Tuesday, May 27, 2014

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Good, scary fun from William Castle, with Vincent Price at his best as an eccentric millionaire who invites five guests to spend the night with him in a haunted house -- with the promise of a reward if they make it through the night. With a set-up like that, you know good things are in store.

Price strikes the perfect tone for the film through his impeccable performance: just over-the-top enough that the audience doesn't take the proceedings too seriously, while still containing plenty of genuinely macabre moments that provide genuine chills. Good performances by Carol Ohmart, Carolyn Craig and the always-reliable Elisha Cook Jr., combined with atmospheric lighting and set design, all contribute to the effectiveness of this Gothic horror classic.

The ending famously provided the opportunity for Castle to employ his "Emergo" gimmick on the film's original theatrical run - a skeleton flown above the audience timed with the appearance of the skeleton on screen - which set the standard for similar trademark William Castle gimmicks to follow.

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