FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 21, 2006

I Heart: House on Haunted Hill

Don't hate me because I love the 1999 version of House on Haunted Hill! Yes, I know it's a Dark Castle Production. Yes, I know it's way heavy-handed with the CGI. Yes, I know it features Chris Kattan. Let it be known, however, that the 90-odd-minute cornfest also has a very special place in my heart, and nothing you can say can make me change my mind! This is the point where I cross my arms, stomp my feet, stick out my tongue, and say 'nyah'.

I'm sure you're wondering how this movie could have possibly won a place in my heart, given my high standards and impeccable taste in horror, right? RIGHT? Right. So, let me tell the tale and give you a little insight into a day, long ago in the life of moi, in a dazzling city known as "New York"...

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar bookseller at a location to be known as "Large Chain Bookstore". Getting by in New York City on a meager book jockey's salary is, to understate it tremendously, quite difficult. Believe me, the novelty of selling books to Sally Jesse Raphael wears off quickly when you're scraping together your last dimes -literally- to come up with subway fare. Yes, dear readers, the times they were a-tryin' indeed. In addition to the daily anxiety of having no money, ever, I also felt completely deflated every time I walked up the stairs from the train to the street. The job had long since worn out its welcome with me, and it depressed me to no end to go in for each shift. While working in a bookstore might seem to be a nice quaint little job, you're still simply working in a shop...and the wealthy customers of Park Avenue, New York City wouldn't let you forget it. I loathe retail, but I loathe being treated like "the help" far more. Any dollars are better than no dollars, however, and I had no idea what to do with myself next- so I kept on going back for more.

One fine day, whilst working the cash registers, I got into a wee argument with one of the assistant managers, over what I no longer remember. He told me to take a break, so I gladly did. I'd been in the breakroom about 5 minutes, talking with a co-worker, when another manager walked in and asked if I was on lunch. When I replied in the negative and related what had happened, she told me to get back on the floor or punch out. I thought about this for a few seconds, and then in a flash came these simple words to my little brain:

I don't have to work here.

I said it out loud to my co-worker- "Hey, I don't have to work here". Then I walked into the office and told them I was punching out for good. By the time I had cleaned out my locker and swiped my timecard for the last time, the breakroom had filled with people having lunch. Word had spread very quickly about what I'd done, and I kid you not- my co-workers in the breakroom started chanting my name and banging on the tables. STA-CIE! STA-CIE STA-CIE! I felt like Norma motherfucking Rae! I held my arms aloft, smiled, and walked out of Large Chain Bookstore in the middle of the day, in the middle of my shift. I still count it as one of the best things I've ever done in my entire life. Take your Olympic gold medals and cram 'em- I walked out of my job in the middle of the day! Take that, Jackie Joyner-Kersee! I'd like to see you try, Flo Jo!

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. Somewhere in the back of my head was the beginnings of a panic attack- I'd been scraping by, and now I was completely jobless- but I stuck my middle finger up at said panic attack and kept on truckin'. I walked the 15 or so blocks to Times Square- I may have even whistled, or jumped up and clicked my heels together, I can't say...the journey was a blur. If the pigeons and squirrels were smiling at me, or if I spun around Sound-of-Music-style amongst twirling garbage of the Manhattan streets, I wouldn't be surprised. It was like I was a living, breathing Mentos commercial! Somehow, I ended up at Virgin Megastore and browsed around a bit. I went down to the movie theatre in their basement and plunked down my last dollars on a Coke, some popcorn, and a ticket to House on Haunted Hill.

There I sat in the theatre, all alone and terribly proud of myself, munching away and having one hell of a good time. I thought the movie itself was fantastic- absolutely perfect for my mood, and I fancied myself a total rebel, sitting in a movie theatre watching a horror movie when I should've been selling books to uptight New Yorkers!

For those of you who don't know the story, the movie is a remake of the 1959 flick starring Vincent Price- I've never seen the original, so I've no idea how the two films compare. Geoffrey Rush (Shine) stars as Stephen Price, a man who's made his wealth by scaring people with thrill rides and 'haunted' amusement parks. He's hosting a birthday party at the titular house for his wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen), although he could be throwing the party simply as a lark- his real goal may be to kill his unfaithful spouse. She's got nefarious plans of her own, however, and it may be Stephen who doesn't live to see dawn. Also in the house are the party guests- a whopping 4 of them, who will each receive a check for one million bucks if they can make it through the night in the house. It's a renovated insane asylum, you see, and it's haunted, of course. Scary things happen, corny things happen, and lots of people die.

I watched House on Haunted Hill again today, and even without the taint of my personal rebellion, it's still loads of fun. Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen are fantastic as the warring couple- Rush particularly chews the scenery like it's made out of Laffy Taffy. There's gore a-plenty, some genuine scares, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing as to who's fooling who. It's mindless enjoyment- and there's not a damn thing wrong with that, right? So turn off your brain and have fun with House on Haunted Hill- quitting your shitty job in addition is completely optional.


John Barleycorn said...

It doesn't matter that I, as well, enjoyed this film, and saw it in theatres ... the story of your walk-out takes high demand here.

I'm glad to see we're seeing a little Stacie behind the Final Girl.

This is your best post yet.

And yeah, I worked for "Large Chain Booksellers" too.

