Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren and his 4th wife, Annabelle, have invited 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a haunted house party. Whoever will stay in the house for one night will earn ten thousand dollars each. As the night progresses, all the guests are trapped inside the house with ghosts, murderers, and other terrors.
Amelia: Not as subtle or beautiful as The Haunting, and special effects that will make you giggle before they make you scream, but there’s a charm to the original House on Haunted Hill that’s undeniable. It’s more of a campy thrill ride than something that will legitimately make you quake, but again, that’s where its charm comes from. I mean, look at this screenshot of the the cast. The last person in it specifically. That alone should make you want to watch this film!
Billy: Is everything better with Vincent Price? I mean, yeah. It has to be, right? That voice, the way he commanded the macabre with a debonaire sense of sophistication. It thrills me. House on Haunted Hill is such a perfect character-based setup for a horror movie. It’s really not a horror, but the superficial trappings of the genre, not to mention casting Vincent Price as the lead, definitely make it feel like one. Atmosphere is built right from the beginning of the film, as “spooky” effects are played against a black screen for a really significant amount of time before a floating head pops up to tell you what’s up. I can only imagine how effective this would be in a theatrical experience, but it’s all for show. There’s no spooks or ghouls here. Just people. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Amelia: My favourite part of this movie is what huge dickheads the Loren husband and wife team are to each other. Openly hostile and constantly threatening each other with death – literally telling each other that they’re going to kill the other! And boy do Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart pull it off beautifully. If you told me that they swung knives at each other on set, I’d believe you. Little other character development is established with the five other characters but you won’t really care once you see the hot mess of the Lorens’ marriage!
Billy: That timid little man legitimately makes me laugh whenever I see him. What a downer. Of course, his terror is warranted. He’s in a house where his brother and sister-in-law were murdered only a few years ago. When there’s an offer to go see one of the heads in a suitcase, it’s like… no! That’s very possibly his brother’s head! He doesn’t want to see that! Stop being so insensitive. Is it wrong that I think of this guy as the comic relief? He just completely overplays it in the best way possible. Even when things are going right, the way he’s totally just resigned himself to death by ghost is the best.
Amelia: Getting back to the special effects, they’re not great. They’re actually kind of awful. There’s a part that involves finding a severed head in a box and it’s positively laughable. Unlike other movies though, I don’t hold it against House on Haunted Hill. They only had about $200,000 dollars (about $1.6 million today) to play around with and the overall success of this low-budget movie inspired Hitchcock to make Psycho.
Billy: Oh and that ending! That skeleton! It’s flat out ridiculous in the way we expect old school horror to be, but very rarely get. Like, the first time I watched this, I was floored. HOW is this an actual effect? Skeletons aren’t actually scary, apparently. If I ever thought they were, this movie cured me of that.
Amelia: Seven and a half Vincent Prices out of ten
Like the 1963 Haunting, House on Haunted Hill was a very pleasant surprise during my first viewing. I never expected it to be good, but it is! It’s slightly campy and the effects could have used a few more bucks thrown at them, but there is fun to be had at Hill House. Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart alone are worth the price of admission!
Billy: Eight Vincent Prices out of ten
Lock a group of people in a room and you better have a damn good script to support your concept. The House on Haunted Hill does its best with dialogue and good old fashioned human conflict. Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart steal the show with their performances as a bickering married couple intent on killing one another, but the rest of the cast does formidable work supporting their feud. I liked it. Though, I suppose with this review finished, the house will be coming for me now. And soon, it will be coming… *look directly into the camera* for you…