House on Haunted Hill Collector’s Edition Blu Ray Review (Scream Factory)
House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 horror film directed by William Malone (Parasomnia, Feardotcom, Creature, & Scared to Death). It’s a remake of the 1959 film directed by William Castle & starring Vincent Price. It was the debut & put together by Dark Castle Entertainment (Thirteen Ghosts, House of Wax, Ghost Ship, & Gothika). It was produced by Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon franchise, Die Hard 1/2, Predator 1/2, Demon Knight, & Bordello of Blood) & Robert Zemeckis (Tales from the Crypt, Death Becomes Her, The Frighteners, & Trespass). They had a gimmick & special marketing promotion for the film in theaters where customers received a scratch off ticket with a chance of winning money when seeing this. The budget was $19 million, it opened # 1 at the box office, & it made $40.8 million worldwide. In 2007, a direct to video sequel to this “Return to House on Haunted Hill” was made.
In 1931 the patients at the Vannacutt Institute for the Criminally Insane revolt against the staff headed by the sadistic Dr. Richard Vannacutt (played by: Jeffrey Combs from the Re-Animator franchise, Motivational Growth, Would You Rather, The Wizard of Gore, & The Attic Expeditions). The patients start a fire which kills all of the inmates & all but five of the staff. Several years later in 1999, Evelyn Stockard-Price (played by: Famke Janssen from the X-Men franchise, Taken trilogy, Lord of Illusions, GoldenEye, & Hemlock Grove) asks her husband Steven Price (played by: Geoffrey Rush from the Pirates of the Caribbean frachise, The Tailor of Panama, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Intolerable Cruelty, & Munich) to set up a birthday party at the infamous location. She gives him a guest list but he changes it yet it somehow it ends up different from his own customized list. The owner Watson Pritchett (played by: Chris Kattan from SNL, A Night at the Roxbury, Corky Romano, & Santa’s Slay) brings in the 4 strangers into the cursed house which include Jennifer Jenzen (played by: Ali Larter from Final Destination 1/2, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Resident Evil franchise, & Heroes), Eddie Baker (played by: Taye Diggs from Basic, Day Break, Go, The Way of the Gun, & Equilibrium), Melissa Margaret Marr (played by: Bridgette Wilson from Mortal Kombat, Billy Madison, Last Action Hero, I Know What You Did Last Summer, & Higher Learning), & Dr. Donald Blackburn (played by: Peter Gallagher from American Beauty, The Player, Short Cuts, Malice, & The Hudsucker Proxy). They were all offered $1 million if they stayed the night & survived until the end. Anyone who died forfeited their money & the remaining guests would split up the cash. Price has his assistant Schecter (played by: Max Perlich from Drugstore Cowboy, Beautiful Girls, Homicide: Life on the Street, Blow, & Lansky) hidden & adding thrills to the already dangerous game. Each visitor has their own agenda & some have some dark secrets that haven’t been revealed yet. People start getting killed off one by one & no one can be trusted. Who’s really behind this night of terror? Who will survive & win all that money? Greed & murder follow these characters through this chilling experience into the world of the unknown!!!!
House on Haunted Hill has some similarities to the original but it’s more of a re imagining than an actual remake. It’s much darker & graphic compared to the late 50s version. It has a great ensemble cast which really brought the production to a higher level. Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Richard Vannacutt is one of true highlights here. I wish his character had more screen time in this. William Malone has always been an under-rated director & it’s a shame he didn’t get many opportunities after this feature. The special effects in the film are awesome & that’s not a surprise considered who worked on them. KNB Efx (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, & Howard Berger), Wayne Toth, & the iconic Dick Smith. Everything still holds up great in this. Lots of gore & violence to satisfy any true horror fan. The visual effects are the complete opposite. They are very dated & they look really silly compared to technology now. Back when this was made in the late 90s, they were considered high quality but they haven’t aged well at all especially the finale for this feature. It’s extremely bad, it will probably make you laugh out loud. I prefer the original to this but the 1999 version is definitely more entertaining & fun as far as viewing experiences go. I think this is one of the better remakes from that time period when studios were pumping them out left & right. It’s worth revisiting & adding to your collection.
