House on Haunted Hill is one of the better "traditional" horror films I've seen this year, combining great special effects, a simple but fast-moving plot, some humour, some scary scenes and a cast of talented actors who present solid performances.
The house in question was formerly the Vannacutt Psychiatric Asylum where the good doctor Vannacutt performed all sorts of unspeakable experiments on his patients. In a 1931 fire caused by revolting inmates, all but five of the occupants were burnt to death. The house, now embodying all the evil that has ever occurred in its confines, wants to make up for the oversight.
Five strangers are "invited" to spend the night in the house by Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), an amusement park owner specialising in scary rides, to celebrate the birthday of his wife Evelyn (Famke Jassen). The people who survive leave with a total of five million dollars.
The strangers are Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), the owner of the house; Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), a former athlete; Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher) a doctor with more than a stethoscope up his sleeve; Melissa Marr (Bridgette Wilson) trying to regain her 15 minutes of fame; and Sarah (Ali Larter) impersonating her boss Jennifer Jarzen to make a quick buck.
The movie's premise is interesting and as you can expect, the people in the house start getting bumped off one by one. This part of the film is done extremely well, particularly with the use of the special effects, and also containing a few twists and turns in the plot. The score is excellent and nicely complements the suspense and the intensity of the cinematography. However, once the "secret" as to why these strangers were chosen to enter the house is revealed, the movie opts toward a stock ending and it's pretty easy to guess what happens next (if it wasn't before!).
House on Haunted Hill is a fun film to see on Halloween. There were a lot of people dressed up; I went as Darth Maul, complete with mask and a glowing double-bladed light sabre which attracted a lot of attention. Definitely worth the price of admission if you're into horror films.