Back in the early 1930s, the sinister old structure on Haunted Hill was used by the demented Dr. Vannacutt to conduct unspeakable experiments upon human subjects. After a brief riot by the inmates of the facility, the entire house was closed down and remained untouched, until theme-park billionaire Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush) decides to host his wife's (Famke Jenson) birthday party within its walls. Despite the couple's apparent hatred for each other, they realize that their five invitees are complete strangers and not the ones they had called for the "party". Thus, each suspects the other's attempt to sabotage the evening as part of a sick joke.
However, once the guests arrive, Price sets the stage by offering a million dollars to each of them, should they be able to survive the night. In his own meager attempt to scare them off, he rigs the interior with surprises and devices which turn pale once the house itself comes alive, posing a danger to everyone inside.
"The House on Haunted Hill" is a chilling adaptation of William Castle's 1958 classic. The movie represents the modern face of Hollywood horror and does its genre justice in that respect. Brisk action and cutting visual effects is exactly what you could expect from the director and his crew.
The special effects and makeup paint a truly ghastly picture, and the lighting is as eerie as it is ingenious. Every sequence is well shot and every frame contributes significantly to the fear that wells up amidst the audience.
The twists to the plot appear to be well spaced-out, and the cinematography speaks volumes of the director's personal interpretation. While Hollywood has a substantial share of its own complex horror flicks, this one offers the audience a simplistic plot, and great entertainment.This article was first published on 06 Mar 2001.