House on Haunted Hill (1959) Review: A Worthy Classic
“Consult your doctor! Bring your seat belts!”
Synopsis: A millionaire offers $10,000 to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife.
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House on Haunted Hill is chock full of classic horror movie goodness. A millionaire invites strangers to a mysterious party at a house that has seen many murders over the years, and tells them that if they stay in the house overnight, they will receive $10,000 each. What could go wrong?
The house, naturally, is full of doors, secret passageways, and ominously billowing curtains. (There’s also an acid pit in the cellar, because what haunted mansion would be complete without one?) Like the house, the guests also have their fair share of secrets… especially the millionaire’s wife. When ghosts and severed heads begin to appear, it only becomes a matter of time before someone dies.
Vincent Price as the millionaire is delightfully creepy, and his supporting cast is strong as well. And though the plot may seem mundane now, it effectively keeps even modern movie audiences guessing till the end.
Where House on Haunted Hill really shines is in the effects. Even the ones that seem a little dated now still look good, and help lend a creepy atmosphere to the movie. The music is also very well done. But particularly worthy of note is the sound effects. I don’t normally delve so deeply in my reviews as to mention the soundcrafting that goes into a film, but House on Haunted Hill really stands out. It begins with a jump scare of sorts – an eerie chorus of screams and other horror sounds. To a modern viewer this may seem campy, but it was meant to terrify the audience into the correct frame of mind, and was so popular it actually spawned the now-common Halloween “spooky sounds” collections.
Though House on Haunted Hill may not be as scary in this day and age, its atmosphere and effects still hold up well. This classic with Vincent Price is well worth the watch.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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