[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
November 5 - 12, 1999

[Movie Reviews]

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House on Haunted Hill

It's 1931, and the staff of a psychiatric hospital are conducting experiments on their patients. One night the patients viciously murder their torturers. During the attack, a doctor pulls a lever that locks down the building and sets a fire, killing everyone inside. What happens next? The hospital seeks revenge, of course. Sixty-eight years later it lures in five strangers with mysterious party invitations, promising that anyone who survives the night within its walls will win $1 million.

Sounds freaky, but after the first maniacal half-hour, William Malone's film gets sucked into the same dull vortex that has claimed so many recent horror movies. This latest attempt to scare a generation that finds nothing shocking has two things going for it: Geoffrey Rush as the billionaire ostensibly throwing the party gives the film its twists (which of the scares are real and which are his creations?) and SNL's Chris Kattan as the smart-ass paranoid owner of the abandoned hospital provides much-needed comic relief. Otherwise, it's same old same old, with flat acting, a bubble-headed script, and a creepiness that plummets into cheesiness when we finally see the monster.

-- Jumana Farouky

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