House On Haunted Hill (1959) – Retro Review

When it comes to older films, people nowadays can’t help but see them through modern eyes. Not all films get better with age. The special effects don’t hold up like they used to, the acting that was acceptable decades ago is usually almost laughable now, especially with horror films. And, over time, the films lose their suspense and creep factor. Fortunately, William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill was not one of those films!

(Synopsis provided by IMDb.com): Directed by William Castle, who also directed 13 Ghosts (196o) and I Saw What You Did (1965), House On Haunted Hill centers around a millionaire, Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price), and his fourth wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), who offer five individuals $10,000 dollars each to stay the night in a supposedly haunted house. Unfortunately for our money hungry volunteers, the doors lock at midnight and there’s no escaping the House On Haunted Hill until dawn.

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From the spine-chilling scream at the beginning to the wonderful twist at the end, House On Haunted Hill successfully mixes suspense and horror, and it’s still able to keep an audience’s attention 57 years after its release. One thing I just have to mention is the special effects. I love how grotesque they made that severed head, and how they made a rope move by itself without you seeing the wires. I’m not sure if they edited that part years later and took the wires out, but I still love it! The one special effect that looked very fake ended up being intentionally fake, so I’ll let that one slide. The acting was done wonderfully well by everyone, especially Mr. Vincent Price.

A little fun fact on the film: William Castle used a Gimmick called “Emergo” in theaters. When the skeleton rises from the acid vat in the film, a lighted plastic skeleton on a wire appeared from a black box next to the screen to swoop over the heads of the audience.

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If you really need another reason to see this film, House On Haunted Hill inspired Hitchcock himself to make Psycho. After he saw how much money the film made, Hitchcock was inspired to make a low-budget horror film. We all know how great that turned out. Now we finally know what film to thank for it. Overall, I love House On Haunted Hill and I kick myself for not watching it sooner. It’s a great ghost film and I think every horror fan should see at least once.

About Karli Lawson

I basically grew up watching horror films and spooky things. I watched my first horror film when I was 4 years old. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I've read Stephen King books in middle school. I love writing and talking about my favorite genre. I hope to one day be successful in screenwriting and filmmaking. Everything horror, of course!

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