Film: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

"I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on haunted hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. A haunted house party. She's so amusing. There'll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You're all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don't survive. Ah, but here come our other guests."

House on Haunted Hill (1959) is a low budget horror film directed by William Castle, regarding five people who have been invited to stay the night in a haunted castle.

Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), an eccentric millionaire, is throwing his "party" for his fourth wife, Annabelle, with the stipulation that the power will be out and all doors will be locked at midnight, allowing no accessible escape. Anyone who survives the night in the castle will be awarded $10,000. As the night progresses, however, it becomes clear that this is no game by the host - the partygoers are indeed trapped here with malevolent ghosts, murderers, and other terrors.

Matching up with William Castle's Signature Style, the film originally released exhibiting one of his past-the-fourth-wall gimmicks — in this case, a model skeleton would be elevated over the movie audience during the climactic scene, and would then be reeled back during the shot of Loren winding its thread back into the reel (which is why this shot seems to go on a bit too long without the gimmick).

The film was remade forty years later by Dark Castle Entertainment.

This film contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Pritchard, after his brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Was everything that Annabelle and Dr. Trent caused really just one giant scheme built on superstition with no true supernatural elements involved, or is the house truly haunted?
  • Batman Gambit: Terrorize Nora into a state of hysteria thinking Loren is trying to kill her, causing her to kill him in "self-defense".
    • Out-Gambitted: "Little did you know, as you were playing your game... that I was playing too."
  • The Bluebeard: Loren is on his fourth wife. The first one disappeared, and the second two died of heart attacks, despite being in their 20s. The fourth one is scared to death during the course of the party. She was a Gold Digger planning to murder Loren for his money, however, casting an unsavory light on the intentions of the first three.
    • In retrospect however We can't be sure that his first three wives did die under such mysterious circumstances, since the person who described them was trying to create an alibi for Loren's eventual demise.
  • Body in a Breadbox: A severed head turns up in an unsuspecting character's suitcase. It's a fake.
  • Book Ends: The first and last lines are spoken by Pritchard to the audience.
  • Character as Himself: The skeleton is credited as "by itself".
  • Gaslighting: What Annabelle and Dr. Trent were doing to Nora in the hopes that she'd wind up shooting Mr. Loren for them.
  • Haunted House Historian: Pritchard, who just can't stop talking about all the hideous murders that have happened, and how the ghosts are going to kill everyone before morning.
  • Hollywood Acid: Doesn't eat at bone or for that matter, strings.
    • Or the winery container it's stored in.
  • Implied Love Interest: Lance and Nora. He saves her several times, keeps her secret, and when he goes to look for a way out he says he'll come back for her if he finds one. She's very concerned when he gets locked in the basement, and even after she accuses him of not believing her she begs him to get her out. They also happen to have adjoining rooms.
  • Informed Attribute: We're informed at the beginning of the film that Ruth is a gambler. Are we shown anything of the sort? Nope.
  • It Was Here, I Swear: Happens to Nora a lot. When Lance finally sees one of the severed heads that she insisted was there, he just grabs it by the hair and brings it with him to show everyone.
    • In Nora's defense, would you be willing to pick up a severed head and show it to everyone? Lance at least has the credit of not finding it by accident like Nora did and knowing it was there first.
  • Large Ham: Frederick Loren. He's played by Vincent Price, so would you expect anything less?
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: After all is said and done, the existence of actual ghosts is left ambiguous.
    • There is that spot of blood that keeps shows up on Ruth's hand, even after she has washed it off...
  • No Fourth Wall: The film opens with both Pritchard and Loren speaking directly to the audience. This would have been even more blurry in the original theatrical run, where William Castle would dangle plastic skeletons from the ceiling during scare moments.