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Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt is the main antagonist of the 1999 film House on Haunted Hill and the 2007 sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill.
He is the namesake owner and director of the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane (named after his surname), a mental hospital where he and his staff of doctors have committed numerous murders before they died in the insurrection of the inmates and their souls inhabit what is to be forever known as "The House on Haunted Hill".
He was portrayed by Jeffrey Combs, who also portrayed Herbert West in the 1985 film Re-Animator, the 1989 sequel Bride of Re-Animator and the 2003 sequel Beyond Re-Animator, Weyoun and Brunt in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Shran in Star Trek: Enterprise,Brainiac in Injustice 2, and The Scarecrow in The New Batman Adventures.
Dr. Vannacutt was once a brilliant physician and a strong humanitarian, who ran the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute and traveled around the world, collecting art which he believed could be therapeutic. However, at some point during his travels, he found the Baphomet Idol and was corrupted by its evil. Vannacutt hid the Idol in a chamber hidden behind a furnace in the asylum's crematorium, and performed gruesome experiments and medical procedures on his patients.
Among the atrocities Vannacutt committed were vivisecting patients while they were conscious, performing electrotherapy and hydrotherapy on them, sealing them in dark, inescapable rooms alone to die, using the Saturation Chamber on schizophrenics, and cremating tuberculosis patients alive.
In 1931, the asylum's inmates revolted against the staff while Vannacutt was dissecting a conscious patient. When Vannacutt became aware that the inmates had escaped, he activated the facility's lockdown - sealing himself and all his staff and patients inside - before the rebelling inmates broke into the room where Vannacutt was performing the vivisection. The inmates dragged Vannacutt onto a surgery table and tortured him to death by cutting him open alive.
After Vannacutt, all the inmates, and all but five of his staff died that night, the Baphomet Idol kept their ghosts bound to the building. The Idol's power forced the spirits trapped in the building, led by Vannacutt, to do Baphomet's bidding, and to trap and kill nearly anyone who entered the now-abandoned facility. The people Vannacutt and the other ghosts killed would then join them due to the power of the Baphomet Idol. Because the ghosts killed nearly anyone who entered the abandoned facility, this stopped several reconstruction attempts over the years.
House on Haunted Hill (1999 film)
When millionaire Steven H. Price (who is coincidentally one of the descendants of the five members of Vannacutt's staff who survived the 1931 revolt) decides to throw a birthday party at the Vannacutt asylum for his wife Evelyn Stockard-Price (also a descendant), Vannacutt and/or the dead inmates hack his computer and rewrite the guest list to include the other descendants.
When celebrity Melissa Margaret Marr, one of the guests, explores the remains of the asylum, her camera shows her Vannacutt and two of his nurses torturing a patient. The 3 ghosts then look up at Melissa, and another ghost attacks and kills her. A short while later, when Price finds Schecter dead in the control room with his face carved out, Vannacutt appears to Price on the lobby camera, raises his surgery blade at him, then walks off.
Later, in the attic, when the Darkness is about to absorb former pro-baseball player Eddie Baker, Vannacutt's assimilated soul tells Eddie that it is time for him to join the other ghosts, before Eddie escapes due to the intervention of Watson Pritchett's ghost who stopped the Darkness from coming after Sara and Eddie.
Return to House on Haunted Hill
8 years after Steven Price's party at the Institute, when Desmond Niles and his team enter the facility, along with Dr. Richard Hammer, Paul, Kyle and Ariel Wolfe, in search of the Baphomet Idol after they retrieved the lost journal of Dr. Vannacutt himself which became important in the search of the idol. Vannacutt reactivates the building's lockdown (presumably because they threaten to remove the Idol from the house if they find it), sealing them all inside. Vannacutt and the other ghosts begin picking Desmond's team off one by one. Vannacutt attacks Harue in the asylum and kills her by slicing the skin off her face with a scalpel. A short while later, when the Nurse Ghost captures Samuel and takes him to Dr. Vannacutt, Vannacutt kills Samuel by surgically removing his scalp and ripping his brain from his skull.
Some time later, when Michelle hides in an old room from a paranoid and murderous Desmond, Vannacutt causes all of the furniture in the room to levitate, then drop down on Michelle one by one. Vannacutt's ghost appears in person to Michelle, then causes a large fridge to drop on her head, killing her. A while later, when Ariel, Paul and Dr. Hammer go to the heart of the house and remove the Baphomet Idol, Vannacutt and the other ghosts sense the disturbance. Vannacutt goes to the heart of the house to investigate the disturbance, and finds the Idol gone. Realizing that Ariel, Paul and Hammer are responsible, and that the Idol is threatened, Vannacutt and all the other ghosts launch an attack on the trio. Vannacutt and several other ghosts follow Ariel and Dr. Hammer to the asylum's washroom, but Vannacutt stops the ghosts from attacking when he finds Ariel and a possessed Hammer fighting over the Idol.
When Hammer regains control over himself and Ariel prepares to throw the Idol down the washroom's drain and into the sewer, Vannacutt intervenes and attacks her, throwing her against a wall and knocking her out. But before Vannacutt can finish Ariel off, Dr. Hammer attacks him, prompting Vannacutt to kill him by repeatedly bashing his head against a wall. While Vannacutt is distracted doing this, Ariel regains consciousness. Just as Vannacutt returns his attention to Ariel and the Baphomet Idol, Ariel drops it down the drain and into the sewer, expelling the Idol from the facility. With the Idol and its power gone from the building, Baphomet and Vannacutt's power over the house and the other ghosts breaks. The lockdown mechanism comes undone, and the asylum's dead former patients turn on the powerless Vannacutt and tear him apart.
After his death in 1931, when police discovered from the burnt remains of the asylum the atrocities Vannacutt committed in life, he was remembered as a twisted and insane surgeon. Though he was little-known by 1999, he was considered by some as the most cruel, prolific, and immoral killer of the 20th century.
Dr. Vannacutt was an insane, monstrous, utterly depraved, vicious and wicked executioner who, along his nurses, took an immense joy and pleasure in torturing patients. As a ghost, he kept his malevolent traits, playing tricks on the unfortunates visitors and continuing tormenting souls.
However, it is stated that the Doctor, before his corruption, was a nice and strong-willed man, but not strong-willed enough to resist to the Baphomet's evilness.
- Vannacutt only has a few lines in both films:
- In the 1999 House on Haunted Hill film, Vannacutt had two lines when The Darkness was taunting Eddie Baker over Franklin's actions: "The doctor is in," and "Next patient. Ah, Mr. Baker! It's time for you to take your rightful place with the others!"
- In Return to House on Haunted Hill, Vannacutt's one line was screaming "No!" three times over when the other ghosts turned on and attacked him without the Baphomet Idol to control them.
- Although Vannacutt is apparently a slave of Baphomet like the other ghosts in the asylum, he appears to serve as the leader of the ghosts trapped in the house, and therefore Baphomet's second-in-command among the ghosts.
- Vannacutt's face and moustache somewhat resemble German dictator Adolf Hitler (though Vannacutt's moustache is broader), given that both men somehow enjoyed torturing and murdering people.
- In a deleted scene, obnoxious, foul-mouthed Lathrup InternationaI Pictures executive vice president Jennifer Jenzen (who is Sara Wolfe's awful former boss and was the one originally invited to the party at the House on Haunted Hill) was driven and escorted to the Vanacutt Institute by a real estate agent named "Dick" who later revealed to be Dr. Vannacutt as he successfully kills her and claimed her soul.