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DVD Review: Return to House on Haunted Hill (Unrated Edition)

Posted on Friday, November 9th, 2007 8:13 PM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkReturn to House on Haunted Hill (Unrated Edition)
DVD
Warner Premiere 114676 - Region 1
81 minutes

List Price: $27.98 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

Available on DVD 10/16/2007

NR

 TheatricalThis DVD
Aspect Ratio:n/a 2.35:1
Audio:

n/a

Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1

Disc 1 Contents

  • Intro Ads
    • The Reaping on DVD
    • Blade Runner - 25th Anniversary Edition on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray
  • Movie
  • Extras
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Character Confessionals Gallery
    • The Search for an Idol: Dr. Richard Hammer's Quest
    • Additional Scenes
    • Mushroomhead Simple Survival Music Video

About the Movie

Vincent Price is considered one of the masters of horror, and in 1959, he scared audiences with the original "House on Haunted Hill." In this age of remakes, it was inevitable that the movie would be remade, and it was, in 1999. It opened in the #1 slot just before Halloween and made a modest box office sum through its theatrical run. Since the first remake must have had some stories left to tell, or at least some gore that hadn't been seen, a sequel to the remake was made, aptly titled "Return to House on Haunted Hill," and it was released as an unrated direct-to-video production.

In this installment, the sister to one of the survivors is drawn back to the house when treasure hunters come to her looking for a journal that will lead them to a valuable, but evil, idol. Those are the bad guys, so now we need some good guys. Enter the good Professor and his assistants. The Professor has been searching for the idol for 20+ years and this is his chance to claim it and put it in a museum for all of society to enjoy.

It's a classic conflict between money-grubbing thieves and the "it belongs in a museum" crowd. Add in some girls in tight outfits, scary ghouls, and tense situations. Mix and serve.

How Does it Look?

Screenshot from the movie

One cannot argue about how clean the picture looks! Most of the movie takes place at night and/or in the bowels of the haunted house, so having a system that can reproduce dark scenes is important, but the filmmakers almost always raise the light level so you can see the gruesome and gory action scenes. For a direct-to-video release, this disc is surprisingly well done from a video perspective!

I do find it odd, however, that a direct-to-video release would be framed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. While this aspect ratio lends itself to presenting a wider picture in movie theaters, most people do not have variable-width displays at home. This results in the picture being letterboxed so that the overall height is reduced on the screen. One can only imagine the reason for this, but the most obvious might have been that it wasn't made with the intention of being direct-to-video.

How Does it Sound?

As with the picture quality, the sound quality is pretty good. It doesn't deliver any low rumbles where it could, but the dialog is always intelligible and the shrieks of the sound effects come through loud and clear.

Extras

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I'm happy to see that they included one on this DVD. The additional scenes do nothing to better the movie, which is usually the case with such extras. Kudos to the editors for recognizing where to make the right cuts.

The confessionals and "Search for an Idol" extras seek to expand the myth of the movie by having the primary characters provide backstory. The confessionals are almost like those supposedly candid one-on-one interviews made popular by reality shows, but they didn't do anything for me. The music video is just completely grating, but if you like that kind of music, you'll probably enjoy it.

Conclusion

While watching this movie and then preparing this review, I came to the realization that this movie is not targeted to me. I like horror movies, but my style of horror is much more like "Nightmare on Elm Street" than "The Ring." This movie seemed like it is catering to fans of the latter.

The one really bright spot in the entire movie is Erik Palladino, who plays the lead bad guy. His wise cracks keep the movie from being a waste of time and it saves it from being a bad and distasteful experience. Likewise, the male sidekick of the Professor gets some good comments in as well.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the DVD.

RentBuy

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