Return To House On Haunted Hill (2007)

Bloody, grotesque, funny and attempting to be nothing more than violent titillation, Return to House on Haunted Hill succeeds on a number of levels, but it doesn’t stop it from being dumb, ridiculous, clichéd and utterly needless. Stupid fun, and surprisingly well-scripted, this may well please those who were expecting too see a mentally deranged gibbering turd in a strait jacket. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Return to House on Haunted Hill – the title says it all. Basically, some people return to the House on Haunted Hill, the inventively named “Hill House”. But why are they there? Why would anyone with half a brain visit the crumbling insane asylum that continues to claim lives, years after it was shut down? Does it matter? Not really. Let’s watch people get killed by ghosts!

The McGuffin in this film is the Baphomet idol, an ancient religious artifact that is potentially worth millions of dollars. It attracts a professor and his aides, a gang of ruthless bounty-hunters and a supposedly loveable couple who are unwittingly thrown into the madness. But the idol itself isn’t just worth a fortune, it might also be the root of all evil within Hill House, and what has been keeping the souls of the dead stuck in a perpetual cycle of death all these years.

We’re told that “Vannacut hid the idol in a secret chamber deep in the basement”. Well of course. He wouldn’t just put it in a display cabinet in the foyer, would he? The party, finding themselves stuck inside the asylum, decide they must find the statue at all costs – some for their own nefarious gain and others so they can destroy it and save the souls of the trapped dead.

Naturally they all split up, in an insane haunted house of death, which is actually mocked by one of the characters for its utter absurdity. In fact, the dialogue is very good throughout, with excellent moments of self-knowing mirth (“this place is arse-f*cking my mind”), it’s just a shame the characters are so tick-boxingly cliché. This is good work from first-time script writer William Massa, and hopefully a freshly, meatier project will come along in the future.

Director Victor Garcia, however, does little to excite or innovate a very perfunctory horror film, with the scares being substituted with bloody, fleshy violence. Yet this uninventive but competent enough direction has bagged him directorial rights on Mirrors 2 and a number of other horror films, so this is not the last we’ve seen of Garcia.

A HohH sequel was as inevitable as the remake because, although woefully crafted on a number of levels, the actual idea of House on Haunted Hill is a brilliant one. This sequel at least attempts to be a sequel – there is a similar score to the previous one, making it feel like a genuine follow on rather than a slapped together sequel-by-name-only horror cash-in. This is reinforced by the addition of Jeffery Combs, returning as the evil ghost of Doctor Vannacut, the insane psychiatrist who ran the asylum until he was murdered by its inmates. Always a welcome additional to any horror film, Combs does well in a mostly mute role, murdering away with curious ambivalence to the pain he’s dealing out.

There are nice sequences throughout Return to House on Haunted Hill – like when the ghostly sister of our protagonist Ariel appears, her head exploding violently before she mutters “you must help them”. It’s effectively done, and genuinely a little disconcerting. Other notable scenes are an impromptu face-off, a bit of bad brain surgery and a nasty death-by-fridge moment. Needless to say, the life-snuffing moments are more important than the character work, but at least the deaths are frequent and interesting. Some of the film is vastly unnecessary – bizarre lesbian ghost sequence anyone?! – and some of it is lazy and dull, but overall it does well to deliver a sequel that isn’t completely the same as the original.

Amanda Righetti does her best Kate Beckinsale impression, something no one should ever attempt to do. Oddly there are a large number of British actors thrown into the mix, with Andrew Lee Potts, Tom Riley, Gil Kolirin, Steven Pacey, Andrew Pleavin and Chucky Venice supporting the main roles adeptly and with varying mixtures of charm and believability. It’s a decent cast, who do well to develop interest in something that is basically a dirty platter of blood, violence, ghosts and the occasional Combs.

Visits to psychiatric institutes for the criminally insane do not end well according to Hollywood – see Arkham Asylum, Shutter Island, Westin Hills etc… for details – and Hill House is no exception. If you plan on returning to Hill House, please understand it is bloody, violent, not very scary, surprisingly funny and more than a little clichéd. On some occasions it will frustrate and confuse, but overall it could be a surprisingly fun experience. If you like being ripped apart or burnt alive, that is…

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Return To House On Haunted Hill”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan. Alan said: The @Gorepress review of Return To House On Haunted Hill http://ow.ly/28yo0 Featuring my boy: Gil Kolirin. [...]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.