Sunday, October 2, 2011

Movie Appraisal: The House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Okay, I'm certain that everybody is going to call me out as being a terrible person for this review. I mean, this movie is a remake of a much beloved film (which I myself like very much), and stars some actors who are not exactly Shakespearean in scope. But saying all of that, stating all of the ways this movie is bad and should be bad and should be physically painful for me to watch... stating all of these little things that should make me want to rip the movie apart with my teeth and write a scathing review about just how horrid it really is... I can't. I like this movie. I really do. It is an incredibly effective horror film that scared me terribly when I first saw it probably close to ten years ago.

I mean, I was a big horror fan even back then. Hell, I would read and watch horror as often as I could, taking it in as much as some people take in chocolates or fine wines. I make not be the most knowledgeable horror fan in existence... and I'm sure there are a ton of people in this world that know oodles and oodles more than I ever could about horror movies and everything else, but saying that, I've seen a lot of horror films, a lot of terribly budgeted horror films, a lot of slasher films, a lot of exploitation films, a lot of Italian horror, American horror, Japanese horror, Spanish horror, Finnish horror, and Korean horror films... and there are a few that I really like, and a bunch that I cannot stand, but this movie, for whatever reason, I have deemed effective.

Maybe it was because of how young I was when I first saw this film, or maybe it was because of how much it actually legitimately terrified me. I mean, along with Paranormal Activity, Hannibal, and The Blair Witch Project this is probably one of only four films that actually have scared me senseless. And this film... this film is wonderful. I love its stupidity. I love its lack of logic. I love how its absolutely mindless horror with a dumb plot and window dressing all around. It wants to get people scared. it wants to make you feel for the characters in one way or another... and love it or hate it, I think it succeeds admirably.

Now, I can hear people calling me out, "Saquarry, you liked Ghost Ship too. What's wrong with you? Are you terrible at seeing the quality from the crap?" Screw you, fake person who doesn't exist. Screw you and your stupid logic that makes no sense to me. If I want to insanely like bad films that are terrible you can't stop me by saying that I shouldn't. Look, these films are not good, I'm not saying they're good. I'm not saying they're quality and I'm not saying they're believable. But what I will say is that these two films try to be scary... they attempt to throw fear into the viewer's mind. They are mindless horror, and I won't argue that, but there is so much mindless horror that is so much worse. And maybe I like these movies because they aren't trying to be more. They are trying to be Oscar winning films like the terrible Black Swan. I would rather watch this movie or Ghost Ship any time over that overrated piece of garbage that calls itself "psychological". I mean, screw you Black Swan. You didn't deserve any awards because you were drivel. You were terrible and you should feel bad for existing. And Aronofsky, you should be ashamed of yourself. You've done so much better with Pi and Requiem for a Dream, and now that you're well known you come out with popular drivel. Shame on you. SHAME.

But... uh... getting back to The House on Haunted Hill... this movie feels real. It feels like the cast had fun. They knew they weren't going to win awards or become more famous. The movie was what horror should be, something that tries to unnerve or scare people and that's what I liked about it. It did unnerve me. It did scare me. It didn't matter that it had no basis in reality whatsoever. It didn't matter to me that the critics didn't like it. What horror films, besides the Italian horror films, do the critics actually like? None... well, maybe The Sixth Sense, but that's the exception that proves the rule. Critics don't like horror, seeing it as drivel, but horror can be absolutely beautiful. For people like me, people that love to be scared, this movie is amazing. It succeeds in doing what every horror movie should try to do, and that is: be scary. I find it upsetting that so many "horror" movies... or movies that claim to be horror are so tame. They aren't trying to scare anybody, but this one... this one attempts to scare... and succeeds in my book.

Do the characters matter? No. Yes, you may get attached to some, but their parts are basically interchangeable to me. You should know who's going to die and live from the very beginning. The effects, although cheap at points, are fantastic. The machinery in the mansion and the weird things are so well done and mystifying. Hell, the whole idea of the insane asylum and the fire within and the ghosts and crap... well, I think it's cool. Yeah, nobody is going to win the million dollars. Yeah, they're all stupid for sleeping in an abandoned mental institution, but man does it make for a convenient and horrific plot. Again there are silly things abounding and the acting leaves much to be desired, but if you step aside from all of that and just see a horror movie... well, I dare you not to feel a little fear at midnight when you're all alone.

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