Not only does this direct-to video sequel have an awkward name, but the premise itself isn’t all that tidy, either. When it comes to movies like these, I don’t really expect to any type of inspired premise or plot. We all know why we rent these movies. We rent them to see the gore, the violence, and see if we can predict who will get bumped off first. Anyone expecting anything remotely plausible or enjoyable will sadly be let down by this (apparently) “highly anticipated sequel.”
Sarah Wolfe was the only living survivor from the massacre at the Vanacutt Mansion, but no one believed her claims that ghosts were responsible for the gruesome murders that took place there. Now her recent and questionable suicide leaves her sister, Ariel, no choice but to devote herself to finding out who – or what – was responsible for her death. Ariel discovers that Sarah sent her the diary of the sadistic Dr. Vanacutt just before she died, offering clues to the diabolical evil that resides within the house. But the diary also makes Ariel a target in a deadly treasure hunt that leads a group of unwitting victims back to the Vanacutt Mansion, reawakening the terror imprisoned within the house on the hill. This time, the house and the evil spirits inside are out to make sure that no one leaves alive.
First off, who cast Erik Palladino as the treasure hunting/bad guy/ringleader for this flick? Yes, he’s a “former student” of the professor, but he’s far too young and woefully miscast to be the head honcho of a bunch of thug-types. Plus, he also can’t act like the bad guy he’s supposed to be. It’s bad. Very, very bad. And his death scene is even worse (he’s a bad guy, people, of course he’s going to die). Good actor, wrong role.
So, what’s this treasure hunt thing they mention in the synopsis? Well, a bunch of people are after the Baphomet Idol, a statue thought to contain pure evil. As it turns out, the idol is in the famed house. Ariel and her boyfriend (?) are kidnapped by a bunch of treasure hunters wanting to cash in on the Baphomet payday. At the same time, a professor, his assistant, and some girl, are also heading into the house. Both groups meet, the “some girl” turns out to be a turncoat for the treasure hunters, and soon people are being picked off one by one. That’s the basic set-up for the movie. Mash that with the synopsis and you have an idea of how forced and awkward the whole set-up is.
If you’re not at all interested in the plot, and merely the death scenes, there’s a handful that are good, but nothing we really haven’t seen before. Infact, it seems like a lot of these death scenes are culled from other movies. Sadly, it takes too long to even get to these and, when they happen, it happens far too quick. And the bad ones are just bad. And they aren’t helped by the lackluster special effects and the under-developed talent of this no-name cast (seriously, I think Jeffrey Combs ([i]Justice League Unlimited) and Palladino ([i]ER[/i]) are the most well-known actors in the crew).
So, awkward and nonsensical plot? Check. Bad acting? Check. And the special effects? Are they bad? Check. Like I mentioned before, the death scenes are hindered by both their unoriginality and bad special effects, but, with this being a direct-to-video feature, it’s to be expected, I suppose. The special effects . . . are bad. Whether it’s the CGI shot of the house or the ghouls or the blood or other weird effects, they’re all painfully obvious and very distracting. They look low-grade and, at times, are rather jarring when these actors are performing across from them. Personally, the worst use of special effects is the death scene for Palladino’s scene. They slapped him in front of a green screen and added everything in after and it looks downright horrible. Really, really horrible.
So, personally, there’s nothing here that interests me. Even with the worst movies I can take pleasure out of some things and, yes, there are plenty of things to laugh at. Whether it’s the bizarre lesbian thug, the massive lack of character development (which makes one character’s cry of spurned love pretty out of the left field and hilarious), or just the bad dialogue and the ridiculous plot involving the Baphomet idol, there’s plenty to laugh at. The only thing I found remotely well done was the opening credits, recounting some of the horrors performed in the house years before. The rest? Not good at all.
The DVD for this direct-to-video venture is pretty standard. In it, we get some additional scenes, a music video, character confessionals, and backstory on the fictional idol. Overall, it’s a small collection of extras meant to add to the story’s plot. Nice attempt, overall. Audio and visual here seem top-notch.
The unrated version of this film is a brief 81 minutes, so you won’t lose too much watching it. Regardless of that, that’s 81 minutes where you could be doing something better with your life. Return to House on Haunted Hill is simply not that good and lacks nearly everything that makes horror movies enjoyable. Without a doubt, Skip it and go search elsewhere for your horror thrills. Unlikable characters, an awkward and somewhat moronic plot, bad special effects, and bad casting makes this a must-miss. It’s another unnecessary sequel we don’t need and one that you shouldn’t bother watching.
Return to House on Haunted Hill: Unrated is now available on DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray.