As we enter the final week of our 31 Days of Halloween posts, we would be remiss if we didn’t include the work of one of the true legends in horror: Vincent Price.
Fondly remembered for his final film role in Edward Scissorhands, Vincent Price built a career seven decades long around the macabre. The chilling notes of his voice dripped with a rich gravel that were instantly recognized and seemed custom built. When you heard him speak you knew something evil was soon to follow, and there is no better example of this than his voice-over in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ And if you ever stared him in the eyes there was no certainty of your escape. He was captivating in every sense, and in House on Haunted Hill he plays this gift to its fullest.
In House on Haunted Hill, Vincent Price plays Frederick Loren, an eccentric millionaire who invites five guests to stay overnight in a rented and allegedly haunted house on the hill. Those who stay (survive) will win $10,000 (Plenty of dough back then. Hell, it’s plenty of dough now.). This doesn’t sound too difficult until everyone quickly finds that the place is (spoiler) haunted! #notaspoiler
Some of you may be more familiar with the 1999 remake of the same name starring Geoffrey Rush in the lead role. This movie sucked, but as a nice homage to Vincent they changed Rush’s character name to Stephen Price. So at least there’s that. It also starred Famke Jannsen, Chris Kattan, and Ali Larter. You know, to beef up the scare factor.
Vincent Price’s version has genuinely great scary and suspenseful scenes accentuated by some wonderfully crafted ominous music that builds and crescendos in all the right places. The opening is particularly spooky when watched with the lights out and the volume cranked up to maximize all the little creaks and noises. This concept has become lost the last 20 years of CGI heavy filmmaking as practical effects somehow became impractical. We’ve relied solely on the things we can be shown in order to frighten us instead of the truly frightening things hidden in dark recesses of our imaginations. House on Haunted Hill is a call back to those times when silence and shadows were enough to make us turn on our nightlights.
Because what we can’t always see is often what finds us in the end.
That said, House on Haunted Hill wasn’t lacking in spectacle. The film is perhaps best known for a promotional gimmick used in the film’s original theatrical release called Emergo. In some theaters that showed the film, there was an elaborate pulley system in the theater itself, which allowed a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience at the appropriate time for an interactive scare.
Check out House on Haunted Hill and the rest of our must-see Halloween picks if you’re brave enough.