Retro Review: House on Haunted Hill

DARKNITE agrees to spend the night…

A movie screen as black as pitch staring right at the confused audience; then out of no where, a piercing scream and a ghoulish laugh and so begins the Vincent Price classic, House on Haunted Hill. A 1959 gothic thriller that is still as entertaining today as it was then. Director William Castle had built a reputation in the film industry as a master of gimmicks from making audience members sign a life insurance policy before seeing Macabre to using special “Illusion-O” filming for 13 Ghosts. For this particular film, Castle suspended glow-in-the-dark skeletons from the ceilings who would terrorize the audience during the memorable climax.

The plot is simple, Vincent Price is an eccentric billionaire who for his conniving wife’s birthday invites a number of strangers to spend the night at his haunted mansion, with a history filled with bloodshed and murder. If his guests could manage to stay the night and still be alive to see the sunrise they would all be financially rewarded. While the guests struggle through one scare after another they are oblivious to the game of wits that Price and his wife are playing with each other. It all comes to a head in a climax that is one of the most beloved in movie history.

As stated before, this movie still holds up to this day beginning with the promotion; the splashy and colorful poster filled from corner to corner with ghouls and violence and all manner of macabre images, with a poster like this who needs a “less is more” philosophy. Many argue that the key to Castle’s success with this flick is Vincent Price in the lead, a horror actor who even people unfamiliar with the genre know and love. This role was one he was born to play utilizing his trademark diabolic nature with a tinge of campy humor Price filled the role like no other. Aside from Price this film is filled with campy scary fun and thrills complete with; skeletons and hangings and ghosts and anything else that Castle can throw at you to keep things entertaining. This movie is easily a horror fans dream come true.