Film Review: Return to House On Haunted Hill (2007)

Also known as: House On Haunted Hill 2 (working title)
Release Date: October 3rd, 2007 (Australia)
Directed by: Victor Garcia
Written by: William Massa
Based on: House On Haunted Hill by Robb White
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Amanda Righetti, Cerina Vincent, Erik Palladino, Tom Riley, Andrew Lee Potts, Jeffrey Combs

Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Premiere, 79 Minutes, 81 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Mansions with their own mental wards. Only in fucking L.A.” – Desmond

I really liked the predecessor to this film. In fact, I reviewed it a few weeks back, after revisiting it for the first time in years. Seeing it made me appreciate it even more and it also motivated me to finally check out this straight-to-DVD sequel that I slept on in 2007 because I heard nothing but shitty things about it.

Well, all the shitty criticism that I heard regarding this film is true. In fact, it may not have been harsh enough, as this is one of the worst films I’ve sat through, so far in 2020.

I mean, I expected this to be much worse than the 1999 film but I was hoping it’d be a 5/10 in that it’d have good atmosphere and be true enough to the film it’s a sequel to that it would’ve helped push it past its flaws. Nope. It’s total and utter shit.

First off, and as should be expected, the acting is horrific. While I expected that for the most part, I did anticipate Amanda Righetti and Jeffrey Combs to at least carry the rest of the cast. They didn’t and that’s probably because RIghetti was dragged down by everyone else and Combs didn’t talk at all and just twitched a lot. I get that Combs is playing the same character he did in the previous film but I had hoped that they would’ve actually let him speak and come to life more, as he could’ve possibly saved the picture if they had expanded his role.

The setup to this film and the overall premise are fucking stupid.

Apparently, the girl who survived the previous movie and got the millions of dollars for doing so, went crazy and killed herself. Her ghost didn’t even closely resemble Ali Larter, which just goes to show how little the creative team gave a shit about the first film. Additionally, her character was pretty uncharacteristic of who she was in that first movie. Also, the Taye Diggs character is nowhere to be found and sort of just forgotten.

So the sister of the dead Ali Larter goes back to the house after being abducted with some thugs and an archaeologist looking for some cursed ancient statue. So the story now, is that the house itself is possessed by this cursed item and that’s why everything there is evil. Why can’t we just stick to the evil, fucked up doctor creating an evil environment where he is trapped with his tortured patients? Now we’ve got to make up some fucking bullshit MacGuffin that’s hidden in the literal heart of the house?! Yes, the house has a physical, organic fucking heart now!

Another massive problem with this festival of cinematic shit is that the house doesn’t even resemble the house of the first movie. I mean, how hard would that have been to pull off? The previous film’s house was mainly just simple fucking corridors with dirt, rust and blood all over the walls. This looks like it was filmed in a random warehouse from a Fallout game and I don’t mean that complimentary.

The only part of the house that looks familiar is the entrance hall but even then, it’s smaller and it is so well lit that it destroys the whole aesthetic.

This film has no redeeming qualities, not a single fucking one. Sure, you could say, “But Jeffrey Combs is in it!” And while that’s true, he’s completely wasted and it wouldn’t have mattered if he returned to play Dr. Vannacutt or if they had cast the fucking Key Grip.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: removing duct tape from your face.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 3: The Case of the King of Clubs

Published: April 15th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 133 Pages

Review:

I kind of dug the first two volumes of Stumptown and I’ve also been enjoying the television series, which debuted last fall. However, this third volume in the comics series felt like a real step down.

First off, I don’t like the art. The artist changed and the previous volumes felt more refined and less cartoonish. They still had a good, indie feel to them but this feels more like a typical Oni Press book where the other ones looked more polished and like crime comics put out by a bigger indie publisher like Image.

Also, I thought the story was weak as hell, pretty predictable and felt more like an advertisement for the Portland Timbers soccer team, as well as Portland soccer culture, than it did a gritty, edgy crime story. It felt less neo-noir and more ABC Afterschool Special.

