Review: House on Haunted Hill
Image: The Lampoons
A hilarious homage to a Hollywood classic.
An eccentric Millionaire offers 4 strangers $10,000 if they last the night at his Haunted House Party.
What happens when the doors are locked?
Who will survive the night?
Why is there blood dripping from the ceiling? Is that normal?
Someone should fix that.
From the minds that brought you 'Attack of the Giant Leeches' comes another twisted B-movie clowning classic.
Find out if the guests of this haunted house can survive the night for a chance to win $10,000 - which back then was bloody loads ... you could buy a house ... or a hill ... not both.
Around Halloween, you'll often find shows cropping up which offer either straight-forward horror with the intent of scaring the living daylights out of you, or horror turned into comedy in some kind of parody version of a well-known book, or even something completely original.
Here, The Lampoons reject the possibility of concocting something entirely new, opting instead to tackle a film from the 1950s - House on Haunted Hill, originally starring the horror genre legend Vincent Price.
It all starts as we file in to take our seats, with the cast all clad in those white coverall suits that we see investigators wearing at crime scenes.
We're welcomed to the 'party' as we go in, though I found it hard to make the connection between the idea of a 'party', the cast's attire and the fact that we're handed table tennis balls to clutch as we make for our seats.
No matter, in these circumstances you never know what might happen so I was more than willing to play along in eager anticipation.
Waiting for the show to start, I notice some of the cast picking-up (model) severed hands and others whirling around feather dusters - the idea being, I assumed, that they were cleaning-up from a previous gory performance, which offered both promise and potential.
In fact, the idea of parodying a film like House on Haunted Hill is, basically, a great idea - the problem is that in this production it really never approaches the dizzying heights of the 'hilarious homage to the Hollywood classic' that the synopsis proudly promises.
The show follows the 1959 film, with the main characters being test pilot Lance Schroeder, psychiatrist Dr. David Trent who specialises in hysteria, Nora Manning and the Haunted House's owner, Watson Pritchard.
Vincent Price's character, Frederick Loren, is also on hand (in several different guises) along with his fourth wife, Annabelle.
And the basic plot is that we follow these characters as they attempt to spend the night in this house of horror.
Now, how we react to comedy is, of course, highly subjective.
It should go without saying that in matters of humour one woman's meat can obviously be another's demise.
Looking round the audience and listening to their reactions to this spirited but comedically lacklustre effort, none of my companions got anywhere approaching the point of hysterical guffawing or collapse - meagre titters peppered the proceedings, sometimes with the accompanying, unvoiced but almost tangible sentiment of incredulity.
When 'masturbation' cropped-up in the, generally bland and uninspired dialogue, it got what I thought was going to be the biggest laugh of the evening - which doesn't say very much for the rest of the script, of course.
But no, soon after, Josh Harvey's naked body did better on the laughometer scale, though that humorous interlude proved short-lived.
There are tediously lengthy and repetitive scenes with the cast traipsing around the haunted house on a tour, and going up and down the stairs to the basement, to the accompaniment of recorded voices chanting "we're going on a tour" and the like.
The four doors which basically form the set provide some touches of humour since they have see-through panels providing opportunities for shadow gags - a couple of which worked quite well.
And there's an oddball, puppet snake scene which I chuckled at, even if it was a fleeting mirage in what is otherwise a close approximation of a comedic desert.
The cast seem to enjoy their work immensely and certainly have the skills to provide richly glorious humour - but the material they are working with is, sadly, torpidly weak, leaden and largely dull.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Leicester Square Theatre
Our show listing for House on Haunted Hill
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