CCI XTRA: Joel Silver on "Return to House on Haunted Hill"

On Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Producer Joel Silver led a panel previewing "Return to House on Haunted Hill"-a direct-to-video sequel to 1999's "House on Haunted Hill"-which will feature a new interactive technology exclusive to the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD high-definition formats when it is released in November.

The panel began with a screening of the film's trailer, which was met with polite applause from the several-hundred audience members in attendance. Then Silver was joined on stage by cast members Cerina Vincent, Amanda Righetti, Jeffrey Combs, and Laia Gonzalez, and by director Victor Garcia.

"Return to House on Haunted Hill's" release on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats features the introduction of new, interactive "Navigational Cinema" technology, which allows a viewer to decide the actions of the on-screen characters. In a short video demonstrating the technology in "Return to House on Haunted Hill," scenes from the movie are spliced with navigation screens prompting a viewer with questions like, "Should Desmond go through the Doorway?" and "Should Paul run away?" followed by "Yes" and "No" options.

As a result of new storylines, called "branches," created by this technique, "Return to House on Haunted Hill" has 96 possible permutations. Branching storylines added another twenty-five pages to a ninety-page shooting script. As Silver put it, "If you want to see a version where they all die, you can do that."

Implementing the technology led to additional filming challenges for the cast and crew. Regarding the filming of storyline branches, Jeffrey Combs said, "I was confused," and "You're giving everything equal weighting but you forget the variations."

Cerina Vincent echoed his sentiments, saying, "When you shoot out of sequence, it's confusing," although she added that eventually they got accustomed to the new technique and had fun.

Silver would not confirm whether "favorite" storylines could be saved by viewers, but the version of the film released to DVD will have a fixed storyline, with alternate scenes available in the DVD's extras.

Silver said that he wanted to implement a similar technology for the release of "The Matrix" on DVD, but the technology did not exist at the time.

The audience showed the most enthusiasm for Jeffrey Combs, who reprises his role in the film as Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt. During the question-and-answer session, cheers met an audience member's suggestion that Combs should have won an Oscar for his role in "The Frighteners."

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