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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The House On Haunted Hill(1999)
The House On Haunted Hill(1999)
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 18, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

No, it's not great. But it is any better than the "Haunting" that director Jan De Bont brought to audiences in Summer of 1999? Definitely. "The House On Haunted Hill" may not be high art, but it certainly delivers much stronger scares and more entertainment, thanks in a large part to the production design.

Where "The Haunting" took place in a beautiful, yet moody old house, "The House On Haunted Hill" takes place in a dark, intensely creepy version full of shadows and darkness. Once the film really gets going, that feeling that something could pop out of any shadow is marevously intense.

The story here involves a group of people brought to an old house by a man named Price(Geoffrey Rush, overacting just enough). While things first seem rather harmless, the house starts getting increasingly angry with them. At first it seems like they're simply seeing or hearing things, but as things get increasingly real, the guests become quickly convinced.

Yes, it's nothing wonderful, but there's a lot to like. The film packs in an enjoyable bunch of actors, including Famke Jansen, Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Chris Kattan and a couple of additional stars thrown in. The cinematography and production design are both pretty remarkable, and although the screenplay certainly isn't great, it's not awful, either.

The violence does become a little bit too much - the movie does a fine enough job scaring with the creepy audio and sets, but oh well. A few good jokes would have helped to lighten the mood, in my opinion. "House On Haunted Hill" was actually halfway decent, and better than I'd expected from it. Those looking for a halfway solid piece of horror entertainment with some scares and twists will likely find it enjoyable - the film zips by and goes very quickly at 96 minutes.


The DVD

VIDEO: This is an extremely impressive transfer by Warner Brothers, giving detail to the darkness. Even though much of the film is in shadows, the picture still remains suprisingly clear and detailed - razor sharp, as well. Colors are nicely saturated and rich, with no problems on display. Flesh tones are accurate and natural, but again, what really impressed me was how much detail to the sets was on display.

No shimmering or pixelation, and I found the print to be in very good condition, as I would have expected from a film this new.

SOUND: "The House On Haunted Hill" contains an incredibly agressive sound mix that, while almost constantly active, never distracted me - I found it always to be very effective in either going forward with the creepy mood or scaring the viewer. Surrounds are used almost constantly for spooky effects or other various creepy things. The music is a constant presence and like many other modern movies, many scenes would have been even more effective without them. Bass is strong and deep and dialogue remains fairly clear in the middle of all of the other chaos. The audio for "House On Haunted Hill" really does do a fine job of taking the scares of the film to a higher level.

MENUS:: Some of the best menus that Warner has done, these are really well-animated and get into the tone of the film perfectly. They're built around the house, and animation takes place whenever the viewer makes a selection from the main menu.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: I really liked the commentary by director William Malone. He instantly starts the commentary with the tone that he continues with for the remainder - although there are some pauses here and there, he is very energetic in sharing comments and notes on the movie. He alternates between technical and story comments, occasionally talking about the actors and their performances.

He shares a lot of fun production information, such as how some of the stunts and effects were achieved, as well as camera details like the fact that much of the film was shot with a steadicam to achieve an off-balance look, which I actually really liked in the film.

I also really enjoyed his discussions of working with the actors, and how they prepared, as well as what it was like working with an ensemble cast of varying acting styles like the ones that were brought together in this picture. Occasionally, he also talks about a few other additional notes, such as how he wanted the film to differ from the original, and his inspirations behind these changes. Of course, he also talks about the character of the house, and the concepts behind keeping it lively throughout. There's even some details about the layout, with notes about the stages and how the sets were made.

It's an entertaining, fun commentary that gives viewers the details on how this "House" was built.

Deleted Scenes: 3 deleted scenes that don't really work now in the final film, but are interesting additions and fun to watch, with opening introductions by director William Malone on just what they're all about.

Trailers: For both the 1959 and 1999 versions.

Behind-The Visual FX: A series of short featurettes that have interviews with the visual FX supervisors, going over the details on how the certain effects were achieved. The crew also talks about the original concepts and ideas for the look of the FX and where it went from there, ending up in the final production. Six featurettes in this section go into detail about "House"'s effects, while the final section contains a clip of scenes from "Creature", a very strange short film from the director.

Also: Cast and crew bios, as well as "Two Houses", which is a 20 minute documentary that compares the 1999 version of "House" with the 1959 version.

Final Thoughts: If you're a fan of the genre, it's recommended. If you're just looking for a few hours of decent entertainment, it's at least worth looking at as a rental. Warner has done a fine job on the DVD, with good audio and video, along with some entertaining extras.

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