Feb 3, 2015

Review: Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

Eight years after House on Haunted Hill was released, a remake of the 1959 Vincent Price film of the same name I might add, Dark Castle Entertainment decided that the world needed a sequel. Was there anyone actually clamoring for a sequel? I have a hard time imagining that to be the case, but at least they had the sense to release it direct-to-video.

Return to House on Haunted Hill was notable for its use of "Navigational Cinema technology" which permitted watchers to make choices during the movie that would result in different outcomes. It honestly just sounds like an excuse to include more gore and more nudity, which is why I stuck to the plain old vanilla version. RtHoHH wasn't a place I wanted to spend more time than I had to anyway and 80 minutes was more than enough time without any dumb gimmicks added in to the mix.


Genre: horror, thriller
Directed by: Víctor García
Produced by: Erik Olsen, Steve Richards, Jonathan Tzachor, etc.
Written by: William Massa
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Running time: 81 minutes
Production company: Warner Premiere, Dark Castle Entertainment
Distributed by: Warner Premiere, Warner Home Video Española S.A., Argentina Video Home, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Amanda Righetti, Steven Pacey, Erik Palladino, Cerina Vincent, Tom Riley, Andrew Lee Potts, Jeffrey Combs, Calita Rainford, Gil Kolirin, Andrew Pleavin, Charles Venn, Tatina de Marinis



Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti) is the sister of Sara Wolfe (Ali Larter), one of two survivors of the incident at the abandoned Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. Dr. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs) is infamous for having experimented on patients and apparently the asylum is haunted. Ariel gets news that her sister has committed suicide, prompting her to find out what happened. She quickly finds herself caught between two rival relic hunters searching for the cursed Baphomet idol which is of course inside the asylum.


So how forced is this Baphomet idol plot device feel? Extremely. It's a shoehorned way of getting us back inside the asylum as well as also being a really dumb way to explain all the previous events of the original movie. The idol is supposedly cursed and it twisted Vannacutt into a murderous psychopath which is why he took pleasure in torturing his patients. Usually what happens when you explain the reasons behind fantastical things is that the whole thing resembles a derailed train. It's usually always better to leave reasons for the the audience to come up with and Return to House on Haunted Hill is a great example of that.

The other thing is, a lot of story elements from House on Haunted Hill just seem to have been ignored and I'm not convinced that writer William Massa even saw the original movie. What about the "Darkness" from the previous film? What ever happened to the room it resided in? I believe we only see it once leaking some blood. (Spoilers) Why is there a new "heart of the house" when that room where the Darkness resided in made sense in being that heart and the location of the idol? (End Spoilers) I suppose I can understand these changes from an adding some difficulty for the characters point of view, but it just seems to throw continuity out the window which is a problem to me.

A poorly thought out story is only one problem in Víctor García's horror sequel though. For one thing, the characters all seem like clichés and they talk in clichés. The prime example of this is when the main character Ariel has this hilarious "tough girl" transformation scene in the rain. It's far from being the only scene that's effective in generating some accidental laughs and Amanda Righetti turns in a pretty uneven performance. Righetti is far from the worst in that department though.

Andrew Lee Potts was probably the worst of the bunch as Kyle and he made me laugh more than once with his attempts at being terrified. Erik Palladino as the main villain Desmond fails to be intimidating even once and his band of mercenary clowns feel completely out of place in this story.

The dialogue as I said is cliché-ridden and hard to take even a little bit seriously. Could you have kept a straight face when Dr. Richard Hammer (Steven Pacey) said "It belongs in a museum" when referring to the idol? I know I couldn't. Return to House on Haunted Hill even has the gall to include a wink to horror movie conventions when Kyle can't believe that Desmond wants them to split up in a haunted house. It's all too much and I'm not surprised that this was William Massa's last writing job, one of only two.

Return to House on Haunted Hill may be a horror movie, but it rarely even feels like it which is probably its biggest failing. Out of everything, I would say that there is one single scene that succeeds in generating something that resembles fear. That's it though. The movie falls completely flat in its attempts to scare the viewer and I don't think you need to be much of a horror veteran to think so. The setting is a lot less effective compared to the original which wasn't even that good and Víctor García uses the same tricks over and over again, namely this slow-motion/fast-motion thing when scary things are approaching. The apparitions that we see aren't very well done from a CGI standpoint either. 

There's a forced romance with zero development, female characters always display cleavage, midriff or both, a black guy dies first and there's a ridiculous lesbian scene. There, I think you now understand what Return to House on Haunted Hill is all about. If you're searching for a cliché-ridden horror movie that isn't scary and has those key elements, you're in luck. I got your movie right here. 



Related Reviews:

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill (1999)

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