October 29, 2013
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Directed by William Castle
This was the first Vincent Price film I ever watched and, to this day, it is still my favorite. Part of my love for this film stems from it’s misdirection.
The beauty of this film is how it is wrapped up in the atmosphere, tone and pretense of a haunted house horror film. Visitors come to a house that is supposedly the dwelling place for vengeful spirits at the request of an eccentric millionaire and his wife of the year for a party where they get a generous $10,000.00 check if they make it the whole night through in the house.
At the end of the film, it turns out that all of the elements of horror and the “ghosts” are largely at the behest of the murderous spat between millionaire and wife. It turns out the wife is cohorts with one of the guests and is attempting to off her husband before he offs her. The other unfortunate guests get caught in the middle of it all. Throw in some creepy caretakers and a old blind lady and most of the effectively scary scenes are explained.
Every scene is embroiled in the unknown of what exactly is going on. Is it haunted? One of the guests had stayed in the house before and almost been killed in the process. Is there something insidious outside of the marital hatred between the hosts? One is never quite sure and William Castle doesn’t always make it clear what is natural and what is supernatural…even to the very end. And THAT is why I love this film. Castle didn’t feel like he needed to explain everything to us, but instead let us wonder about it as we went to bed or drove home.