House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White

I once a long time ago saw the remake of this film, the 1999 version which, as best I can recall, starred the likes of Famke Janssen and perhaps some other such faces I would recognize upon seeing, but that which I cannot currently bring to mind. I suppose it was decent, though it has been so long I could not tell you a single detail. I guess by that logic, I deduced that since there was a remake, the original must exist in at least some fair bit of standing. I noticed that this original version was available through Netflix Instant and simply added it to my Shocktober list to be viewed when I got to it. I decided to follow up the silent film Nosferatu, as great as it was, with something I knew would at least feature some sound to keep me from falling asleep in my hotel room. I fear I miscalculated.

The concept is simple enough: a millionaire brings together a group of strangers to a supposedly haunted house, offering them each $10,000 if they can survive a night in the house. Right from the get go there seems to be an ulterior motive for the host the have the Halloween party, but that is hardly what trips the procedings up. A plot like this should afford the film plenty of opportunity for character interaction and spook set pieces. However, the filmmakers instead decide to deliver us the most dry and uninteresting players in the narrative, and have them basically mosey around the house for the better part of the already brief runtime. What a shame. There is no real strength to mention, though I suppose I could say that the hokiness which is prevalent throughout the film at least makes it worth watching. It doesn’t make it good by any stretch of the imagination, but it at least gives some entertainment, some value as we sit through the muck.

Vincent Price hams it up appropriately, but I don’t think I’ll ever be capable of getting over the awfulness of Elisha Cook (it all makes sense when I see the remake featured Chris Kattan in this same role). So bad and distracting. I just got so frustrated with how slow everything was moving, and it wasn’t even for character development’s sake! I feel like of the 6 strangers, only about 3 or 4 of them got their due on screen. What a waste of space, and a waste of a decent plot on the outset. Perhaps that is why the film features a remake. It certainly has the idea behind it to make a halfway decent scary movie, or even a campy fun horror movie, but instead it drags its feet all the way through and never really delivers. At least the small bit of silliness in it did manage to keep me up until bedtime.

**1/2 – Fair

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