Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

It’s been six years since Sara Wolfe escaped from Hill House and no one believed her version of the events surrounding the massacre of the other guests. Even her own sister, Ariel, ignored her and refused to return her calls. But, when Sara seemingly commits suicide, Ariel heads over to her apartment to try and piece together what happened. Here she encounters Dr Hammer, a college professor who says Sara was working with him to locate the Baphomet Idol and they believed it to be located in the house. But the doctor is not the only person looking for the artefact and a rival and his armed gang kidnap Ariel and her boyfriend and force them to go the house to look for it. With the doctor and a party of his own already at the house, the groups soon discover that the house is alive and locks them all inside for a night they will never forget.

 

I’m got a bit of a soft spot for the remake of The House on Haunted Hill. It’s not a great film and is very much the living proof of style over substance. But there was a genuinely spooky atmosphere to it, a script full of twists and turns and a solid cast of actors (can’t go wrong with a bit of Geoffrey Rush hamming it up) to end up with a film that greatly blew away my meagre expectations. Fast forward a few years and it seems that no one has really learnt their lesson, offering up a sequel which is very much style over substance – only this time upping the gore and taking away the script and the solid cast of actors. What you get is the film that would have been made six to eight years ago had the audience of that time been as undemanding as today’s audience (get it?).

I guess there’s not a lot you can really do with a haunted house film. It’s not like the house can actually move so you’ve got to get the people into the house. The set up is mercifully brief. All you really need to know is that most of the main characters have some links/relationships with one another and the ones who don’t (i.e. the hired goons armed with guns) are there to make up the numbers and give us the early body count numbers. The script is lousy in all honesty but apart from some ear-splitting moments of dialogue and some ridiculous decision-making on behalf of the characters, there’s not a lot going to offend anyone. The whole story about the Baphomet Idol does more harm than good too. The ghosts could have remained as they were from the original – the tormented spirits of the victims of Dr Vannacutt. But the new take on the story is the only reason the characters have for going into the house so I guess that’s why it’s been put here.

Speaking of Dr Vannacutt, he does return here and he’s as malicious as ever. Credit should go to Jeffrey Combs asĀ  he manages to convey so much hate, perversion and general sadism for a character who doesn’t say an awful lot (in fact I’m hard pressed to remember him speaking at all). The rest of the cast do alright I guess. Amanda Righetti struts around wearing a glorious white tank top and is frequently getting wet (being drenched in the rain, thrown into a hydrotherapy pool and culminating in a fight in the showers!) so no complaints there. Erik Palladino grates badly as the rival looking for the Idol but it’s down to the script giving him clunking speeches and “boo me, I’m the bad guy” lines aplenty.

The others in the cast round off the stock characters: slutty girl, comic relief and expert. And not forgetting the armed gang who consist of a black guy (see ya later), a lesbian (who gets seduced by naked ghosts to give us the T&A quota for the film) and some rough English-speaking guys who sound like they have wandered off the set of a new Guy Ritchie movie.

Visually, it’s almost identical to the remake. As well as using the same sets, the damp set of the basement and the badly lit underground corridors revamp the atmosphere and actually manages to crank up the tension and atmosphere way more than it has any right to do. Remember this is a sequel shot on a lower budget. Expect plenty of the usual indulgence of quick snappy editing and frenetic camerawork. The ghosts look as freaky as ever before. The instruments of torture strewn around the house look as uninviting as they did in the original. Even the gore quotient is high. A character has their face sliced off, another one has their brain removed and another is dragged thrown a hole in a wall. There’s plenty more in store and it’s a good splatter ride if you like that sort of thing. At a thin eighty-one minutes long, the action gets going early on and the pacing is decent enough to avoid spells of boredom.

 

Return to House on Haunted Hill is about a decent a sequel as you’d expect nowadays. Serving only as a pointless remake of a remake, it offers up genre goods to satisfy those with weaker demands. If you liked the remake then be sure to check this out because it doesn’t do a bad job of recreating the atmosphere. We’ve just we’ve been there, done that and put the house up for sale when we’ve finished.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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