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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Movie Review: "House on Haunted Hill" (1959)

You might have noticed a few changes in my tab bars. I have made separate pages for my favorite actors and actresses, as well as expanded the lists of both quite a bit. You can now head on over to my favorite actresses page and read about My Fifteen Favorite Actresses (you'll notice some surprising additions - but we'll talk about that later this week :D), and over to the actors page to read about My Ten Favorite Actors (though this may become fifteen, we'll see.)

I watched a bunch of movies this weekend, making up for not getting to watch any last weekend. But, my dear followers, with tomorrow being Halloween I thought it only appropriate to watch an old horror film and review it for today, and therefore, that's what I have for you. On to the review!


The poster: Nothing amazing, but it looks like the cover of a children's mystery novel, which endears me to it :)

The plot:
Millionaire Frederick Loren offers five people $10,000 to stay a night in a remote haunted house, giving each of them a loaded gun as a "party favor." Throughout the night, they're terrorized by skeletons, disembodied heads and other grisly apparitions. Will any of the guests survive to win the prize? Or will the house scare them to death? The legendary Vincent Price stars in one of director William Castle's most famous chillers. [from Netflix]

The starring players:
[you probably wouldn't recognize most of them..]
  • Vincent Price as Frederick Loren
  • Carol Ohmart as Annabelle Loren
  • Richard Long as Lance Schroeder (Barbara Stanwyck's son from The Big Valley)
  • Carolyn Craig as Nora Manning
  • Alan Marshal as Dr. David Trent
  • Elisha Cook Jr. as Watson Pritchard 
The verdict:
So like I said up there, I didn't really recognize anyone but Vincent Price (my father informed me that "Lance" also played Stany's son on "The Big Valley"). Most of them are B movie actors or minor TV characters, not exactly a star studded ensemble cast.

Of course, going into this I didn't really expect it to be a good movie. These old horror films tend to be (by stereotype) bad, though there are definitely exceptions to the rule. But I am not a horror film junkie and so I wasn't really expecting to love this.

Well, yes... I didn't. There is certainly not much harem scaram here, though I actually believe the plot has potential (albeit plenty of cliches but still potential), it couldn't be excetued properly, not in this B film budget. I'm not going to be too harsh with this film because just going into it I was expecting the cheesy twists and tricks, the laughable "scary" effects and the holes of the plot.

That is exactly what I got. This film will ensure a lot of screaming from a particular female character, really awful rubber "scary" masks and plastic skeletons, and so many obvious holes in the plot. It was actually really funny and I was doubling over with laughter at points; this is a hyperbola of a dated old horror film.

Terrible pacing and the characters are not utilized to their best. There are five who have come to spend the night for the money - the "pretty young girl" is overused, the doctor gets his moment in the end, the old caretaker is a creepy enough to make his mark, Lance has a habit of getting locked in dark rooms, but then there's the last, older woman who is completely forgotten about (trust me, this annoyed me SO much) save for blood dripping from the ceiling onto her hands.

There isn't much more to say - the acting is stereotypical, falling to point, just pretty much everything you would really expect of this movie. Campy, funny, and far from scary but hey, it's only an hour fourteen minutes. If you like horror films or just want to give one a try, I would actually suggest this because it's certainly entertaining. Not exactly "so bad it's good", but "bad but it's not a total waste". Have fun picking out the holes in the plot (match them up with what IMdb found!) and laughing at the cheesy effects. I HATE to call old movies dated because you know, they are not, not always - but this one, well... even I must admit. . :)

In a strange way, there is something endearing about these movies (there are plenty of these short, campy fares with Vincent Price) - I can't exactly place my finger on it, but there is! Anyway, if you want to watch something exactly good avoid this and go watch "Sunset Boulevard" or "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" instead - yeah, not horror, but awesome and dark and suspenseful. :)

The bottom line:
Go into this knowing what you're going to get before hand: campy, cheesy, and not scary. If you still want to watch it, do so by all means because it's short enough (an hour fourteen minutes) to not be a waste of your time and you'll have fun laughing at the corniness. But like I said, if you want to watch something good pick something else. (Go watch "Rosemary's Baby"). 

Some photos:

Some trivia:

  • This film actually attracted many audiences, and the large grosses caught the eye of Hitchcock. Hitch decided to make his own "low budget horror film": "Psycho".
  • The Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, built in 1924 by Frank Lloyd Wright, was used for the exterior shots.
  • The director, William Castle, decided to pull this prank in movie theaters: there is a scene in the film where a (obviously) plastic skeleton rises from an acid pool. When this happened, a plastic skeleton would appear from a black box next to the screen. It would glide down a wire and sweep over the audience's heads in attempts to spook them. A lot of theaters had to stop using this effect though, because local teenage boys would bring slingshots to the cinema and fire stones, balls, and whatever they could find at the skeleton.
A movie tidbit:

[The whole movie is also available for watching here on Youtube if you'd care to watch]


That's it for this Sunday! I'll probably do a Halloween post tomorrow but all the while: Happy Halloween! (a little early).


StanwyckFan said...

Gotta love those cheesy old "horror" flicks. ;)

Rianna said...

Haha, yeah, like I said - there's something about them that just makes you want to watch for the fun of it! :)

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