|Category||Horror||Audio Commentary - William Malone
Cast and Crew Listing
Crew Biography - Director
Deleted Scenes (3)
Featurette - Chamber
Featurette - The Shadow
Featurette - The Sculptures
Featurette - The Glass Ceiling
Featurette - The Saturation Chamber
Featurette - The Vat Of Blood
Featurette - The Exploding Floor
Featurette - Scenes From Creature by William Malone
Featurette - Tale Of Two Houses
Menu Audio and Animation
Theatrical Trailer (1999)
Theatrical Trailer (1958)
|Running Time||89:02 minutes|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, end of credits|
The broad story centres around the disintegrating marriage of Evelyn (Famke Janssen) and Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), both of whom would cheerfully kill the other. Evelyn fancies spectacular parties and so leases the House On The Haunted Hill, the former Vannacutt Institute For The Criminally Insane, for her Halloween bash. Steven was supposed to send out the invites from the two page listing of names given him by Evelyn. The actual guest list that gets sent out totals four names - Sara Wolfe (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Marr (Bridgette Wilson) and Dr Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher). When the guests arrive, neither Evelyn nor Steven know who they are but what the heck, let's party! Add into the mix the landlord in eternally pessimistic Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan) and one very spooky old house, and things are guaranteed to go bump in the night. The incentive for the party-goers is one million dollars to each of the five guests if they survive until morning, with any person not making it having their money tipped into the winner's pot. What follows is the slow demise of several of the guests and hosts in various ways, courtesy of the evil spirits of the house.
Since this is a remake, obviously there is no great originality to the story, which is something of a pity as what is here is not much of a story at all. So if you have a weak story, what do you do? Well, you get a big name actor (Geoffrey Rush), a hot babe (Famke Janssen), the girl next door (Ali Larter), and an ex-jock (Taye Diggs), toss them into a blender with a serious-sized dollop of special effects and see what comes out of the mix. What you end up with is the horror equivalent of The Matrix - in other words an over-rated piece of celluloid that completely fails to live up to the promotional hype that the studio throws at it. Quite what possessed Geoffrey Rush to jump aboard this effort I simply do not understand - and then to proceed to try and turn himself vocally into James Woods and visually into Vincent Price... He is a great actor, but not even his talents could help this. The only real interest here is in Ali Larter and Taye Diggs, but the rest are barely above mediocre. The whole thing is not especially well-directed by William Malone, whose previous history says a lot - he wrote the utterly lamentable Universal Soldier: The Return. Still, it has to be admitted that some of the effects work is pretty cool, but not cool enough to sustain the entire length of the film.
Frankly, I found this to be very uninspiring stuff indeed, barely worthy of the description of horror. The only redeeming features are some cool effects, a technically excellent DVD and Famke Janssen and Ali Larter. Eminently avoidable in my view.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
Basically, this is a perfect transfer in just about every respect that does not hide in any way anything that the director wanted us to see. In general, it is a very sharp and detailed transfer with no distracting edge enhancement apparent. The shadow detail is quite brilliant indeed, with just about every little detail in the darker scenes in the bowels of the house being very clear, without a hint of murkiness. It is a very clear transfer with no hint of unintentional grain. There is no low level noise.
There is a very good colour palette on offer here, albeit not one that is terribly over-vibrant. Any overt vibrancy would, in my view, certainly have detracted from the atmosphere being created here. The overall colour is exceedingly believable, even in the darker scenes of the film. There is a nice depth to the colours, although perhaps the blacks and whites could have been just a little bit more intense on occasions - but I am quibbling about really little things here. Saturation of colour appeared to be pretty much spot-on throughout the film, without there being any evidence of oversaturation at all. Colour bleed was also not an issue here at all.
There are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only hint of an issue with film-to-video artefacts here was some slight telecine wobble at around the 28:55 mark, but that was about all that I noticed. I do not recall any film artefacts at all. The overall impression is of quite a superb transfer that barely falls short of reference quality - with most perceived imperfections actually being inherent in the source material.
This is an RSDL
formatted disc with the layer change coming at 45:57.
This is located in the middle of a scene, which results in a slightly prolonged
glare from Famke Janssen. Quite a good layer change overall, although
I would have thought that there were a couple of places where it could
have been even better placed.
There are just two audio tracks on the DVD, comprising an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary. I listened to both soundtracks.
This is a fairly dynamic soundtrack as you would expect of a film set in a haunted house, with a wide variety in the levels of dialogue and sound effects as a result of reactions to various situations. Accordingly, there are times when the dialogue comes through just a tad on the difficult-to-hear side, if you leave you audio levels at a consistent level. This is a reflection of the style of the film and is not a mastering issue. It may be prudent to keep this one set just a little above your normal listening levels.
There is no problem with audio sync in the transfer.
The musical score comes from Don Davis, and a very good effort it is too in general. Director William Malone certainly raves enough about it in his commentary, but the raves are quite justified. In general, the music is very supportive of the film, even in the rather unusual sounds used here at times. The only real complaint is that the music totally gives away just about every major surprise in the film by way of a steady, rising crescendo of a bass beat until the big moment. Have they never heard of silence, a far more effective way of approaching a major surprise than saying "here is the bass beat, so now you know what is coming up in the next minute of so", like they were trying to avoid scaring people?
The great joy in this soundtrack is the wonderful
surround channel use throughout the film. Sometimes quite subtle, at other
times really overt, it certainly creates the right sort of eerie feeling.
The haunted house certainly talks an awful lot here with a variety of sounds
through the rear channels especially. The bass channel kicks in with some
gorgeously crackling bass at times that really propels the action on the
screen into your living room. The entire soundtrack is riddled with little
highlights that will get the ambience junkies like me really on a high,
making this one of the best spooky soundtracks that I have heard thus far.
The only downer on the whole soundtrack, and it is a very small one, is
just once or twice the dialogue level seemed to get just a little recessed
in the surround channels, usually when something big was about to happen
soundwise. But really, this is a wonderful soundtrack that does a distinctly
evocative job, and in many ways is far, far better than this film deserves.
|Surround Channel Use|
Special Events - this takes you straight to the Warner Bros website and has nothing directly related to the film at all, at least as far as I can see. Whoopee!
Essays - this takes you to a choice of two written essays entitled Oh The Horror! A History of Horror and Take Two! (Or Three!) A Retrospective of Horror Remakes. The titles are self-explanatory, and whilst the essays are quite interesting, I simply do not understand why they were not just included on the DVD as ordinary notes rather than as DVD-ROM content.
Escape From This House - a game of sorts. It completely defeated my understanding and I just gave up trying but if you like these sorts of things then perhaps you will find more here of interest than I did.
Original Theatrical Website - a direct link to the website where you can learn about the story, the cast, the filmmakers, the production, leave messages on the message board, chat with other people and play a game. Really exciting stuff and entirely reachable without needing to have a direct link on the DVD.
There are also clickable ad links to the film website (duplication here), WB Studio Store, Warner Bros Online and Warner Home Video - all in the United States of course. Overall, my views are well known on DVD-ROM content, but this really is not much to worry about at all, unless you enjoy indulging in movie-related games. I think the word I am looking for is crap, and it should be pointed out that the aforementioned PCFriendly makes navigation of the DVD-ROM content quite annoying.
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
21st October 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|