House on Haunted Hill Review (1999)


My History With the Film:
House on Haunted Hill was one of the first DVDs that I purchased back in the summer of 2000. I knew nothing about the movie when purchasing the DVD and only bought it because it was loaded with special features. It also had cool cover art.

I went home and decided to check the movie out and I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting a film with such a stellar cast, cool special effects, a nice vibe, and fantastic music. I loved the setting and the plot, and it really blew me away.

In the early 2000’s, I must have watched House on Haunted Hill at least once every three months or so. But I’ve seen it maybe once in the past ten years. When Scream Factory announced a blu-ray release, it quickly became my most anticipated release and when I ran into some Amazon credit, I bought a copy in June 2019 and gave it a watch with my fiancĂ©e.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Five strangers are invited to a birthday party at an abandoned asylum that is supposedly haunted.

What I Liked About It:
-The music! I never realized how much I loved the music until this most recent watch. In fact, I’ve been listening to the score almost non-stop the last few days. It’s haunting, riveting, and interesting. It’s very different from what you usually hear in horror films and really makes the film stand out.


-The cast is diverse and wonderful. I’m a huge fan of Ali Larter, Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, and Bridgette Wilson. Then you add the incredible talents of Peter Gallagher, the shocking effectiveness of Chris Kattan in a serious role, and Taye Diggs holding his own, and you have a fantastic cast to be trapped inside a building with for ninety-minutes. Geoffrey Rush was obviously have a lot of fun in his role, and was fresh off an Oscar win just three years prior and was up for another Oscar in 2000 right after House on Haunted Hill was released.


-The design of the house was by far my favorite part of the film. It has a very haunting and original design to it. It features a strange stain glassed ceiling, an untouched basement, a magnificent staircase, and enough dirt and grime to make you feel uncomfortable.

-The editing is something else that stood out on this most recent re-watch. The film does a masterful job of keeping a good pace and some of the most effective moments are when flashes of horror imagery comes and goes. You truly feel like the house is haunted by the souls of the mentally ill.


-The twitching and jerking of the ghosts was really unique at the time (maybe only having been seen in Jacob’s Ladder) and was effective in making me feel uncomfortable.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The CGI at the very end does not hold up. It’s better than a lot of CGI from the era that tried to be too realistic, but it definitely takes you out of the movie some with how rough it looks. With that being said, in 2000, I distinctly recall being impressed with how great the CGI was.

-The last couple of minutes are a little too convenient and it comes off a weak. I almost feel like there was some studio interference to come up with the ending that they did.

Additional Notes:

-The fluttering in the Saturation Chamber was accomplished by using a saw blade in front of the camera and not CGI.


-Dark Castle, the production company that released House of Haunted Hill, was named after William Castle, director of the original House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and The Tingler. He is best known for offering all sorts of marketing gimmicks with his movies such as seats that shocked you, skeltons that would fly over the audience, and even parking ambulances out front of the theater. When Dark Castle formed, they intended to do a gimmick for each movie they released, but ultimately only did one for House on Haunted Hill. Movie goers were given scratch off tickets where they could win money like the characters in the film.

-Director William Malone got the idea to set the movie in a former insane asylum while filming an episode of Tales from the Crypt. He noticed that crew members were running scared out of the basement, not wanting to film there.

-The faceless creature that Stephen Price encounters in the saturation chamber was originally designed for Ghost Story by Dick Smith but never appeared in that film.


-The rollercoaster used in the beginning of the film was The Incredible Hulk at Universal Studios in Orlando.

-The only character featured in both the original and the 1999 version of House on Haunted Hill was the owner of the house, Watson Pritchet.

-::SPOILER – INFORMATION ON ORIGINAL SHOOTING ENDING:: The original shooting script had an alternate ending where Steven Price had died from the Darkness atop the staircase instead of Pritchett and Eddie dies saving Sara from the Darkness instead of Price. When Pritchett and Sara make it outside, they are eventually found by the cleaning crew. There is a news segment of the TV series "Terrifying but True" about the events of the House on Haunted Hill where Sara is taken to an ambulance to have her injured feet tended to and Pritchett is interviewed by the police while paramedics take out various body bags filled with Melissa Marr's severed body parts. ::END SPOILER::

Rating:

Overall, House on Haunted Hill stills holds up well for me. I find it creepy at times and the characters are diverse enough to be interesting. The movie keeps you guessing almost till the end and I like that it never gives up on offering twists and turns. The performances within the film are all quite good and the special effects and imagery (outside of the last ten minutes) are truly the stuff nightmares are made of.

Doctor Sleep (2019) Review


My History With the Film:
I remember when the book came out and I wasn’t super thrilled. The Shining didn’t seem to need a sequel and I haven’t read a full length Stephen King novel in many years. I never did read Doctor Sleep, but once a movie was announced directed by Mike Flanghan I was all in. Flanghan is the one director who I watch everything he does, so pairing him with another Stephen King story (he previously directed Gerald’s Game) I was all-in.

I choose not to see Doctor Sleep in the theater, mainly because I was busy, but also because it was 2.5 hours long. I’m really over these 2.5 hour long films, especially in theaters where you’re forced to watch 30 minutes of previews making the entire experience well over three hours long.

However, once I saw Doctor Sleep was available at the Redbox, I rented it and enjoyed it.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Danny Torrance is grown and dealing with the fallout of his experience at The Overlook when he’s thrust into a battle of good vs evil as he’s forced to help a young girl battle a group of creatures who feast on the shining.

What I Liked About It:
-The casting was great with Rebecca Ferguson stealing the show as Rose the Hat. Ewan McGregor was solid as always, it was nice to see Zahn McClarnon in something other than Longmire, Carl Lumbly played a fantastic Dick Hallorann, and the list goes on and on. There was no one miscast in this film.



-I loved the throw backs, re-created scenes, and brilliant tie-ins to the original story. It never came across like fan-service and all of it served a purpose to the overall story which was enjoyable.


-The cinematography was great and the movie has an excellent atmosphere. The score was strong, and the use of heartbeats to control the tension was a great throwback and very useful tool in dictating fear.

-There is a very uncomfortable death scene in the film that I give major kudos to Warner Brothers for allowing on film. It’s not something you’d expect to see nor do you see in a major motion picture. It was hard to watch and quite impactful.

-The movie feels like a Stephen King book, with the pacing, the acting, script, and all.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The movie was long, but didn’t feel too long. I really think this would have translated better into a three or four hour long Netflix series, vs. the current run-time.

-I’m not a fan of energies and the shining and I prefer the more haunted house vibe of the original film/mini-series.


-The first half is a little slow.

Additional Notes:
-Most of the sets from The Shining were re-created with blueprints taken from Stanley Kubrick’s estate. However, three shots were re-used from the original film: the aerial shot of the water and island and the two shots of the car driving on the mountain road. These shots were degrained, recolored, and had snow added digitally.

-Dr. Dalton’s room where Danny is interviewed for the orderly position is identical to Stuart Ullman’s office where Jack Torrance was interviewed. The same paint color were used and the desk has a little American flag on the right side.

-The name of the cat, Azzy, is short of Azrael the Angel of Death. Azzy is based on a real cat, Oscar, a tabby who resides at Steere House Nursing in Rhode Island who has been present for over 100 deaths.

Rating:
I’d rate Doctor Sleep a four out of five. It’s arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations and almost flawless as a movie. My only problem with the film was the story content didn’t do much for me, and never once did I feel any sort of fear. Because of this, I’m sure I’ll never watch Doctor Sleep again, but it was a very good one-time watch and if you are fond of The Shining in any format (movie, book, or mini-series) I highly recommend checking this out.