House on Haunted Hill
It's more of a slope than a hill
(Blogger's note: Ms. Meghan was kind enough to fill in for me today. I have seen both the original House on Haunted Hill and the remake. The original is infinitely better. This should be on everyone's must-see list if you're any type of horror fan.)
"I love it when you threaten to kill me darling."
The premise of the movie begins, like the best of movies, with an eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren (Price) and his vivacious (4th) wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). Loren throws a party in a giant decrepit old house that may or may not be haunted by ghost of previous inhabitants that were gruesomely murdered. The attendees of the party have been promised $10,000 (which would be ~$78,000 by today's standards) if they stay the night and survive. The attendees are Lance Shroeder (Richard Long) a pilot, Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal) a psychiatrist studying hysteria, Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) a secretary for one of Mr. Loren's companies, Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.) the owner of the house whose brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house, and Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum) a columnist. All of the attendees (with the exception of the Lorens) are strangers to each other, even Nora, who works for Mr. Loren's company but has never met him.
They just found out Chris Katan starred in the remake.
The story gets tense as the night goes on, the partgoers are locked into the house by the elderly caretakers, with no electricity or way to get out until 8 am the next morning. The partygoers have all been spooked by a large chandelier falling and nearly killing Nora and later in the evening Lance disappearing and reappearing with a strange bump on his head and no memory of how it got there. Morbid Mr. Pritchard is definitely not helping, because he won't stop talking about the ghosts, and how they're going to claim one of the partygoers before the night is through. And poor Nora keeps getting spooked, but has no evidence to prove it, driving her more and more "hysterical". She seems primed to be "the one" the ghosts will claim, but it could be anyone!
"Enough with this ghost nonsense and get me a drink!"
The effects are minimal and there's certainly no gore as this is 1959, however the scares are genuine, if few and far between. There's a scene with Nora that even impresses the legendary Tom Savini with its spookiness. This film was also best know for an effect the director used called "Emergo", where a skeleton was swung over the audience at the appropriate time*. I think this is kind of excellent and would love to watch this in a movie theater and have this effect used.
Here's some Vincent Price, just because.
I think this film does feel dated at times, but it definitely stands the test of time, I do wish I could have seen more of the Lorens bickering and being a ridiculous married couple, those scenes are especially good. I think this film is also appealing if you aren't really into modern horror that is constantly trying to outdo itself with gore and general awfulness. This film is definitely a classic and well worth checking out.
*Thanks to the IMDB Trivia Page on the film for this info.