Saturday, April 19, 2008

House on Haunted Hill

This is probably one of Vincent Price's best and most memorable performances. He plays Frederick Loren, a man with money, a gorgeous wife, is very witty and eccentric and steals the show in every scene in which he is featured. His drop dead (pardon the pun) wife Annabelle (played by the fabulous Carol Ohmart) is every bit as eccentric as her husband. They actually seem to have fun in trying to kill each other. She poisons him, he tries to kill her with a champaign cork, y'know the typical richer than rich husband and wife shenanigans. Anyway, they decide to throw a haunted house party, so Frederick collects a wide variety of five or six people, a cross section of sorts, consisting of Doctor to Typist and from Drunk to Jet Pilot. They have only one thing in common... they all need money. Apparently just for fun, he sweetens the deal by offering anyone who stays all night a hefty prize of $10,000. They are given the option to leave before the caretakers leave for the night, but due to the caretakers mysteriously leaving early, everyone becomes a prisoner in a house with steel bars on the windows, no electricity, no phone, and a door that locks like a vault. The owner of the house is one of the party guests, a staggering drunk/tour guide named Watson Pritchard. He pretty much sets the scene by describing the murders in the house and the violent ghosts that now reside there. All deaths in the house are strange and unusual. One owner of the house was an experimenter with wines, but his bitchy wife thought it was no good, so he filled the wine vat with acid and threw her in. One of the guests, a screaming panicky mess named Nora Manning is being driven to the point of absolute hysteria by strange occurrences. She's warned by Annabelle Loren to watch her back because she's in danger, she is choked by an unknown person in the dark, and a bloody head appears in her suitcase. Due to the safety factor, all guests are given guns as party favors (absolutely brilliant idea). A few hours into the night, Annabelle Loren is found hung by a rope over the staircase. It's at first presumed a suicide, but since there is nothing she could have climbed up on and jumped, it's deduced that it was murder. Clearly being the only one with a motive, Frederick is instantly accused, yet it doesn't truly seem to bother him much. After seeing a very creepy ghostly appearance of Annabelle in Nora's window, Nora freaks and runs. In fact, Nora does an awful lot of screaming and freaking out so be prepared for a girl with a glass shattering scream in this film. While Annabelle is lying in state in one of the bedrooms, the Doctor walks in and starts talking to her as if she were alive. Soon Annabelle sits up and says "Get me out of this damned hanging harness". We soon learn that Doctor Trent and Annabelle Loren have been having a torrid affair and are planning to kill her husband Frederick before he kills her (she is his fourth wife, all of which turned up dead of mysterious undetermined causes). The plot is to frighten Nora badly enough and to make her believe that Mr. Loren has it in for her. It works, she shoots him the very next time she sees him, doing their dirty work for them. Upon inspecting the scene to see if their little murder plot worked, Doctor Trent is tossed by somebody into the acid vat. When Annabelle hears the shot from the basement, she goes to see how it went. Soon a skeleton emerges from the acid vat, speaking in Frederick's voice he vows to kill her and take her with him. Scared shitless, she stumbles and falls into the wine vat of acid. Soon Frederick comes out from behind a door, revealing the skeleton to be a marionette puppet. He simply says to himself "Little did you two know that when you entered this game of murder, that I was playing too." When this movie premiered in theaters, a lighted skeleton would swoop over the audience when the skeleton in the movie is trying to kill Annabelle. Strangely, though the inside of the house has the perfect haunted house feel, the outside shots of the house reveal a very non-threatening, very modern geometric design. Oh well, the movie worked anyway. A true classic.

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