Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Remakes of classic films are always a chancy enterprise at best. Sequels of a remake are an even riskier undertaking, especially if time has passed and the embers of memory's fire are no longer hot. RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL revisits the grounds of the 1999 remake of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, the 1959 classic made by the late, great William Castle. Despite having a tough row to hoe, RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is able to succeed where other sequels/remakes often fail.

RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is the continuing story of the Wolfe family. Ariel Wolfe is the younger sister of Sarah Wolfe, one of only two survivors to escape from the Ghoulish House eight years earlier. Ariel becomes entangled with devious treasure hunters searching for a priceless statue within The House. It doesn't take long for the sinister spirits of Hill House to arise from the murky depths of the former asylum and led by the ghost of Dr. Vannacutt, the specters begin to eradicate the living one grisly killing at a time.

RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL has an eclectic cast of screen veterans led by Jeffrey Combs, reprising his role as Dr. Vannacutt, attractive starlets Cerina Vincent and Amanda Righetti and promising newcomers like Erik Palladino. Directed by Dagon's special effects wizard Victor Garcia, this film is an interesting mix of Raiders of the Lost Ark action, modern death scenes of impossibly spectacular gore, some appealing plot twists among the predictable story elements and some genuinely visceral moments of unsettling imagery. While struggling with many of the filming-technique evils that beset today's movies like overly dark settings, needlessly rapid editing and uncomfortable close-ups, these weaknesses do not overwhelm RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and in the end, it is an entertaining film that probably should have seen a theatrical release but wasn't, probably because its cast did not have a "bankable" star.

RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL has an appealing set of extras including a "Character Confessionals Gallery" with interesting anecdotes from the principles, a documentary, deleted scenes and the movie music video. On the hi-def version of the dvd is Warner Home Video's "Navigational Cinema" feature which is a sort of "choose your own outcome" which can be engaged at various exciting moments of the film. This was an especially fun feature that we enjoyed.

All in all, RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL breaks no new ground and does not leave an indelibly lasting impact, but it does entertain. It has the kooks and spooks with the thrills and splashy spills that make it worth the Return Journey to that oh-so Spooky House.

For an exclusive 30 minute Saturday Fright Special interview with Cerina Vincent, click HERE.

No comments: