Dark Castle Entertainment films have shaped our childhood over the years. Whether you were a little kid, a teenager, or an adult–you have heard of at least one of these titles.
A history of Dark Castle Entertainment films, in order: House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, Ghost Ship, Gothika, House of Wax, Orphan, and Splice–are the most popular titles. But, my favorite will always be Ghost Ship. Going back to its origins, the production company was inspired by William Castle. Joel Silver produces it under Silver Pictures, formerly tied with Warner Brothers.
Many homages can be seen throughout the company, such as–Steven Price, inspired by Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill. In fact, the movie itself is a remake of the flick of the same name, also using the characters and their histories. Of course, remakes always come with a twist.
But these aren’t just cult favorites, they are also a platform for both seasoned and budding actors. Names like: Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), Matthew Lilliard (Scream, Hackers.), Desmond Harrington (Dexter), Julianna Margulies (ER), Sarah Polley (Dawn of The Dead), Ali Larter (Resident Evil: Afterlife/Final Chapter, Heroes) Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), and many more Dark Castle Entertainment films.
So, let’s take a tour down memory lane and invoke some major nostalgia.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL/RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.
1999. The end of the grungy nineties, and straight into the YTK generation–where everything was silver and white and people’s hair was in tiny little buns. Gone were the plaid patterns and feather pens, ushering in a new era of pop culture and horror.
The original film was made in 1959, and it starred none other than Vincent Price. The plotline is pretty much the same. Some rich kook opens a haunted house to a bunch of people, offering them major cash–if they survive the night. Unfortunately, the house is actually haunted. Whereas this one relied heavily on mind-games, creepy people, and skeletons–the 1999 version was chock full of gore, shock value, and anything that could remind us of an earlier version of Saw.
Geoffrey Rush portrayed Steven Price, a theme park tycoon with a rather volatile and spoiled wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen). The whole thing was supposed to be for her birthday party. Unfortunately, Steven decided to shred her guest list, and after that–the ghosts used the energy from the electricity and wrote their own list. When we finally meet everyone, Evelyn realizes she’s been duped, and Steven has no idea who the people are. All except for Pratchett (played hilariously by Chris Kattan), the current owner of the house.
You see, it wasn’t just a house. It used to be an insane asylum run by a mad doctor named Benjamin Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs). In the very beginning of the movie, we’re treated to the flashback of the patients rebelling against the doctor, in which he sealed the place up, damning them to their graves. So, you have a bunch of random people and a lot of pissed-off ghosts.
Said people were invited specifically for one reason–they are all descendants of the staff that experimented on all of the patients. It’s a game of revenge. One by one our antiheroes meet their doom until we’re down to Sara Wolfe (who went in her boss’s place, Ali Larter), and Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs, who was actually adopted and had nothing to do with any of this). At the very end, they survive, along with the money–and are stuck on top of the roof from escaping through the attic.
“Okay. But, how do we get down?”
2001: Bringing the careers of Matthew Lilliard (SLC Punk, Scream, Scooby-Doo) and Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie and the hilariously bad Jack Frost horror flick) to arise, this film also stars the hilarious Rah Digga (rapper/singer), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), and Embeth Davidz (Matilda). The plot revolves around psychic Dennis Rafkin (hilariously played by Lilliard), who is enlisted to trap ghosts for an all-powerful supernatural machine. Anyone who has the power of it, gets the power of the devil and domination.
However, Arthur (Shalhoub), and his family have just lost his wife, and their mother and now have received word of a loony uncle (F. Murray Abraham) who wants to gift them a house. Unbeknownst to them, he also wants to use the Arthur’s wife as the Thirteenth Ghost. So, they go to the glass house, hang out for a bit–until the house seals them in. The only way to avoid the ghosts is to stay behind the glass which is riddled with Latin spells.
The house shifts every now and then, releasing the ghosts. Dennis poses as the power guy, but in all reality has come there to collect his payment, and ends up helping the family. Through twists and turns, they manage to survive–but not without a few sacrifices along the way.
“Did the lawyer split?”
2002: I won’t lie, this is one of my favorite movies in the entire universe. The music is literally what I have used to go to bed at night. With an amazing, gorgeous score by John Frizzell, shout out to my friend Gabriel Mann for the haunting “My Little Box.”, we come upon the freaking awesome Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies) who we know from ER and The Good Wife the most. A tough but maternal tomboy who is one half of the owner of the Arctic Warrior Salvage company. The other being Captain Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), a stubborn Irish captain who lost both his wife and daughter and now clings onto Epps as his own daughter-figure.
The rag-tag group also includes Dodge (Ron Eldard), Munder (Karl Urban), the cheating on his fiancee Greer (Isaiah Washington), and rounding off the crew is the youngest, Santos (Alex Dimitriades). Sadly, their payday has been cut short when Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), a darn good actor who is actually a soul taker from Hell, recruits them to find his glorious ocean liner.
One by one the crew meets their fate, but a little ghost girl named Katie Harwood (Emily Browning) helps guide Epps to find out the truth. The endgame is that she blows the ship sky high after a face-off between Ferriman in the flooded engine room, and is shipwrecked. With Katie going to heaven, Epps is loaded into an ambulance–with Jack now boarding a new ocean liner with his very dead crew and he just glares at her as she screams. Whoops, gotta’ start all over again, jerk!
(Shoutout to Mudvayne’s “Not Falling”)
Sidenote: I made Epps’ pool hall shirt when I was a kid, and found her coat in some store, and named my Maine Coon cat Maureen Epps (who has actually become my mother’s favorite kitty), and I have the poster, press kit, and the t-shirt. Boom.
To make this article not five hours long, the rest of the collection goes as follows: Gothika, House of Wax (KILLER KILLER SOUNDTRACK.), The Reaping, Return To House on Haunted Hill, Orphan, Whiteout, The Hills Run Red, Splice, The Apparition, The Factory, Seance & Orphan: The First Kill (filming wrapped 2020)
“You collect ships, I collect souls. And when I fill my quota, I send a boatload home.”
As of 2021: HOUSE OF WAX IS BEING RELEASED ON SHOUT FACTORY JULY.
What was your favorite Dark Castle film? Do you agree with the remakes?