I have a bit of a soft spot for the 1999 remake/re-imagining of House on Haunted Hill. It’s utterly absurd with a mix of awful & hilarious acting. It’s also got some damn fine scares, that is up until the CGI smoke monster appears. Damn, that thing ruined a perfectly fine horror movie.
Still, regardless of if the remake was your thing or not, most could agree that the story was told. That it didn’t need expansion & any kind of sequel would just be a poor rehash of what we’d already seen. Well no-one told Hollywood. So in 2007 we got a sequel to the reboot called Return to House on Haunted Hill. Unsurprisingly it’s bad. What might be surprising is just how bad it is.
Centred around Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti), the sister of Sara Wolfe who you’ll remember was one of the two survivors of the original. Over the opening credits we’re reminded again of the events that made the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane such a haunted place.
Dr Richard Vannacutt (Jeffery Combs) abused his power to perform experiments on the patients. This & the harsh medical treatments saw the patients stage an uprising, attacking & killing the staff including the Dr. Before he died though he initiated the buildings lockdown trapping everyone inside where a fire consumed all but 5 members of staff.
Many years later descendants of these 5 are invited to a party held by Steven Price in honour of his wife. It’s all part of the spirit of the houses’ plan to ‘finish the job’ & all guests but 2 are killed.
8 years later & Sara is found dead, seemingly having committed suicide. Upon visiting her apartment, Ariel has vision of Sara who warns her about the Vannacutt Institute in the film’s first of many terrible attempts at being scary.
Along with her boyfriend Paul (Tom Riley), Ariel is kidnapped by Desmond Niles (Erik Palladino) & his hired goons. Desmond came to Sara because of her time in the Vannacutt Institute. As he believes a legendary figurine of the demon Baphomet is inside & wants Ariel to help him find it.
Meanwhile Dr. Richard Hammer (Steven Pacey) alongside his assistants Kyle (Andrew-Lee Potts) and Michelle (Cerina Vincent) are also looking for the idol.
Once both groups arrive at the Institute the building goes into lockdown trapping everyone inside. Forced to work together, they begin searching for the Baphomet figure. However, it’s not long before the ghosts of the building start causing havoc.
Forget the black mist monster of the first, here we have lesbian ghosts, Silent Hill nurses & Dr. Vannacutt himself doing the exact same stuff as before. Ariel discovers that the Baphomet figure is to blame for everything that has occurred in the building. It drove Vannacutt insane & is keeping the spirits trapped inside. She has to get it out somehow but with the building on lockdown this seems like an impossible task.
In a desperate attempt to put a coherent plot together, the writers of Return to House on Haunted Hill not only screwed up this movie, they actively took some of the impact away from the 1999 original. You see by making everything that happened be because of a demonic statue it makes all the events that have occurred in flashbacks & in the original less scary & have less impact.
Nothing is more terrifying then the evil that man does. The experimentation & cruel practices are scary with the patient uprising/inferno that followed, a horrible event. That all of this is chalked up to the influence of a statue is infuriating. It also leaves way too many questions unanswered…such as where the hell is the evil of the house in this one? Where is the black smoke monster? Not that I particularly wanted to see it again but it is completely brushed aside to be replaced by lesbian ghosts.
Ok, let’s talk about the lesbian ghost scene. A scene so poorly done, so poorly acted & clearly just a chance to show off some boobs. It’s offensive to the viewer. One of Desmond’s goons, a female badass (a character we’ve seen a million times before) enters an empty room & hears noises. When she turns around there are two young women dressed in patients clothing. She starts off fine, pointing her gun at them & demanding to know who they are but once they start taking off their tops she stops caring.
Now it’s important to note that this scene taking place with a woman instead of a man makes zero difference. I don’t care if all 3 of them had started scissoring on the damn floor (might have been a bit more interesting though). What I care about is the utter stupidity involved that sees this hired badass woman see some boobs & proceed to think:
“Cool, these random 2 women dressed in patients’ clothes in an abandoned asylum for the mentally unstable are up for some lesbian three-way action. They weren’t here a second ago but they are now. Who cares, boobs. Oh wait, this place is haunted, right? Aww, screw it.”
It’s offensive just how desperate the writers were here. They had zero original ideas so just decided ghost boobs would be the way to go. That’ll keep the idiots watching entertained. If you’re still watching this utter waste of time after this scene, power to you. I suspect most will just give up here. It’s not like it gets any better!
Utterly devoid of entertaining moments, the scare attempts are lazy & scenes with Dr Vannacutt are rehashed rubbish that were far better done in the original. Whereas the 1999 original had memorable characters, this one is filled with vapid, empty headed idiots who turn on each other in an instant. The hired goons of Desmond are the fodder & you can see every single death scene coming from a mile away. It’s got gore but no originality in the deaths, you just won’t care.
One of the worst sequels ever, so bad that it’s insulting. A sequel that harms what made the original decent (the horror that man can do) & utterly lacking in every single department. Avoid this utter dross.
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Return to House on Haunted Hill