Well, Hollywood remakes of horror classics have been the norm for quite some time now, so it’s not surprising that we should be getting a glut of Straight-to-DVD SEQUELS to remakes of horror classics. Surprisingly, Return to House on Haunted Hill delivers the goods and is a worthy sequel to the 1999 remake. It also happens to be the best Straight-to-DVD sequel of the year.
The plot has two opposing teams of treasure hunters going inside the titular haunted mansion/mental institution searching for a priceless idol where they are murdered one by one by the restless souls of murdered inmates. We learn that the idol is the “source” of the house’s evil and the spunky wet T-shirt wearing heroine (sister of one of the remake’s cast members) sets out to destroy it.
The film runs a scant 81 minutes (more like 71 without all the credits) and someone ends up dying horribly every 8 minutes or so, so what’s not to like? The kills are all suitably juicy (one GOOD thing about foregoing a theatrical release is that the film can be as gory as it wants without worrying about the MPAA taking their scissors to it) and we get some gut ripping, people being bent in half, an impressive “facelift”, a body getting pulled apart, some great messy brain surgery, a head squashed via dropping refrigerator, and total cremation.
Return to House on Haunted Hill benefits from a Scream style sense of humor (one character says, “You’re not seriously suggesting that we split up in a haunted house are you?”) and has a few visual lifts from other films (like the Raiders of the Lost Ark scene where the heroine removes the idol from it’s cradle) that add to the fun. The film also contains a clever twist on the old “naked ghost seducing a victim” routine by having not one, but TWO sexy naked ghosts seducing a LESBIAN for a change.
Say what you will about Return to House on Haunted Hill’s shortcomings, at least it’ll win the GLAAD award for sexual equality among it’s victims. The NAACP won’t be too thrilled with the picture though as predictably, the only black guy in the cast is the first to die.
The film also features for my money the best zombies in a swimming pool scene since Poltergeist.
The only names in the cast that I recognized were Cerina Vincent from Cabin Fever and of course the inimitable Jeffrey Combs (the sole returning cast member), but most everybody did a credible job especially when it came time to die gruesomely.
The best dialogue exchange comes after someone’s body’s been liquefied and the slimy villain asks, “Where’s Norris?” and the heroine replies, “I think you’re standing in him.”