I have previously ranked horror movies here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Today’s movie is The House on Haunted Hill, a movie directed by B-movie gimmick-king William Castle, and famous for including real flying skeletons and other gags during its original run in the theaters. It’s one I’ve long wanted to see.
I’m happy to say the movie holds up as more than a mere gimmick, though. It’s not a real classic or anything, but it has a fairly clever script, pretty good acting, and some decent atmosphere. It runs the course of one night, where millionaire industrialist Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his wife are hosting a little party at a haunted house where seven people have been murdered in the past. They’ve invited five guests, and everyone who stays until morning will win $10,000 (or their estates will, if they don’t survive the night).
Among the guests is Watson Pritchard, the house’s owner (although he doesn’t live there), who watched his own brother murdered on the premises. He believes the house is truly haunted, and although some of the other guests are more skeptical, he adds a note of plausibility to many of the unexplained events of the evening. Another notable guest is Nora Manning, a young woman who works for one of Mr. Loren’s companies, and badly needs the money to help pay for hospital treatments for her sick mother. I found these two characters to be the most sympathetic and the ones I identified with most.
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)
Story/Plot/Characters–Clever, coherent plot and surprisingly good dialogue for a B movie. The characters are cardboard, but the actors do well with what they’re given. Vincent Price’s performance, in particular, is a gem. (3 points)
Special Effects–Low-budget, some of the effects are laughable, a few, including the critical effect at the very end, are effective (.5 points)
Scariness–Not at all. (0 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness–The best part of the movie is the haunted house itself with all its mysterious rooms, hidden passageways, creepy basements, old furniture and organs, etc.. (1.5 points)
I couldn’t quite bring myself to rate this as Pretty Good, so it lands on our list in the Okay category. Still, it was almost there–with just slightly better characters or effects, this would have been a real classic. Still comes in as a fun way to pass the time.
Here’s the master list of horror movies I’ve rated so far, and let’s also add to it the color ranking I use with the comic movies.
Green=excellent Blue=pretty good Black=Okay Red=avoid
Alien (1979)=10 points
Day of the Dead (1978)=9.5 points
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)=8.5 points
Frankenstein (1931)=8 points
King Kong (1933)=8 points
Village of the Damned (1960)=8 points
Night of the Living Dead (1968)=7.5 points
Jaws (1975)=7 points
Witch: A New England Folktale (2015)=6.5 points
Night Creatures (1962)=6.5 points
Phantom of the Opera (1962)=6.5 points
The Thing (1982)=6 points
The House on Haunted Hill (1959)=5 points
Lady Frankenstein (1971)=4.5 points
Gremlins (1984)=4 points
Man-Thing (2005)=4 points
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)=3.5 points
The Wolf Man (1941)=3 points
The Last Man on Earth (1964)=2 points