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Scream Factory! This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer from a new 2K remaster from the original film elements is a major improvement over the original Warner Bros DVD release. It’s the highest quality version ever released on home video & better than the previous blu ray import. It really makes the outdated visual effects here stand out. The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds great. The dialogue is clean, all the suspense/thrills are elevated, & the music has never sounded better on this. It also has English SDH subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features from Scream Factory on this new release! It has an archival “Audio Commentary” with director William Malone. He talks about the Warner Bros logo & how he wanted to use the original one for this. He mentions that William Castle’s daughter was a producer on this. He mentions the screenwriter & jokes about being the first person you see in the house for the feature. He mentions KNB Fx & some of their work on this. He points out some of the cameos for the remake. He chats about the amusement park location & the visual effects used for it. He brings up Marilyn Manson almost having a part in this while his song is playing in the film. He talks about the cast for the production. He tells some additional backstory that’s not mentioned in the feature. He gets technical about some shots here. He brings up the score & how effective it is. He does a decent amount of scene by scene moments for this track. He goes into great detail about the finale & the visual effects for it. He mentions some scenes that got deleted at the end. “The Making of House on Haunted Hill” is a little over 37 minute interview with director William Malone. He chats about the original film. He shows his appreciation for William Castle & Vincent Price. He talks about how the project got started & what he was going for with it. He says that he wanted to use the original house but the location changed so much since then. He brings up adding his own concepts to the classic story. He mentions the pre-production process for it, He goes into the technical aspects of making the film. He says it was an honor to use effects from Dick Smith in this. He talks about the studio picking out most of the cast. He chats about the actors in the feature. He mentions Geoffrey Rush & how he was surprised that he wanted to do this remake. He talks about personally picking Jeffrey Combs for his role & the talent he brings to the screen. He chats about the visual effects & the team used for the production. He brings up working with the producers & editing the project. He says it was a good experience remaking this horror classic & he got good feedback for it for the most part. “Interview” is an almost 10 minute chat with composer Don Davis. He goes into great detail about the music from this film. He says he prefers it composed by actually performing rather than programmed. He brings up working with director William Malone & he mentions he turned a typical remake into something special.
“Interview” is an almost 19 minute chat with visual effects supervisor Robert Skotak. He talks about creating the look for the front of the house & the techniques used to make it look bigger than it was. He says he had to rent out space for the miniatures for the production. He tells a funny Joel Silver story when he got credit for something that he didn’t do. He brings up the finale & the visual effects process for it. He mentions working on the amusement park & ride. He talks about a certain death scene here & how it was done. He chats about working with the cast & the director for this project. He says Geoffrey Rush was very professional about everything & Famke Janssen lit up when he gave her compliments on her performance for the feature. “Concept Art and Storyboard Gallery” is almost 3 minutes. “Behind the Scenes Visual FX Gallery” is almost 6 minutes. “Movie Stills and Poster Gallery” is a little over 4 minutes. “A Tale of Two Houses” is a little over 19 minute vintage featurette. It talks about director William Castle & many of his gimmicks used for his films over the years. It has an interview with director William Malone. It makes comparisons between the original cast & the new actors for the remake. It shows the similarities & differences between the characters from both productions. It makes comparisons for the house locations & the deaths in the film. “Behind the Visual FX” is 7 minute interview with director William Malone. He goes into great detail & covers a variety of scenes from the production that used visual effects. 12 minutes of “Deleted Scenes” with comments from director William Malone explaining them. He mentions they didn’t work for the final cut. Debi Mazar is featured in a few of them & her character was completely cut out of the feature. It has promotional material which include the “Theatrical Trailer” & “TV Spots”. It also has a slipcover & reversible artwork. It’s available right now, check it out! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!