Review: Return to the House on Haunted Hill

I’ll skip right to the payoff:

This movie is a sequel. Your enjoyment of this movie is largely determined by your enjoyment of the first one. This movie is pretty much more of the same…. no better, no worse. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one just as much. Ditto if you hated the first one.

So there you go.

Oh, what did I think about the movie? Well…

I’m one of the four people on the planet that actually liked the first movie, so yeah I kind of enjoyed this one too. What’s not to like about cool-looking ghosts killing people in cool-looking ways… repeat until most of the cast is dead, then roll credits? I mean, that is essentially what BOTH movies are, and if you know that going in, you’re not going to come out disappointed. This isn’t King Lear, people… it’s a special effects horror movie. They aren’t trying to dazzle you with plot twists (not much, anyway) or win awards with their acting ability. There IS a plot of some kind, but it mostly stays out of the way and lets you enjoy people getting their faces sliced off without requiring too much thought.

The premise is that the evil in the house was created/sustained by some ancient, valuable artifact that is still inside. Enter a band of criminals, an archeology professor and his grad student, and a woman (sister of the survivor from the first movie) and her not-quite boyfriend. They go in. The doors seal themselves. Ghosts come out to play.

This movie drops a lot of cast members very early on, but unfortunately it drops the WRONG ones, because the supposed “main characters” are the most uninteresting of the lot. I suppose the woman HAD to be there so there could be some sort of connection to the first movie. Personally, I would have killed her FIRST because nobody would be expecting that. The leader of the criminals is a walking cliche. He tries to be evil, but can’t quite pull it off. The professor and his student? I… just can’t bring myself to care.

But the characters who actually DO show some promise: The lesbian thug, the ex-boxer thug, and the guy in the car, are taken out of the picture way too soon and far too easily. That’s too bad. Making THESE the main characters would have turned this into an entirely different (and more interesting) movie. BUT, this isn’t a character-movie… it’s a ghosts-killing-people movie so why should they bother making interesting characters live long enough to… you know… actually BE interesting. Obviously, they don’t.

The ghosts? As I said… more of the same. The sinister doctor (Jeffrey Combs) makes his return, still reverse-walking his way from one gruesome murder to another, looking cool as shit. In fact, ALL the ghosts are very slick. The kills aren’t anything you haven’t seen before or won’t see again. They spend the right amount of money to make them look good, and that’s all you can ask. A couple of them stand out in my mind as being particularly well done, but I won’t give them away here.

There is a sort-of plot twist at the very end. It’s not really a twist… one of the surviving characters just mentions something that, if true, makes you re-think a few things. I wish the whole MOVIE had been built around that supposition, rather than it just being tossed around at the end.

Numbers (because you expect them now):
-10: All sequels, by default, get a minus ten. But
+5: Doesn’t actually RUIN the original, like most sequels do. It is, quite literally, more of the same.
+5: A few memorable kills.
-10: Kills all the wrong characters first (and second and third)
+7: Good FX… not original, but good.
-5: The criminal leader guy sucked as a character AND as an actor.
-5: So did his girlfriend.
-5: Half the people in this movie are heavily armed, yet nobody tries to shoot any ghosts. (It’s a pet peeve of mine).
+5: T&A
-5: Evil Rotting Mutant Ghost T&A (do not want!)
+2: Jeffrey Combs.
-7: VERY predictable ending.

Numbers don’t matter.

Bottom line: You’re going to see a sequel of a special effects driven ghost movie… you’re NOT going to see The Abyss or Terminator 2. Lowered expectations are your friends here. Rent it and don’t get attached to any characters that seem interesting.


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