Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘House on Haunted Hill’

House on Haunted Hill

What’s a Halloween Horror Movie Marathon without Vincent Price? Not much of one at all, I tell ya. That’s why I spent Sunday night at the House on Haunted Hill!

Vincent Price stars in this short 1959 horror film as Frederick Loren, a rich dude who has bought a purportedly haunted house in which several violent murders have taken place. Loren is throwing a party for his wife Annabelle (the lovely Carol Ohmart) and the guests are promised $10,000 each if they survive the entire night. He provides little coffins with guns to protect themselves against the resident ghosts. Will they come out alive or will they fall victim to the spirits of the house’s previous victims?

House on Haunted Hill doesn’t have much you can sink your teeth into but it’s a fun black and white picture from back in the day when they called them “pictures”. There are a few scares, a fair amount of camp value (love that skeleton!), and a couple of pretty girls.

The actors seem to be having a lot of fun. Price and Ohmart are great together, especially in an early scene where we get to observe their dysfunctional dynamic; they each want to see the other one dead and aren’t afraid to share their sentiments. Some may recognize Robert Long, the pilot, from Nanny and the Professor or what I remember him from, a great episode of The Twilight Zone called “Person or Persons Unknown“. He’s not given much to do here but follow Carolyn Craig around as she is steadily driven insane, but I suppose he gives a good balance to her progression to madness. Unfortunately the “weedy neurotic” Elisha Cook is underused, but he gives a great open and close to the film.

The original 1959 audiences for the film may not have seen some of the twists coming but you’ll see them from a mile away. Something else they may not have seen coming was a gimmick William Castle called “Emergo”. This apparently involved a skeleton emerging above the audience during a crucial scene. Castle was famous for such trickery. I’m kinda bummed we don’t see that kind of thing these days.

House on Haunted Hill is in the public domain so you can watch it for free in a couple of locations online. I downloaded it from the Internet Archive. “Emergo” skeleton not included but check it out anyways. It’s a lot of fun.


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