The Haunting of Hell House (1999) poster

The Haunting of Hell House (1999)


aka The Ghostly Rental

Ireland/USA. 1999.


Director – Mitch Marcus, Screenplay – Mitch Marcus & L.L. Chapira, Based on the Short Story The Ghostly Rental by Henry James, Producer – Roger Corman, Photography – Russ Brandt, Music – Ivan Koutikov, Mechanical Effects – Mike Regan, Makeup Effects – Grainne Daly, Production Design – Ian Bailie. Production Company – New Concorde.


Andrew Bowen (James Farrow), Michael York (Professor John Ambrose), Jason Cottle (Fletcher), Brian Glanney (Jenkins), Ardeen O’Donnell (Sarah), Claudia Christian (Lucy Ambrose), Brian McGuinness (Tilton), Mike Finn (Lieutenant Ryan)


James Farrow, a student at Portsmouth University around the turn of the century, gets a girl, Sarah, pregnant. He takes her to get a back street abortion but this goes wrong and she dies after he abandons her in a hotel room. He is then haunted by her ghost, which draws him back to the gloomy house where they once made love. He meets the house’s owner, John Ambrose, a professor of metaphysics at his university, who is haunted by the ghost of the daughter that he harshly drove out of his home and who now makes him pay a terrible price for doing so.

This is an Irish production financed by Roger Corman and his Concorde studios. It looks exactly like a quickie attempt to jump on the big supernatural horror revival of 1999. It was made under the title The Ghostly Rental (the original title of the 1876 Henry James short story) but was quickly renamed to the more exploitative The Haunting of Hell House by Corman. (It should be noted that the title The Haunting of Hell House is only one letter’s difference from The Haunting of Hill House, the original title that trailers and posters for the remake of The Haunting (1999) went out under). Despite this, the film is far more modest and much more literary in origin than the advertising promotes it as – it is adapted from a short story by no less than Henry James.

In any other circumstances, The Haunting of Hell House might have passed as a tv movie produced by the BBC or Grenada. It is a surprisingly sedate and modest effort when compared to the usual films that Roger Corman and Concorde churn out. In fact, probably too much so. Director Mitch Marcus tries earnestly to generate scares but far too often falls on the pedestrian side.

To the film’s advantage, the sombre, rural Irish locations do add a degree of atmosphere to the story (even if the countryside and accents fail to make us believe that the film is taking place in turn of the century American New England). Eventually, Mitch Marcus, with the assistance of some reasonable story twists, builds up a sufficient head of steam and arrives at a decent climax.

Director Mitch Marcus has made a bare handful of other films, including two other horror works with The Haunting of Hell House (1999) and Knocking on Death’s Door (1999), as well as writing the screenplay for The Force (1994).

Trailer here

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