There is a local DVD/Blu Ray store that I visit in town, they have this awesome selection of horror movie DVDs for great prices. A couple weeks ago I walked in to pick up some stuff, when I came across a DVD copy of the 1999 remake House on Haunted Hill. It was only five bucks so I grabbed it since I had never seen it and I had just recently purchased the original House on Haunted Hill, thought it would be fun to do a double-feature and write about it. Watching Return to House on Haunted Hill had never even entered my mind, I forgot it had even existed. So I purchase my DVDs and walk to my car and drive home. I take the receipt and pop open the House on Haunted Hill case to put the receipt in, as I do with all of my movie purchases. I notice something on the DVD, a picture of three of the actors. I found it weird because I knew that the film featured some notable people, but I had no idea who these actors were on the DVD. Then that’s when out of the corner of my eye I see the words Return on the top of the DVD. That’s when I realized what I had done. That’s when I had realized that I had somehow accidentally purchased Return to House on Haunted Hill, the 2007 straight-to-DVD sequel. I’ve had regrets, we all have, but not like this. Not like this.
Eight years after the events of the first film, Sarah’s (Ali Larter from the original film. Didn’t even know that until reading the synopsis two seconds ago) sister Ariel (Amanda Righetti) is the editor of a fashion magazine, living her normal life and inexplicably dodging her sister’s calls. After Sarah’s apparent suicide, Ariel begins to investigate with her photographer friend Paul (Tom Riley). Turns out that her sister’s suicide was a murder in disguise, set up by a treasure hunter named Desmond (Erik Palladino). Desmond inexplicably kidnaps them and brings them to the treacherous House on Haunted Hill, where the long-lost statue of Baphomet is hidden, a statue that is worth millions of dollars. But Desmond isn’t the only one looking for the idol, also at the house is Richard (Steven Pacey) who has been searching for the statue for decades, joined by his assistant Kyle (Andrew Lee Potts) and a student named Michelle (Cerina Vincent). Oh yeah, and ghosts kill people sometimes.
Before I yell at this movie, I’m going to take my traditional route of complimenting it first. Shockingly, there are minor things of value here. I’ll start out with the acting, which was actually not that bad for a straight-to-DVD horror movie. This isn’t exactly brilliant acting or anything, but for a bunch of young no-named actors in a shitty horror movie, they do perfectly fine with what they’re given. That is, with the exception of Cerina Vincent, who is awful in this. She’s so bad, it doesn’t help that she has some of the worst dialogue in the movie. But everyone else ranges from just okay to actually decent. Erik Palladino, who plays Desmond, is actually a solid actor. I wasn’t surprised to see that he has a large amount of credits to his name. He’s no leading man, but he’s made a number of appearances in film and television, because the guy has actual charisma and energy. Everyone else in the movie is okay, but pretty good for straight-to-DVD fare, except for him. He’s the only legitimately good actor in the whole movie. He somehow takes his horrible dialogue and makes it slightly watchable.
Although there is a large, nonsensical absence of killing in this movie, the kills that we do see are actually effective and cool. The first kill, a man getting his intestines ripped out by a hand in a wall, is actually painful and cringe-worthy to watch. All of the other kills, albeit some being pretty cheesy, are fun and the make-up looks great. Plus, I was surprised that a lot of the screaming during death scenes made it just as effective as the make-up effects do. Is the make-up convincing? No, absolutely not. But just like the acting, for a straight-to-DVD horror movie it’s pretty impressive. Outside of the gore, the make-up effects are still impressive, such as on the ghosts. The actual designs aren’t particularly creative, but the make-up itself is great.
Upon reading the synopsis above, you may be thinking “But Mike, this sounds more like a shitty Indiana Jones knock off” Well that’s because it is a shitty Indiana Jones knock off. Actually, I won’t give it that much credit. It’s more like National Treasure, which is already a shitty Indiana Jones knock off. So basically this movie is a shitty knock off of a shitty knock off. Listen, with a movie like this I’m fine with a simple story of a group of drunk teens decide to break into this house and then get murdered. I’m totally cool with some stupid shit like that. It’s far more simple and gets to the point, unlike this whole idea of a search for a lost idol in the basement of this haunted insane asylum-turned-mansion. It’s completely unnecessary and stupid, plus it takes away from the cool kills and horror elements. This movie is not a horror movie, it’s an adventure movie. It’s an action-thriller. The fucking audacity of this script boggles my mind.
Something else you may have thought to yourself whilst reading the synopsis above is “But Mike, this sounds stupid” THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS!!! The idiocy of this movie was something that I thought I was prepared for, BUT NOPE. This story takes moronic turn after moronic turn, with characters making these inexplicably dumb moves. Our protagonist manages to escape the house very early on in the movie, then finds out that her boy toy is still inside, at this point she also knows that the house is alive. What does she do instead of calling the cops/getting help? Gets a pistol and just walks back in. It’s this constant level of stupidity that just kept blowing my mind, all thanks to this wonderful script by William Massa. It was no surprise to me when I found out that this is the one and only script that he’s ever written. The dialogue is painfully bad, so bad that I actually want to apologize to the writer of the remake for saying that his dialogue was shit, because his dialogue was Shakespearean compared to what we have here.
You’d think that the movie being so stupid, mixed with cool kills, that it would be at least entertainingly bad. Nope, because the film is also mind-numbingly boring. The movie is a mere 79-minutes long, yet it some how manages to drag on and feel like hours. Why is that? Because–as I said before–there’s way too much of this wandering around looking for the lost idol and not enough ghost murder and horror. I don’t even need gore, if you want to be cheap then go for some cheap, creepy stuff. What do they do for horror here, outside of the gore? Everyone’s cellphones go off and yell at them. Oooooooh how spooooooky. Give me a fucking break.
With the 1999 remake, I expected something insultingly bad and instead got something watchable. It wasn’t great, but there was stuff to admire there. With this film, I once again expected death incarnate. Somehow, I got something far worse. I’ll give credit where it’s due, I do like most of the kills, even the cheesier ones, I like the make-up effects, and I was surprised that a majority of the actors weren’t that bad. But those things just aren’t enough to save this piece of shit. I tried so hard. Guys, I tried SO HARD to like this movie. But, it kept fighting me. It’s profoundly stupid, the characters are beyond idiotic, the dialogue is terrible, the pacing is inexplicably slow for a movie that’s not even 80-minutes long, and my God this story itself is appalling in it’s idiocy. HEED MY WARNING. AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS. REPEAT, AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS. IT’S NOT WORTH IT.