House on Haunted Hill

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When you buy a Bentley – as you do – you’re not looking for a holographic dashboard, an in-car virtual chauffeur, or an ejector seat. You want walnut and leather everywhere. The same is true of some horror movies. House on Haunted Hill was originally directed in 1958 by William Castle, the man who fitted cinemas seats with buzzers, had skeletons drop from the ceiling. Castle was – in the best sense of the word, a horrible man. In 1958 wonderful Vincent Price was the star.

In 1999 for this remake it’s the magnificent Geoffrey Rush – as a crazy millionaire called Price – complete with pencil moustache, cravat and lop-sided leer. The plot is familiar too. Some variously disposable young people attempt to stay all night in the spooky mansion, hoping to win $1 million if they do. They nearly all die. It’s a sleek, swishing and curiously well made film and apart from Rush’s character name being a nod to the original star there’s no irony, no Scream-style self-reference and, let’s be honest, no scares. But then House on Haunted Hill isn’t really a horror film – it’s a bespoke hand-tooled homage.

House on Haunted Hill – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2013

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