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House on Haunted Hill (1999)

'House on Haunted Hill' is a late 90's haunting movie that I could have sworn I had seen a thousand times over growing up, yet it wasn't until the wildly creative stop-motion animation open credit sequence began to roll that I realised I may have gotten this confused with other late 90's haunting movies that seemed to be all of the rage, such as 'The Haunting' or even '13 Ghosts'. And, even though I had convinced myself going in that I was not going to enjoy my experience with this film, I was willing to keep an open mind.

I think the best place to start is with the plot. 'House on Haunted Hill' does require you as an audience to suspend your disbelief to a certain degree, as some of the events that take place here do take some rather big leaps in logic. That's not to say it pulls you out of the film, I just personally found that the character relationships didn't come across as authentic and as things begin to unravel, and the plot twists begin unfolding, more and more times I began to chuckle to myself due to the absurdity the writers were expecting me to digest as plausible. I do think though, that if you take the concept of this film and just enjoy it for the late 90's horror that it is, I doubt you will have any major issues.

The strongest element is set design. It is without question the most awe-inspiring element of this production. Each room featured in this building has so many elements to focus upon. And with every corner and corridor passed you can't help but appreciate the attention to detail the crew have put in to make this look as genuine as possible. With the decrepit and aged house being so well put together, it's hard believe this was filmed on sound stage in Los Angeles, California and not the abandoned mansion it so closely resembles.

Going in with this, I didn't hold out too much for this film in terms of its scare factor. Yet, that being said, there are some genuine on the edge of your seat moments. The scene early on when Sara is looking for Eddie is a great example of how 'House on Haunted Hill' tends to favour the slow build tension aspect of its delivery as apposed to going straight in with the more commonly used and often all to easy up jump scare approach. This is a technique used frequently throughout this production and something I have to commend this film highly for. It's not an easy angle to take in horror movie, but to use it time and time again and it still hold the same effect on the audience as is did the first time is no easy feat.

Everyone involved in the casting brings their A-game. Featuring seasoned veteran Geoffrey Rush in the lead role of Stephen H. Price, along with the instantly recognisable face of as Famke Janssen as his wife Annabelle Loren. As well as these two stand out performances, we are also introduced to a collection of recognisable 90's bit players such as, a very young Ali Larter, Chris Kattan, Peter Gallagher, Jeffrey Combs and even Bridget Wilson, to name but a few. It's not very often I find myself sitting down to watch a film and taking no issue with any of the cast involved.

Overall, I would be lying if I said I didn't have fun with 'House on Haunted Hill'. With some incredible set designs, strong performances from everyone involved and some genuine moments of terror, it’s not hard to see why this is held in such high regard by so many fans. I can't honestly say I have any urgency to revisit this film in the near future, but if it happened to be on whilst channel surfing I'd be more than happy to jump in and leave it playing as background noise.



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