On the twenty-third day of Halloween, the most iconic voice in horror gave to me: House on Haunted Hill (William Castle, 1959)
I had a lot of options available when deciding what last ghost movie I should choose to close out the series. It’s a big-ass genre, and there’s a lot of good stuff out there.
I was going over the movies I had already reviewed when I realized that all of them are from the past thirty years. 2007 seemed to be a good year for horror, as I have singularly reviewed 5 movies from that year alone. Needless to say, I thought that maybe I should try to do something about that.
The problem is, I tend to not like old horror movies. Call it desensitization to gore, a sign of the soulless, graphic times, or maybe just my personal taste, but older films don’t seem to hold up too well for me. That said, there are a few gems that I really do love, and one of them is perfect for my last ghost-movie review. It’s a golden oldie from the late 50s, and features the man that gave horror movies a voice: please welcome to the stage House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price.
Five strangers are assembled for a party in a supposedly haunted mansion: if they make the night, they get 10,000 dollars apiece, thanks to the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his hateful wife Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart). As the night goes on, their numbers start to dwindle as the spirits of the house begin to awaken.
Black n white movies are cool I swear
House on Haunted Hill is a spooky extravaganza, replete with plot twists and Eureka! Moments. It plays out like an Agatha Christie novel, full of psychological drama, vague ghosts, and some delightfully atmospheric music. There’s infidelity, alcoholism, young love, guns in tiny coffins! I mean, honestly what else could you ask for?
It has some genuinely scary moments, though I think most of it ends up being creepy and atmospheric rather than “shit-yer-drawers” horror. The house itself is like Nancy Drew’s wet dream. I mean, California’s hottest haunted house has everything: acid pits, blood dripping from ceilings, secret passages, you name it! There’s also a soprano constantly wailing indistinguishable vowels in the background at all times, but I’m not sure if she comes with the house.
A lot of the horror in House on Haunted Hill is cheesy, with effects that wouldn’t really read with modern audiences. To be quite fair, this movie was probably pretty scary in the 50s and 60s, and I think a lot of why it’s goofy today is because so much of what this movie drew on then is seen as stereotypical now. Which is generally how things progress in film, so that’s just how it goes. But I gotta give it to them, 50s movies have the best screams. They’re always these full-body, high pitched, bloodcurdling shrieks, and modern movies just can’t compare.
This movie also has Vincent Price, so it has a solid leg up on other movies by that sheer fact alone. Like dinosaurs, Vincent Price makes any film better.
There is a brief depiction of suicide, so if that might be a problem I’d watch with a little caution.
Not really about ghosts
I mean, there aren’t really ghosts in House on Haunted Hill, and all of the shenanigans are of an earthly source. And the ending is very strange and abrupt. And nothing is ever really explained.
But hey, what can you do. Sometimes you’re just a strange little movie from 1959 doing the best you can with Vincent Price pushing you along. House on Haunted Hill is a wacky movie that I love very much, and if you’re ever in the mood for something a little silly but still a little spooky, pull House on Haunted Hill out and give it a whirl.
Also, wine is to this movie what Vincent Price is to horror: it makes it better.
4/5 (for the laffs, m8)
Featured image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_on_Haunted_Hill