Chris Hopper said...

Stacie, your story is awesome. I have worked in a mindless food service job for a long time now, and I find your story courageous and inspiring. How many times I have said, "I don't have to take this" only to keep taking the blows. I have to say I did not enjoy this movie, but I really understand circumstantial situations and the influence they can have. This movie is yours and in a very special way you own it. This is a great honest, heartfelt review. Thank you for sharing!

Clay McClane said...

Flo Jo has you beat. She pulled the ultimate walk out just 8 years ago.

Still, attaway to fight for your right to be unemployed - the only true freedom we have, methinks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stacie, I'm new to your site, Kim Morgan raved about you on her Movie Filter Blog and I thought I would check it out. I was not disappointed, at first I just read your current posts but then I ended up raiding your archives. My Netflix Queue is crazy now. Keep up the good work, I'll keep reading.


The Retropolitan said...

I don't really care for the movie, but I always appreciate some good Famke.

Anonymous said...

I like the movie. The job I say you go girl. I had similar situation.Working for some ******** and I Walked in on a friday on time for my shift and said "can I have my pay check I want to go shopping."

Anonymous said...

Retail is dead! Long live House on Haunted Hill!!!
Anyone who has worked in "retail" would understand.
It's a fun flicker... I liked the original too, being a big fan of Vincent Price.
...STA-CIE! STA-CIE! STA-CIE!... ; )

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, Brennon- I knew from reaading your blog that you worked at a Large Chain Bookstore- I worked at the other one. ;P And you're right- I don't often get too personal on here, do I? Hmm. I'll have to think about that.

Chris, thanks. My small rebellion was far more liberating than I thought it would be at the time. It felt really reeally wrong, and that was great. Luckily, it worked out well, and within 2 weeks I was earning far more than I had been selling books and I was in a much happier place doing it.

And no, I didn't even have to turn to prostitution! Yay!

Craig...damn that Flo Jo! First she wins the "grotesque fingernails" competition, then she tops me in this, too. She always beats me! Well, it's good for the spirit to have an arch-nemesis, I suppose.

Hi 88ArterialSprays, and welcome! Kim Morgan rocks, I must say. Her blurb has done me a great service, and I'm glad you found your way here. Hope you stick around. And if you're looking for movie suggestions, check the October archives if you havent already. I did a movie-a-day blitz, so there's plenty to add to your queue in there!

Retro, I agree. Can one have too much Famke? How many nerd hearts went aflame when she signed on as Jean Grey? :D

Rock on, Ali P. and Anthony. You're right- fuck retail! Stick it to the man!! Just by coincidence, today I got some JobSeeker spam email about opportunities at Lowe's- apparently retail jobs are hot right now- the wave of the future! If only I'd known back then...

Anonymous said...

I can't hate on House on Haunted Hill. It's the only thing Dark Castle ever did right, and I don't care if it's a little thin, because dammit, I'm always entertained when I pop it in. They made a wise decision in having Kattan play it straight, or it could've gone into trainwreck territory, but even then, you still have Jeffery Combs creeping up the beginning and ending for everyone.

Steve said...

Hey Stacie, I liked HOHH too, which surprised me when I saw it. I expected the usual retred.

I also liked your "Human League" quote, smooth.

Rhianna said...

I have one thing to say: SEE THE ORIGINAL!!! The remake is, in many ways, better (I mean come ON, it's got Vincent Price!), but the remake also embraces some of the delightful kitsch of the original as well. It, also, is great fun, and I couldn't recommend it more.

And BRAVO for you for telling "large chain bookstore" to shove it! :)

Anonymous said...

stacie darlin`,it`s interesting that you said you`ve never seen the original 1959 version with vincent price because it`s 1 of only 5 film`s that i`ve seen over 1000 times, (the other four being "forbidden planet", "the fall of the house of usher", "house of the 7 corpses", and the old humphrey bogart film "conflict"), why have i seen the original over 1000 times i hear you ask, well here`s the reason, although the remake is better in almost every conceivable respect,(especially the technical aspects and special effects as you would expect), the original is still one of the most calming and soothing films ever made, the atmoshere imbued into the film by william castle is still a master class in how to make a film that will actually ease the deaspair of the audience as they watch it, i`m not kiddin` stacie, just buy a copy of the original,(or call it up on youtube), and believe me any time late at night when you`re feeling a bit dodgy just put that film on and then accompany it with a nice cup of cocoa and some biscuits, (custard creams are my favorites, but any will do strickly speaking), and any dodgy thoughts you might be experiencing at that time will simply vanish as you are taken under the spell of vincent price, carol ohmart, william castle, richard long (sounds rather rude), caroline craig, julie mitchum (bob`s sister), and elisha cook jr (the only person who ever appeared in every film that has ever been made, from 1889 to 2008), you might think i`m over-stating this but believe me stacie there really is something quite magical about the original 1959 version of (house on haunted hill).

Riccardo said...

If you still haven't seen the original then it would be great for category 2 of 10-10-10.

Stacie Ponder said...

I have seen it since then, but you're right- it's worth another visit and a proper review. Wm Castle is the shit.

Kevin said...

Have you seen the deleted scenes with Debi Mazar as the bitchy producer? Fucking hilarious. Wish they had been included in the final film. Would have added to the campy good time.