perlich
Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt: Jeffrey Combs
Male Nurse: Dick Beebe
Twisted Nurse: Slavitza Jovan
Channel 3 Reporter: Lisa Loeb
Channel 3 Cameraman: James Marsters
Price’s Secretary: Jeannette Lewis
Girl on Wires: Janet Tracy Keijser
Himself: Peter Graves
Park Attendant: Geneieve Leilyn (uncredited)
Ghost/Tree: Sheila Lussier (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.