Thursday, November 14, 2013

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Campy with the right amount of creepiness + Vincent Price hamming it up = Pure horror classic delight!

I'm telling you now, you may or may not (depending on your preferences) like this film. Some may complain that it's corny, not scary, and a total waste of time. Others may insist that it's a genre-defining horror classic that's both spooky and atmospheric, which, its huge success has inspired Alfred Hitchcock to create his own little horror picture - Psycho. And then haters will retort that one should NOT EVER compare Psycho with this campy "horror" film.

Well I say, it's all a mix of everything. And to each his own. :)

But before I tell you what I think, here's a bit of info about House on Haunted Hill.

A millionaire offers ten thousand dollars to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife.
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Cinematography by: Carl E. Guthrie
Running Time: 75 mins
Watch it
here  (YT)

A-and back to our regular programming!

This film opens with a black screen, a bunch of high-pitched screaming, "scary" ghost sounds, rattling. Then the head of Elisha Cook zooms in. Yeah it's corny. Pritchard (Cook) fades out. Then comes (or zooms) Vincent Price's head. The first thing I thought of was "wow that mustache!", from that point on, forget about the corny floating head, forget about the outdated antics - I LOVE VINCENT PRICE!

"I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on haunted hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. She's so amusing. There'll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You're all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don't survive. Ah, but here come our other guests."

The way each characters were introduced by Frederick (Price) felt like "reading" an Agatha Christie murder mystery. I loved it! Every characters are intriguing. I was actually very delighted by this movie's first few scenes.

If you're expecting a horror movie with real pee-in-your-pants, heart-up-in-your-throats scares - turn around, you'd be disappointed. It may have been scary in 1959, but modern viewers would probably be snickering at the outdated "scare tactics", hysterical screaming, corny practical effects (that skeleton scene is funny I gotta admit), and creepy sounds. So again, to those who only like their horror movies with a splash of blood & gore, a slice of dismembered limbs, and a shot full of jump scares and extra violence straight up - this is not your cup of tea. 

I never knew this classic scene was from this movie. And I'll admit to you dear readers, since I already feel close to all of you, that this scene made me jump just a little bit -_- I'm scared of old people in horror movies. I am. O_O

But it's worth taking a sip. Because HOHH, despite it's weak boo-points, is a great classic in my opinion. One of the more superior movies of its genre in fact. It's very atmospheric - though the interior of the house isn't that creepy even with the cobwebs and secret doors - the black and white quality of the film together with a nice play on shadow and sounds is why I keep coming back to classic B-movies. 

The cast are all delightful (well, Carolyn Craig could tone down her screaming a few decibels. My ears!) and Elisha Cook playing as the "ghostbuster" drunk guy is enjoyable, but my favorite has to be Vincent Price & Carol Ohmart as Mr. & Mrs. Loren. Every scene that they're in is fun to watch. The squabbling masked with smiles and terms of endearment. Those scenes alone make up for whatever this movie lacks!  

Frederick Loren:  Don't let the ghosts and the ghouls disturb you, love.
Annabelle Loren:  Darling, the only ghoul in the house is you!

Granted that the story itself is not tight enough to defend itself against nitpickers, still, this is one storyline that has kept me watching. A mix of ghost story and a murder mystery. And with that cast! Props to William Castle for this humorously spooky gem of a film. C'mon, there's a reason why this is a classic! 

Oh and there's a bit of breaking the fourth wall too hahaha that amused me so much. It's part of the movie's charm. =D

MY RATING: 4.5/5 - House on Haunted Hill is a film that's more campy than scary, with effects and acting more cheesy than spine-tingling, but with Vincent Price included in an already colorful cast of characters, plus a very absorbing plot, this is another cult classic you shouldn't miss. It's so amusing

One question - whose hand was it that almost grabbed Nora behind the door? Does anyone know?

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