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Five people are each offered a million dollars to spend the night in a "haunted house" (it was formerly a mental hospital beset by a mass murder and horrendous fire many years ago). If anyone croaks, whoever is left alive gets to split the five million. Somehow, the house gets locked tight, so no one could get out, even if he wanted to forfeit the money.
Naturally, lots of freaky, gory, gross, and, for the most part, utterly stupid incidents transpire. Eventually, several people get killed (although not necessarily by ghosts - the group contains a few murderers who are still alive), but that's no surprise.
The only character I liked was comic actor Chris Katlan's scaredy-cat tour guide character. He provided the few laughable moments in the film.
As for the other actors, Taye Diggs and Jeffrey Rush are certainly talented, but they've both had better roles.
I can understand why Diggs took this role - he was probably trying to shake the Mr. Harlequin Romance image left over from How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and maybe this was the closest thing he could find to an action-hero role. After all, there are really only two Hollywood categories for young, handsome actors like Diggs: "Big Tough Action Hero" and "Sexy Romantic Lead Who Looks Like He Stepped Off the Cover of a Cheap Romance Novel". Now I'm not saying that such actors can't do serious dramatic work - certainly they're capable (Matt Damon, for example, is a talented and attractive actor). But the publicity people still have to sell the star as a sex symbol because, let's face it, that's going to attract more viewers (female viewers, anyway) than just saying the guy's a good actor.
Rush, on the other hand is an older, more mature actor, who has done some highly acclaimed dramatic work (Shine, Les MisÚrables) so I don't see any excuse for him. If he could win an Oscar for Shine, you'd think he could get a more challenging role than this.
I've never been impressed by special effects in films, and House on Haunted Hill is no exception. I know a movie critic who thought this movie was unnecessarily profane and violent, and that it didn't need to be R rated. Personally, I've never seen a scary or thrilling horror movie that wasn't R rated, and I don't see anything wrong with properly placed profanity, but neither aspect helped this movie. It was still boring.
Not to mention unrealistic. In one scene, a very insane mental patient jabs several pencils straight through a doctor's neck - and out the other side. Although I'm no scientific expert, I find it hard to believe that the pencils would go all the way through - wouldn't they break? After all, doesn't a human neck have more strength and weight than a few pencils?
I could go on nitpicking House on Haunted Hill forever, but I'll quit now because I think I've made my point. House on Haunted Hill is just another silly, poorly written horror flick completely awash in overstated blood and gore.