Return to House on Haunted Hill – Horror Film Review
RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is a disappointing sequel to the surprisingly enjoyable 1999 remake of the 1958 William Castle production, starring Vincent Price. It’s hard to imagine what Castle and Price would have thought of this sequel (no, it’s pretty easy, actually; they would have hated it), but if you’ve ever wondered what RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK would have been like if Lucio Fulci had directed it, here’s your chance to find out: there’s almost enough blood to fill the gaping plot holes – and that’s saying something.
Sadly, this makes RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL sound more interesting than it actually is. The premise is that the horrible haunting from the first film was really the result of an ancient evil Baphomet statue stashed somewhere in the basement. Two rival factions return to “Hill House” (as it’s referenced in the dialogue – a nod to 1963’s THE HAUNTING), where they search for the multi-million dollar prize. Not only do they have to contend with each other; they also have to avoid the still-lingering spirits that haunt the place.
With its gore, nudity, and gratuitous lesbo scenes (not just girl on girl but girl on girl on girl!), the film resembles an exploitation filmmaker’s wet dream, and in a way it comes more authentically close to the true Grindhouse spirit than PLANET TERROR – for better or worse (and it’s mostly for the worse).
The most interesting thing about RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is its gimmick. Shot as a direct-to-video effort, on disk the film offers a series of “branching” options that allow you to choose what the characters do at various points in the story. The filmmakers tout that there are 96 variations, which sounds like a lot unless you passed freshmen mathematics: since each choice doubles the possible variations, it only takes six options to reach 64 variations. The seventh option should have raised the total to 128, but one possible outcome of option #6 brings the film to an abrupt, unsatisfying ending (everybody kills each other) before the final option can be reached, thus limiting the number of variations.
Sadly, the film is barely worth perusing once – you’d have to be a real masochist – or a mathematician obsessed with variations – to want to go through RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL over and over again, exploring each and every permutation. Fortunately, there is at least one plus to the sequel: as the ghost of the sadistic Dr. Vannacut, Jeffrey Combs is given a tiny bit more to do (including a line or two of dialogue) than in the previous HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.
RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (2007). Directed by Victor Garcia. Written by William Massa. Cast: Amanda Righetti, Cerina Vincent, Erik Palladino, Tom Riley, Andrew Lee Potts, Jeffrey Combs, Stven Pacey.