Whenever I see a horror film that is actually quite good, it’s hard to contain my excitement. It’s like going to McDonald’s and the cashier letting you know that they’ve brought back the McPizza. It’s really hard to top that. While this film ends very abruptly and I felt that more could have been done with the story, it ended up being a very nice adventure. The film was fun and also very short so it never got to drag on. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting…the house on Haunted Hill!
A happy family moves into a new house after experiencing some financial trouble. The father found a very good price for a house on an old hill where a graveyard used to be and people have died there every year for the last century. Strange things start to happen. Only one person ever notices these events so the rest of the family don’t believe the tales. Soon, shadows appear at night, noises come from nowhere, and a demon begins to walk around. Is the house haunted?
No worries folks, that’s a plot for another horror movie. This one’s a little more original as an eccentric millionaire decides to invite some people to a mansion to stay the night. If the guests can successfully stay for 24 hours without dying, they shall receive 10000 dollars. That’s no small number and the 5 guests were chosen because they all really need the money. How can they refuse such an offer? One man actually stayed at the mansion once before, but went crazy and nearly died so he is now an alcoholic. Another guest is a lady who is the breadwinner for her family and this would help out a great deal. A psychiatrist, a newspaper person, and your average main character round out the 5. The choice of leaving is taken out of their hands when the mansion is sealed shut by the hired help and the characters prepare for their long night. Annabelle, the wife of the millionaire (Frederick) begins to drop clues for the heroes that her husband plans to murder her..not the ghost that everyone (almost) suspected. Is she telling the truth? She is clearly at odds with Frederick, but both characters talk to each other about the chance for murder.
Naturally, this means that one person must be planning to murder someone. There wouldn’t be a film if it was all fun and games the whole time right? Of course, it could always be the ghosts, the heroes shouldn’t eliminate that possibility before they have dinner. With 10000 dollars at stake, the main characters really have to be ready for just about anything…so they split up as soon as possible.
A lot of strange things happen to the heroes when they get into the house. A chandelier nearly destroys one of them off the bat, but a quick dodge stopped this fate. It’s fun to see the heroes overwhelmed the whole time and the situation grows more and more dire. That being said, after seeing the final twist, you have to wonder about some of these moments. Did the writers know what was going on? Were ghosts really a part of the picture?
Well, to answer the second question, I feel like the answer is a resounding yes. It’s never proven, but I feel like the sudden ending actually helps my case. You are clearly supposed to draw your own conclusions and come to terms with your own ending. We never actually saw the night end after all so did the heroes actually manage to stay alive right up til the end? The drunk claims that they are doomed and while I would take his word with as much salt as my average Super Smash Bros opponent, ghosts just make sense here.
At several points, things happened that can’t really be explained. The first of which being the part where the main guy was knocked on the head by someone…or something when he stepped into a dark room. Sure, it could have been the maid…but that’s more than a little iffy and I don’t buy that. At the very least, the guy would have known who hit him since she’s an old lady and the wound didn’t make sense. Another iffy moment was when the maid appeared in the shadows and seemed to float away, but the main guy did not see her. It was as if she turned invisible in the middle of the room. That’s certainly iffy. Minor things would be the piano playing by itself and the chandelier falling down, but we could attribute those to good timing by the villains I suppose.
In my ending, I’m confident that all of the heroes ended up dying in the mansion. The facts just seem to lead that way for me. That being said, the film isn’t afraid to deal with plot hax either. When Annabelle…dies, it just doesn’t make sense. Sure, you take the professional’s advice, but I think everyone knows the difference between a dead body and one that is asleep. Of course, it did ensure that someone would become the prime suspect for you, but I just don’t see this ploy working so smoothly. Another iffy part was the gun that everyone was given, which was loaded with blancs. Surely someone would have tried unloading their gun to see if it actually had any ammo right….?
Since I’m going all in with this review I may as well mention one more piece of plot hax. That would be when a lady starts to back away from a bedsheet that is flying towards her. She took several long looks at the vat of acid that was behind her, yet she kept on going until she practically threw herself into the pit. The bedsheet was so slow and obviously fake that she could have done anything else for a better result. Her decision just felt odd if you ask me.
While I did poke a lot of holes in this film, it was very entertaining as I mentioned. The characters were all decent as you would expect from a retro film. The Haunted House had a nice atmosphere about it and the introduction to the film was extraordinarily well done as everyone arrived in a funeral car. The writing in this film was very good and while the threats between Frederick and Annabelle could get tiresome (Even resorting to the classic pulling hair tactic) it didn’t stop the characters from having meaningful interactions with the other characters as red herrings. They’re both cunning and while the 5 guests are not, they try their best to solve the mystery rather than simply be used in a grander scheme.
Overall, House on Haunted Hill is a good horror film. It starts to become a mystery thriller as the film goes by, but this is what I like to see in a horror film. I still have mixed feelings on the ending as I dare say that it may have been too sudden, but I can see what the film was driving towards and it’s better than having a dragged out ending I suppose. Leaving the audience to come up with the ending also saves the writers some work. The film is only about an hour, but manages to fill it in with a whole lot of plot and details so I definitely recommend giving this flick a watch. With Halloween and my Domino’s desserts coming up, it’s a good time to give this film a shot.