House on Haunted Hill
Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long
Writer: Robb White
Director: William Castle
It's party time! Millionaire Frederick Loren has invited five strangers to a soiree at the House on Haunted Hill for his wife, Annabelle. The award: $10,000 a piece to everyone that stays. If anyone dies, the money will be divided up to remaining survivors. The catch: the house goes into lock down at midnight, with no way of escape. As the night progresses, shit gets crazy, people get scared, people get drunk, people receive guns, people start believing the place is really haunted, and more!
Gah, I would kill to take a phone booth back in time to watch a William Castle movie on the big screen. While the dude's films weren't perfect by any stretch, they have a great feel to them, and I still find some moments to this one in particular to be quite eerie. Not to mention, it would be awesome to be fortunate enough to have seen this in theaters for the Emergo gimmick (an element Castle came up with, which details a flying skeleton zipping over the heads of theater goers), alone.
The creepy atmosphere is laid on thick and Von Dexter's film score matches the mood. It's always amazed me how Vincent Price's voice can either be tantalizing or terrifying with little to no altering in tone, and the way House on Haunted Hill displays this is a prime example. After a quite epic opening (which is simply just a zoom in of of Watson Pritchard's mug and some words to get the ball rolling), in comes Fredrick Loren's (Price) introduction, giving you a rundown of everyone he invited to the party and why he picked them. Once at the house (after all guests arrive in separate vehicles), doors open and close on their own, a chandelier falls and almost kills someone, blood drips from the ceiling, decapitated heads appear in suitcases and closets, etc... the movie is effective as hell for it's age, and maybe even a bit extreme for the time.
Key favorite moments:
- The scary as fuck caretakers. Wow. The Mr. likes to hide in shadows and warn people of bad shit, while probably never taking into consideration that hiding in shadows and sounding all ominous makes you seem pretty damn guilty of something, yourself. The Mrs. is the real weirdy creeper- hiding in basement rooms with her hands held up like claws and mouth wide open as if she's gonna chomp into your fucking face... yeesh! Her eyes are glazed white from blindness, but if you didn't know she was blind, you'd probably just shit your pants. Also, when she decides to dip out of the rooms, she glides off. GLIDES. Keep in mind, these people are just caretakers, but sure as hell seem like ghosts to me.
- Frederick Loren's mini coffin box party favors. “Here guys, have some guns. Let the festivities begin!” Seriously, though, guns are in the coffin boxes. It's for their protection, but they've all been drinking, a few are scared shitless and some really believe the place is haunted. It would surely suck to be around a couple of drunken, frightened trigger happy mother fuckers. I'd be in my room for the night, after successfully kickin' it to Frederick's wife, of course.
- The hanging “ghost” of Annabelle Loren (played by the completely smokin' hot Carol Ohmart) hovering outside the window of Nora Manning's room. Ahhh, such a great scene, probably my favorite. Next thing ya know, the rope she faked her suicide with starts floating into the room on its own and begins looping itself around Nora's feet. So damn effective. There is a continuity issue, like how did she get out of the house if it's in lock-down mode, but who the hell cares?
Gotta give mad props to Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart as Frederick and Annabelle Loren; they really dish out some fun performances together as a married couple with little love for one another. Elisha Cook is also awesome as Watson Pritchard, the owner of the house. He's already lost some family on the property, and his drunken ramblings about the place being truly haunted are a lot of fun. Richard Long absolutely pimps it as pilot Lance Schroeder. Dude is smooth as silk with a voice that could melt snow. Carolyn Craig plays Nora Manning, possibly the only person invited to the party that needs the $10,000, instead of just wanting it. She's wowzers cute, and there's some good flirtation chemistry between her and Schroeder, but damn the girl's scream could shatter glass by just turning your speakers up. Alan Marshal is pretty on point as Dr. Trent. ****Spoilers→He's quick to point fingers and Marshal himself gives a good enough performance to make the film's first twist unforeseeable upon first viewing.←Spoilers end**** Lastly, Julie Mitchum as Ruth Bridgers, a journalist with an addiction for gambling, and liquor, apparently. She's not quite given as much as everyone else, unfortunately, but she seems to do what she needs to well.
For SFX we get some blood that looks like blood in black & white, a few prosthetic heads that look greatly ghoulish for a film of this age, a rat carcass thrown into an acid filled wine vat --which has a history of its own-- and coming out as bones, ****Spoilers→and lastly, the skeleton that comes out of aforementioned wine vat to spook the shits out of Annabelle Loren. Best part of the skeleton; it looks like it's dancing. It makes sense why it looks like it's dancing, once you find out that it's on a pulley system controlled by Frederick. Anyway, this thing is cutting a fuckin' rug!←Spoilers end**** Love it.
Hell yes I recommend this! I think a lot of viewers are put off by the film's abrupt ending, but I dig on the bewilderment and what the fuckness of it. It's not perfect, there's continuity issues, but I feel that William Castle succeeds fully in what he was aiming for... to creep out and entertain.
****spoilers in the pics****
****Dancing skeleton magic****