The House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Rating: D+

Dir: William Malone
Star: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher

After the mixed bag of The Haunting (add it to those movies where the sets are more 3-dimensional than the characters), here’s another remake of a classic old haunted-house film. What are the odds of that? Cynicism about the current dearth of imagination notwithstanding, at least there’s some attempt to make you care about these characters. There’s Rush as a bitchy theme-park owner, clearly modelled on Vincent Price, and Janssen as his equally bitchy wife. His birthday party for her involves locking her up with a bunch of mercenary strangers, in a house which is just as bitchy as the pair of them, thanks to a bunch of seriously miffed ghosts, led by the ever-wonderful Jeffrey Combs.

However, even if you haven’t seen the original, it’s very predictable, with little in the way of surprises to do more than make you raise a mildly sardonic eyebrow. After a brisk start, my curve of interest declined steeply, despite the odd, nicely gory effect courtesy of KNB. This is probably connected to them killing off the most entertaining characters early on, a big mistake, as the cannon fodder remaining just can’t cut it. You may find yourself cheering Combs’ mad doctor on…