In Hollywood, anything worth doing is worth doing twice. In other words: Remakes that nobody asked for.
In this case, it's a remake of "House on Haunted Hill," a classic Vincent Price thriller where you can't tell where the humans leave off and the ghosts begin. But the remake has not a shadow of the nasty charm, and so it merely trots out the gore and bad CGI to fill up the time.
An oddball millionaire (Geoffrey Rush) invites several people to an old lunatic asylum, which is said to be haunted -- if they make it through the night, they will each receive a million dollars. They think it's an easy way to make fast cash, and that the gruesome stories of torture and death are just to mess with their heads.
But, of course, ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night begin to surface, and the guests start to suspect that they may not survive until morning. Especially since the millionaire and his cunning wife (Famke Janssen) may have murder on their minds. Will anyone escape the house alive?
When the original movie starred Vincent Price, it's pretty hard to compete. So "House on Haunted Hill" simply doesn't try. In fact, it goes in the opposite direction -- it becomes so amazingly bad and cliched that it's actually kind of fun to watch, in a morbid way. It's so over-the-top that it becomes a parody of itself.
The problem is that "House on Haunted Hill" tries SO, SO hard to scare viewers, they overshoot the mark by miles. The writers and director trot out every loathsome visual and horrific bit of history, and jam it up in the viewers' faces. Buckets of gore, deformed faces, atrociously phony CGI, and lots of bad scripting.
Most of the cast is utterly forgettable. They yell, they curse, and they get photogenically filthy, and most of them die. And before they die, they stand around shrieking about the bad situation they're in. "The house doesn't care what's fair, who lives or dies. Know why? Cause it's a f**king HOUSE!" one of them wails. A real pearl of wisdom.
The only saving graces are Rush (as a Vincent Price homage) and Janssen, who have a creepy kind of chemistry, and all the best lines ("ever since I first laid eyes on you, I have always loved... your money"). Rush gets a bit hammy in some scenes, like the bulletproof vest scene, but at least you can remember his name.
"House on Haunted Hill" is not just bad compared to the original movie -- it's bad on its own merits (or lack of them). It doesn't just fulfil the cliches -- it wallows in them, and invites you to do the same. Funny in its badness.