House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill

Released 1959

Review by: Disco Hulk

House on Haunted Hill might be my favorite horror movie. While not scary by today’s standards, this movie is the reason I spent my pre-teen years wanting to marry Vincent Price. Not because of his superior acting skills or anything like that, but because he was a millionaire. I know, I know, but I was only 9. So what if I didn’t understand that he was acting, and that he’s about 65 years older than me? It’s not my fault: I didn’t even have cable. Why else would I have grown up in the 1980’s watching 1950’s horror movies on VHS?

The premise of this movie is a little out there, but the dialogue is witty and there are enough plot twists to keep things interesting. Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five guests to spend the night with him and his fourth wife in a haunted house. Those who stay (and presumably survive) the night will be rewarded with $10,000.

Aside from some dripping blood, a vat of acid, and a falling chandelier, things don’t start out too badly. The caretaker, Mr. Pritchard, shows up to warn everybody about the house’s haunted history and then lock them in until morning. One of the guests, a young lady named Nora Manning, seems a bit more skittish than the rest. She finds a severed head in her suitcase, but it’s gone when she tries to show someone. She’s also frightened by the caretaker’s blind wife gliding through the basement, and later sees the ghost of Mrs. Loren floating outside her window after she hangs herself. Of course, Mrs. Loren didn’t really hang herself. She faked her death as part of a plot to scare Nora into shooting Frederick, because Mrs. Loren was having an affair with another guest, a psychiatrist named Dr. Trent.

Honestly, it took me years to figure all that out. I’m still not sure how they got enough acid to fill the vat, or why the caretaker’s wife was gliding instead of walking. We later learn that the caretaker and his wife were in cahoots with Mrs. Loren, and I suppose we are to assume that the blind Mrs. Pritchard was an accomplished skateboarder. At any rate, Frederick is one step ahead of everybody, and has cunningly loaded the gun he gave Nora with blanks. After the final confrontation in the basement, where Nora is frightened by ghosts after being tricked into thinking Frederick is going to kill her, she shoots him, then runs upstairs to tell the other guests what has happened.

Meanwhile, Dr. Trent attempts to dispose of Frederick’s body, and the lights go out. They come back on when Annabelle enters the now empty room. A skeleton floats out of the acid, and Mrs. Loren panics and falls in. Mr. Loren reveals himself, alive and well, and the rest of the guests run into the room. He explains to them how his wife was having an affair with Dr. Trent, and how they had plotted to kill him so they could take his money. I don’t know whether the guests believe Loren's story or if they think the ghosts were somehow responsible for the deaths, but I always knew he did it so I could be his fifth wife.

Theatrical Trailer

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