House on Haunted Hill – 1959 – Vincent Price
When I first Saw House on the Haunted Hill from 1999 I knew there was some kind of original that the movie was based on. I also knew that it starred Vincent Price and I thought that Geoffrey Rush’s makeup just had to be an homage and nod to the original film made 30 years earlier. But I had actually never seen the original. And even if my first contact with the remake was a couple of decades ago I still hadn’t seen it until now! I realized that William Castle – the director, also was responsible for a few other classic horror flicks of the era. 13 Ghosts, The Tingler, and the Old Dark House to name a few.
Classic horror flicks like House on the Haunted Hill and the other ones aren’t for everybody. If you’re into fast-paced modern horror where the effects and the gore are prominent you might find the old suspension style slow and not involving the viewer as much into the story. But for me, I like the suspense. I much rather have that than lots of gore for its own sake. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good gore movie as much as anyone but I often feel that it’s more about the makeup effects than the actual story. I really like to have a narrative that means something. Where it’s a beginning and an end and where you have a development of characters.
Are you scared?
With that said, I also realize that when scared audiences in 1959 don’t necessarily do the same trick anymore. The movie climate was different and the stereotypical gender characterization isn’t the same anymore. Women aren’t portrayed as weak and frightened on the verve of breaking down anymore. They fight back just as much as the men do these days. Modern society is different than what it was in 1959. Maybe that’s why it feels a little dated. Of course, there’s also the kind of acting that was in style back then. It was different and not as realistic as it is nowadays. It was more theater back then. And of course, the special effects, even though they were practical and not computer generated, cannot compare with what can be done today. Everything evolves, even special effects in movies. New talent comes along and it gets better little by little.
Yes, it’s horror
Now. House on Haunted Hill is definitely a horror film. The plot revolves around this haunted house where people have been murdered and no one dares to spend the night. This crazy millionaire (Vincent Price) invited a group of people to a party there are they are offered ten thousand dollars if they agree to spend the night and survives. But there is something more going on. He has constant bickering with his wife and it seems that they want nothing more than to wish the life out of each other. Of course, given the era, they are very polite against each other and there are more insinuations than real threats. That’s something I like. I like the suggestion rather than the obvious and I like the cynicism and sarcasm of the entire situation.
So, apart from the haunting theme, there is also some other game going on. Who will actually win the battle of cynicism and disguised threats? Well, it isn’t that hard to figure out if you think about it but the plot takes a few turns about it and it’s interesting to see how the narrative takes us towards the end. I wasn’t terribly impressed by it but it’s always a joy seeing Vincent Price perform!