Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Film Review: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill (Review)
United States/1959
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes 

Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five people to a haunted house party his fourth wife is throwing. Frederick has promised each guest $10,000 if they survive the night at the haunted house; they have until midnight to decide whether they want to stay or not - the windows are barred and the door will be locked afterward.

The house is home to several violent and odd murders. And, apparitions are said to stalk the house for victims. The guests do not personally know Frederick so they begin question his motives. On top of that, most of the guests are skeptics, so they don't believe ghosts are responsible for the terror they experience. By the end, it is revealed that Frederick isn't the only one with ulterior motives...

House on Haunted Hill is a black and white horror film with a pinch of mystery. The house is eerily atmospheric, and I really enjoyed the brief tour and explanation of the murders - I do wish this sequence was longer, though. The film uses plenty of loud music jump-scares - some that are very effective - and a great sense of mystery. Are the ghosts real? If not, who is responsible? The ending explains almost everything, although it is a bit predictable; it may also be seen as cheesy thanks to the outdated effects. It's short run time is beneficial as the film doesn't overstay it's welcome, and it doesn't drag.

Vincent Price steals the show with eerily charming performance; his delivery is very fluent and authentic. The rest of the cast did a good job. The dialogue was often robotic and unnatural, though. Also, there is too much screaming; the screeching from two of the actresses was almost laughable at times. The music was great, really adding to the haunted house vibe of the film. Some of the special effects are also great considering the period this film was made in.

Overall, House on Haunted Hill is a great old-school horror film. Much of the film passes the test of time, although there are a few scenes and some acting that may feel outdated. Regardless, it's an entertaining film that delivers a solid amount of scares. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre and timeframe, a rental otherwise.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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