Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Amanda Righetti, Cerina Vincent, Erik Palladino, Tom Riley, Andrew Lee Potts, Jeffrey Combs
Directed by Vincent Garcia
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Q: When can you tell a movie sucks?
A: When even naked lesbian ghosts can’t save it.
The original remake (sic) of House on Haunted Hill wasn’t exactly a classic, but it had a fun spook-house feel that made it far more entertaining than the rest of the Dark Castle dreck. So we should thank our lucky stars that we got this instead of Gothika 2 or House of Wax 2: Wax-On, right? Wrong. Return to House on Haunted Hill is the epitome of the insipid DTV sequel, lacking any trace of fun or thrills. If, however, you’re looking for a music video wankfest, look no further.
Return opens when a bunch of random, bland characters are shocked by tragic news: Sarah Wolfe is DEAD! At this point, I had to pause the movie and surf over to IMDB to see just who the hell they were talking about. Turns out its Ali Larter’s role from the first and this film expects you to remember her name like she’s Laurie-Fucking-Strode. So it’s up to her sister, Ariel (Hack Sequel Idea #457) to solve the mystery. No sooner is she on the trail when she and her friends are abducted by a group of mercenaries and their evil leader (who looks more like a sidekick in an Adam Sandler movie). The group is forced back into the haunted asylum at gunpoint to retrieve the mystical Idol of Bullshit (not its real name), a priceless statue that holds all the dark evil forces in the house.
For a cheap cash-in, Return sports above-average production values and a helluva lot of gore, but absolutely no energy to back it up. This is strictly a technical exercise from a director (Victor Garcia of the equally hollow 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails) who throws out a lot of flashy edits and music video tricks with no understanding of how to create mood or direct actors. The vapid ensemble cast is as wooden they come, with only Jeffrey “Here for the Paycheck” Combs returning from the original (when you can’t even get Taye Diggs back, you know your movie is in trouble).
Garcia tries to duplicate William Malone’s jittery camera-tricks from the first movie with hilarious results: The ghosts now jump around like psychotic Looney Tunes characters on speed. One particular kill, in which Combs delivers an uber-quick face slice that looks like something from The Three Stooges, stands as one of the most unintentionally funny murders in recent memory. But aside from these moments of silliness, Return is a dreadfully boring movie, which is no small feat considering the amount of on-screen excess.
In terms of extras, the DVD and HD-DVD release have identical stuff to sift through. We get a Character Confessionals Gallery in which the stars remain in character to offer inane back-story for their wooden on-screen selves, a short featurette titled, The Search for an Idol: Dr. Richard Hammer’s Quest which offers some more flaccid crap, a few additional scenes which add nothing, and Mushroomhead‘s video for their song, “Simple Survival”. Speaking of survival, the HD-DVD edition of this film(!) contains nintey-six different ways to watch it. Yep, through the magic of DVD and some nifty onscreen prompts you can pretty much direct the action and decide who lives and who dies. This is a great feature and I credit everyone involved for shooting so much additional footage. However, even with all of the choices, you’ll be hard pressed to find a way to make this flick not suck. Trust me, I’m up to choice seventy-two and it still blows.
Even with all its gimmicks, Return to House on Haunted Hill is made by a team of people who think horror is as cheap as their own wares (God, how I miss William Castle). Save your money and go to your town’s annual haunted house instead. You’ll get more excitement from teenagers in rubber masks.
1 1/2 out of 5
Special Features: (Extra Stabby added for HD-DVD Version)
3 1/2 out of 5
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