Classic horror

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Guest review by Horror on Screen’s Raoul

HoS Rating

  • Dylan = 8.5 / 10;
  • Raoul = 9 / 10;

SYNOPSIS

A wealthy man invites a set of selected guests to win 10 000$ if they succeed in spending the night inside a notoriously haunted house.

House-on-Haunted-Hill-1

REVIEW

House of Haunted Hill is a late 50’s cult and one of the greatest successes of Vincent Price. It ia also a film that often surprises the audience by its misleading title. Of course, the story happens in a supposedly haunted house, but whether or not the house is really haunted still remains a mystery even until the film’s very end. Even afterwards, opinion on the question probably still diverge by a great lot. For this reason, House of Haunted Hill would be better classified as a crime story, and a bloody clever one. The film presents a set of guests locked in a remote haunted house. Quickly, a couple of strange incidents occurs, including a suicide that leaves the remaining guest fearing for their lifes. While the film tries to drag you into the ghost theroy, multiple hints let you to understand that not all the house guests are as innocent as they seem to be. The film plays beautifully on this theme for 70 minutes and concludes with a final worthy of the best scenario ever written.

 

The way the movie is shot is also interesting. Whereas most haunted house films uses a god-like point of view that allows the viewers to see everywhere everytike something happens, House of Haunted Hill allows you to see only what the guests sees. This simple trick creates a strong illusion of being inside the story  and, within minutes, will force you to try and understand what is happening along with the characters themselves. At this point, and only because you do not get to see more than the strict minimum, your imagination will try to compensate and thereby create the worst possible fear.

 

The way the film was directing is also fascinating. One of the greatest trick used consists in including many doors in each camera shots (there are one of two doors in most shots, and sometimes up to three or four at the time), and having the camera to constantly switch between them, giving the confusing illusion that the house is a giant maze.

 

All these elements makes House of Haunted Hill an almost perfect film, which leaves us with the ultimate question: does it stands the test of time and remains truly entertaining for nowadays viewers? the answer is yes, definitely. It does not rely on complex special effects to impress and, because it never underestimates the viewer with its story, it makes it impossible for you to stop before the ending. The film is short (75 min) but densely packed with multiples surprises. One of my all time favorites!

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