There aren’t many films that top House on Haunted Hill as far as embodying the spirit of Halloween at any part of the year. It’s dark, creepy, but still incredibly fun.
Vincent Price plays an eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren, who invites five strangers to a party he’s throwing for his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in an allegedly haunted house, which he is renting for the night. He says he’ll pay each of them $10,000 if they survive until the next morning. The doors are locked and the windows are barred.
Frederick and Annabelle have a toxic relationship. He’s convinced she tried to poison him in order to acquire his money. Annabelle denies this, but we see that Frederick is indeed paranoid and an extremely jealous husband, which also helps propel the story.
There are a lot of secrets at hand amongst the “contestants” inside the house, which we uncover over the course of the film, driving much of the suspense. But on the other hand, we’re also trying to figure out if this house is truly haunted. Some of the invitees are skeptical, while others claim they see spirits–including the house’s owner, Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook).
We’re not sure who to trust or if Frederick will even keep his word to pay the sum. But people keep dying and we’re not sure who or what is doing it.
House on Haunted Hill is filled with high quality suspense, and we never know what’s real and who to trust. At a brief runtime of 75 minutes, the plot never dillydallies.
But when the movie comes to a close, certain details are frustratingly left unexplained. The big reveal at the end opens up a giant heap of plot holes and loose ends. It’s bizarre how a film of this high quality could allow for such silly flubs–bringing an A-feature down to the level of a campy B-horror in the matter of seconds.
Nonetheless, House on Haunted Hill deserves multiple revisits. Price is at his absolute best in one of the best mysteries you’ll see. The film is an undeniable staple during the Halloween season, but also throughout the year.