This volume was a bore to get through, didn’t live up to the expectations I had based off of the two stories before this one and it just felt like everything was dialed in.

The story lacked layers, proper plot twists and was completely bogged down by slice of life shenanigans and repetitive conversations between paper thin characters.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965)

Also known as: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (Season 8-10)
Original Run: October 2nd, 1955 – June 26th, 1965
Created by: Alfred Hitchcock
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Stanley Wilson (music supervisor), various
Cast: Alfred Hitchcock, various

Revue Studios, Universal Television, Shamley Productions, CBS, NBC, 361 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode – seasons 1-7), 50 Minutes (per episode – seasons 8-10)

Review:

I grew up watching this show a lot with my granmum in reruns on cable. The theme song always got me excited and even though I was a kid of the ’80s that loved everything about that decade, I still also enjoyed older stuff like this and the other anthology shows of the era like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents always intrigued me though, as it seemed to have more legitimacy, at least to my little kid brain. This was because I knew very much who Hitchcock was, I was familiar with a lot of his work and I really liked his films, even when I was too young to grasp them or fully understand their meaning and themes. Plus, I just really liked Hitchcock’s personality.

Over the last few years, I’ve rewatched a lot of the episodes. I haven’t seen all of them, as there are just so many and because even if family members have DVD collections they have let me borrow, there are still a lot of missing pieces I haven’t gotten my hands on.

Regardless of that, I feel as if I have seen a large enough sample size, from most seasons, to give the show a review.

Overall, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is pretty good from top to bottom and the quality of the seasons feels consistent. Sure, like with any anthology series, there are episodes that don’t live up to expectations and sometimes feel like they could’ve been snuffed out at the pre-production stage. However, there aren’t a lot of episodes like this and, for the most part, the show isn’t hindered by its low points.

The show has a pretty wide range of genres it uses over the course of its 361 episodes but nearly everything feels like it lines up with Hitchcock’s own cinematic work.

Each episode may be written and directed by its own team but it seems as if Hitchcock was pretty involved in everything and just about every story maintains a certain tone and visual style.

This is such a massive show to get into and to try and watch in its entirety. I’m not even sure if all of it is commercially released, as it switched from different networks over the years it was originally broadcast. However, I know that a lot of episodes were on Hulu, recently. I’m assuming that you can still find them there. That is, unless the NBC episodes have been pulled for their upcoming streaming service.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other anthology mystery and horror shows of the era.

Film Review: House On Haunted Hill (1999)

Release Date: October 27th, 1999 (premiere)
Directed by: William Malone
Written by: Dick Beebe, Robb White
Based on: House On Haunted Hill by Robb White, William Castle
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Chris Kattan, Peter Gallagher, Bridgette Wilson, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combs, Slavitza Jovan, Lisa Loeb, Peter Graves (cameo), Greg Nicotero (uncredited)

Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt. He out-butchered Bundy, made Manson look meek.” – Peter Graves

Man, it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched this but for some odd reason, it holds a special place in my dark heart. I’m not sure if it is due to when it came out and the effect of nostalgia or because I actually consider it to be better than the film it is a remake of, which almost feels sacrilegious to type because Vincent Price, that film’s star, is why I fell in love with horror to begin with.

Generally, I’m not a fan of remakes in the same way I’m not a fan of cover songs. I really feel as if these things should only exist if they can justify themselves by being better or at the very least, being an interesting new take on the source material they are borrowing from.

1999’s House On Haunted Hill is a really good example of a film that takes its inspiration from its predecessor and makes it something else without sacrificing what the original vision was. It’s not an easy task to achieve but Dark Castle really started out on a good foot with this, their first of a few classic horror remakes.

