The Haunting Of Hill House
Last spring, a miniature controversy erupted over the similar titles of two films, one a remake of the revered Robert Wise psychological thriller The Haunting (based on the Shirley Jackson novella The Haunting Of Hill House), the other a remake of 1958's campy William Castle spookfest House On Haunted Hill. While the controversy resolved itself, perhaps it's time to start a new one: How can two remakes based on such disparate source material turn out to be the same stupid movie? Like The Haunting, The House On Haunted Hill is a dire haunted-house film that's as about as frightening as a state-fair spookhouse, and not half as fun. Taking over for Vincent Price, Geoffrey Rush plays an eccentric billionaire who, at his wife's insistence, hosts a party in a haunted mansion that once served as an insane asylum, offering a million dollars each to partygoers who make it through the night. The fact that these include such B-list stars as Peter Gallagher, Taye Diggs, Bridgette Wilson, and Chris Kattan suggests that at some point Haunted Hill was on the right path to follow in Castle's camp footsteps. But, given a chance to chew scenery in grand fashion, Rush instead plays it straight, a mistake that speaks to the film's central problem. Castle's original was bad, but it never took itself the least bit seriously, which helped make it entertainingly bad. Aside from an enjoyable turn by Kattan in the Elisha Cook Jr. role, William Malone's remake is unbearably grim. No one, it seems, dares or knows how to make good bad movies anymore. Consider this: The climax to Castle's film involved a skeleton on a string, and the results are still watched, enjoyed, and admired today. The climax to this new version features an expensive-looking computer effect that looks like a giant Rorschach inkblot, and it's hard to imagine anyone anywhere caring about it tomorrow.