House on Haunted Hill (1959) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

House on Haunted Hill (1959) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on October 07th, 2021 | Movie Review | Vincent Price, Classic Horror, Haunted House, Classic Haunted House

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It’s about a millionaire’s game designed to trap five players within a haunted house staffed with murderous spirits.

House on Haunted Hill was directed by William Castle (13 Ghosts, 13 Frightened Girls, and Zotz!) and stars Vincent Price (The Fly, The Bribe, and The Oblong Box) as Frederick Loren, Elisha Cook Jr. (from The Maltese Falcon and Carny) at Watson Pritchard, and Carolyn Craig (Portland Exposé) as Norma Manning, and – according to the credits and I am not making this up – Skeleton as “Skeleton.”  

Who wouldn’t spend the night in a haunted house for ten thousand dollars?!

House on Haunted Hill Review

According to the internet, when Elvira was interviewed by Larry King and he asked her to name her favorite horror picture, she replied, “House on Haunted Hill.” That alone is probably enough to recommend it, but there are at least five additional reasons, one for each of the guests trapped within the house:  

One: It’s a William Castle film. Roger Corman and Ed Wood get all the glory. But William Castle can sell a scary narrative like no one else in the business, living or dead.

Two: It’s a Vincent Price vehicle. Now, there are only two William Castle directed movies starring Vincent Price. This is one of them. The other is The Tingler (released the same year) which may the greatest film of all time. Vincent Price can find the earnestness in the campiest nonsense and make you believe it. And he definitely does that here.

Three: It’s got Elisha Cook Jr. You may not recognize the diminutive actor’s name, but you will likely recognize his face immediately. His list of credits is longer than Godzilla’s right arm and includes Rosemary’s Baby and Blacula and just about every television series that aired in the 1960s or 1970s. He’s a character actor, typically, and can effortlessly convey dread and apprehension. He’s very expressive and perfect for his role here as the haunted house homeowner with a genuine dedication to the reality of the spooks within.

Four: You get to see the original scream queen, Carolyn Craig, in action. Study any ranking of scream queens and Carolyn Craig’s name is omitted. But I challenge anyone to watch this film, compare it to the best output of a Samara Weaving or a Heather Langerkamp, and not rank Craig at the top of the heap. She’s that good.

And five: It’s in black and white. Glorious, crisp black and white, all night shots. Granted, you need a scorecard to keep track of all the continuity errors. But if you need an argument that horror is best without rainbows, sparkles, and tints, look no further.

Worth Watching?

Yes. And don’t just take my word for it. Elvira concurs.

House on Haunted Hill Review (1959) Worth Watching? - ALL HORROR Tweet it

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