Director - William Castle (The Tingler, 13 Ghosts)
Starring - Vincent Price (House of Wax, Last Man on Earth), Carol Ohmart (Spider Baby), and Richard Long (The Stranger)
Release Date - 1959
Genre - Horror/Mystery
Tagline - "First Film With the Amazing New Wonder EMERGO: The Thrills Fly Right Into The Audience!"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (15 Horror Movies Volume 1)
Rating (out of 5):
Every kid has that one movie that scared them to death. It may not be the movie that scares you but a particular scene that taps straight into fear. I can name so many movies from my youth that made me shit my pants and as ashamed as I am to admit this but some were not even horror films. That brings me to the original House on Haunted Hill. As a child I watched this movie more times than I can count. One particular scene always freaked me out and from what I gather I am not the only one who feels that way. Some argue that in essence this movie is not a horror flick but instead a mystery thriller. Those that claim this are fucking idiots. The point of a horror film is to scare and this movie does just that. I had this movie on a shitty VHS that my Dad found at a flea market. I never watched that VHS because I preferred to wait until the movie was on cable on the late night monster shows. It had been years since I last seen this one and after watching those last three shitty Troma films I needed to watch something worth a damn.
The film follows millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) and is unsatisfied wife (Ohmart) as they host a contest for five contestants. If the contestants can survive the night in a haunted mansion they will win $10,000. Each contestant is secretly strapped for cash and agree. However, there are far worse things at play tonight than ghosts. Each contestant is given a gun to "defend" themselves. Frederick's wife, Annabelle, is partnered with one of the contestants, Dr. Trent, and the pair plan on killing Frederick...more or less. The plan is to frighten one of the young girls to the point of hysteria. She will then think Frederick is trying to kill her and will shoot him with the gun he provided her. Annabelle fakes her death and then appears at the young girls window. The girl is frantic and keeps seeing apparitions throughout the night culminating in to hysteria. Frederick is not as dumb as she Annabelle believes and placed blanks in the young girls gun. Annabelle sneaks down in the basement, which has a pool of acid, where Frederick scares her with a skeleton on a string. She falls in the acid and no one will know she is missing. He feels his actions are justifiable and informs the other guests of what happened and places his faith in the judicial system.
Horror films before the 60's has a vibe that will never be duplicated. The best ones use that same vibe to give the films great atmosphere that is perfect for terrorizing the viewer. Director William Castle was a master at creating the perfect horror atmosphere. This movie, from start to finish, has the perfect brooding atmosphere that builds tension even when nothing eventful is happening. The acting is superb by the entire cast and Price is amazing as always. Each character is perfectly developed and displayed on screen flawlessly. The story is great though it is nothing special, just well delivered. Finally, the special effects are decent for a low-budget Castle flick. The effects add a great campy feel that rounds out the perfect midnight movie. Overall, this is a great film that needs to be in everyone's collection. You can find this in almost every horror DVD set you come across for dirt cheap. Get it.