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I hate roller coasters -- my wife once outed me as a coward for refusing to get on the Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster at MGM's Florida theme park. Wave Pictures' "Haunted Castle" is a comet ride grafted onto the most sophisticated graphics this side of "The Matrix." I nearly lost my cookies.

The vertigo-inducing movie is a computer-generated, 3-D ride that combines the Devil and rock music (some would say they're one and the same) with the usually staid Imax format.

Johnny (Jasper Steverlinck) is a rock guitarist who is summoned to "Haunted Castle" by the voice of his dead mother (Kyoto Baertseon), a famous rock singer. There, the Devil bargains for his soul. So much for the story.

Imax, which owns the projection equipment and, except in a few cases, not the theaters it's set up in, has condemned the film as being inappropriate for the "wholesome, educational, family entertainment" it's become known for.

Be that as it may, the 3-D effects are mind-blowing. Birds and bats fly in your face, a protruding white birch branch threatens to poke your eye out as you enter the castle and animated suits of armor with menacing maces and broadswords flip your eyeballs inside-out. Scenes dance on the tip of your nose.

When Johnny finally repudiates the devil with a Hendrix/Clapton/Beck/Page guitar riff, it topples the Castle in a spectacular cascade of bricks and demons. It's all great fun and never boring.

"Haunted Castle's" importance may be more as an indicator of the dramatic possibilities of the large-screen format than Imax's Disney-fied documentaries.

Haunted Castle
Rating: *** 1/2
2-D computer animation and the large-screen Imax format follows a rock musician into hell, starring Jasper Steverlinck and Kyoto Baertseon
Rated PG
Playing in the Regal IMAX Theater, Lancaster.

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