OCTOBER 15, 2007
I don’t recall too much about the first House On Haunted Hill, only that other than Geoffery Rush channeling James Woods, and Famke Jannsen looking incredibly hot, it wasn’t all that great. I don’t think I need to say again that haunted house movies are never a favorite with me, and they are even WORSE when they rely on CG and other truly non-terrifying things to “scare” me. Also, come on, Chris Kattan?
But the sequel, Return To House On Haunted Hill, kind of intrigued me, due to the ‘revolutionary’ navigational cinema option on the HD and BluRay discs. Instead of just watching the movie, you could make choices that ultimately give you 96 versions of the film.
Now, I am not sure where Warner gets off saying they invented this, because they had a choose your own adventure movie in the mid 90s with Christopher Lloyd (it’s called Mr Payback), and New Line did something similar with the Final Destination 3 DVD just last year. But whatever. At Screamfest, they were going to show off the technology with the film’s cameo, er, co-star Jeffrey Combs making all the decisions. Sounds fun, right?
Well it’s not. Most of the choices are pretty lame (“Should they answer the phone?” comes up TWICE!), and they are also a lot more infrequent than one would expect considering the alleged 96 different ways the film can be seen. There also seems to be many occasions where making a choice would seem natural, and yet no choice is given. And of course, when the movie isn't that great, you will have to endure your own brain and everyone you are watching it with making some variation of a "I choose for the film to end now" joke.
Also, I should point out that when I got the HD DVD, I considered reviewing all 96 versions, one per day, for HMAD. But then I realized that it would annoy you guys so much that your children would be born hating me. Plus, just two versions of the film (in addition to a tour through the “Navigational Cinema” version, I also watched the “real” version) seems like more than enough to sit through.
The problem with the film is that it barely makes any goddamn sense, and the numerous attempts to be funny (mostly from the awful Jeremy Sisto-y Erik Palladino, co-star of another unfunny horror movie, Dead & Breakfast) fall flat (except for when Palladino LITERALLY falls flat after slipping Jimmy the paramedic style in someone’s blood – a gag he also did in D&B now that I think about it). I guess when you have to consider telling your story 96 ways, narrative cohesion kind of gets lost in the shuffle. There’s some good gore gags here and there, and the ghost makeups continue to impress, but it’s just an empty experience, seeming much longer than it is (the “real” version clocks in at around 80 minutes). Victor Garcia may be a skilled shooter (the film certainly LOOKS good for the most part), but when the script is so banal, it’s kind of hard to judge him as a filmmaker.
There’s also a confusing casting decision, as two characters look very similar (and are paired up with other characters who also look a bit like each other), so when one dies, I and some other folks I watched it with got a bit confused as to why he was “back” when the other one was onscreen.
However the main girl, Amanda Righetti, is so ridiculously hot I will probably watch all versions eventually, because she seems to keep finding ways to get herself soaking wet, which is a plus. So if I ever find a way to watch the film that actually makes it good, I will report back. All I know for sure is, if you want to cut your experience short, have her save the map instead of her friend.
What say you?