Ultimately, this takes the formula from William Castle’s classic haunted house tale and ups the ante in a way that is very ’90s. It’s more extreme, has a fair bit of good gore and it updates the concept into something contemporary for the time. It’s also more of a psychological horror film and goes places that the original one couldn’t. The scene in the hallucination chamber is well done and actually kind of terrifying, even for a horror aficionado like myself.

That being said, there are three key things that make this remake a solid one.

The first is the ensemble cast. For a horror film with slightly more than a half dozen main players, we have an assemblage of some really good talent. Everyone sort of plays a typical horror archetype but they are all really good at it. I like everyone in this, top to bottom, regardless of whether or not they’re playing the innocent and good character thrown into a literal hell or they’re playing the evil, conniving bastard with some sort of dastardly trick up their sleeve.

Frankly, as good as everyone is in their roles, Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen steal every single scene they’re in. I can’t say that they outclass and out act every other actor here but they just rise to a different level and they seriously look like they are enjoying hamming it up in this twisted movie.

The second thing that makes this film work is the atmosphere. This isn’t the house from the original film. Instead, we’re trapped with these characters in a burned out art deco styled fortress of the 1930s, which was used as an insane asylum ran by an evil and sadistic doctor that used to butcher his patients.

Beyond that, the sets are incredible and the art direction in this film was magnificent. I really dig the lighting, the visual effects, the general cinematography and just about everything visual. The practical effects are great and even if the CGI feels dated now, it works for what this is and it doesn’t take you out of the picture like some of the CGI you’d see from this era. The Lovecraftian inspired blob of spirits is actually kind of cool and it works tremendously well with the tone of the film.

The third thing that works wonders is the score. The music is a great mix of a classic horror movie soundtrack and ’90s era industrial styled instrumentals. The film even features Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams”, which adds another level of dread and atmosphere to the already effective presentation of the picture.

I’d like to give credit to the director, William Malone. He managed this project well and I have to give credit where it’s due, especially since I don’t like the other films that I’ve seen of his: Creature, FeardotCom and Parasomnia. But maybe I will give those movies a re-watch soon, as it’s been a long time.

When this came out, it was a film that critics hated but I remember most people enjoying it. It’s got a ’90s campiness to it but it’s far from comedy and I’d say that it’s aged well. It’s certainly better than what the modern standard seems to be in the horror genre.

I think that I’ll revisit Dark Castle’s Thirteen Ghosts remake soon, as it has been a long time since I’ve seen it but I had a good experience with it, back in the day. I may also finally watch the sequel to this film. I heard it’s nowhere near as good but with this fresh in my mind, I’d like to take another trip to the haunted asylum.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Castle remakes of classic horror films, as well as other late ’90s and early ’00s ghost movies.

Comic Review: Wolverine: Weapon X

Published: 1991
Written by: Barry Windsor-Smith
Art by: Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

From issues 72 through 84 of Marvel Comics Presents, the world was given one of the greatest comic character origin stories ever put to paper. In fact, it may be the best, as it is an absolute masterpiece of visual storytelling.

This is a story that has since been told in cartoons, live action movies and countless other mediums that have featured the Wolverine character. None of them, however, quite capture the true horror of the story. And that’s really what this is at it’s core: horror.

It starts with a younger Wolverine being beaten and abducted. He’s taken to a lab where he is experimented on and ultimately, gets his indestructible adamantium skeleton and claws.

It’s the long painful process that is center stage in the story. Wolverine is poked, prodded and has his body filled with molten metal, as his rapid healing power keeps him alive through all of it. The evil scientists strip away his mind but eventually, Wolverine escapes, and attacks his captors like a wild animal.

There are a few twists to the plot but I won’t spoil any of that.

At the time, this may have been the darkest story ever to be published by Marvel. It was intense, incredibly fucked up but it was also perfect, which is due to the great Barry Windsor-Smith, who wrote a stupendous story and illustrated some the best work in his legendary career.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Wolverine solo stories from the late ’80s into the early ’90s.