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I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on haunted hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. A haunted house party. She's so amusing. There'll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You're all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don't survive. Ah, but here come our other guests.
House on Haunted Hill (1959) is a low budget Horror Film directed by William Castle, regarding five people who have been invited to stay the night in a haunted castle. Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), an eccentric millionaire, is throwing his "party" for his fourth wife, Annabelle, with the stipulation that the power will be out and all doors will be locked at midnight, allowing no accessible escape. Anyone who survives the night in the castle will be awarded $10,000. As the night progresses, however, it becomes clear that this is no game by the host - the partygoers are indeed trapped here with malevolent ghosts, murderers, and other terrors.
House on Haunted Hill was remade in 1999, directed by William Malone and starring Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, and Jeffrey Combs. The setting for the fateful party is moved to an abandoned mental hospital, the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, said to be haunted by the malevolent ghosts of the murderous inmates. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt, performed grotesque experiments on his patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was only closed when a handful of inmates escaped, killing almost the entire staff and setting fire to the facility, while security gates trapped everyone inside.
Fast forward to the present, where amusement park mogul Stephen Price is leasing this facility for the Halloween party of his spoiled trophy wife Evelyn. The five invitees are given a similar challenge as in the original movie, only the pot has been upped to $1,000,000 for any survivors, plus the winnings of any who do not survive having their earnings added to those of any remaining survivors. Soon after the party begins, the security gates are tripped, and the partygoers are trapped inside the facility with the insane spirits haunting the facility - including not only all the inmates, but also Vannacutt himself.
The remake marked the debut of Dark Castle Entertainment, which went on to produce Thir13en Ghosts and House of Wax, both also remakes of William Castle movies. It was followed by a sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill, in 2007.
The original contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Pritchard, after his brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house.
- Batman Gambit: Terrorize Nora into a state of hysteria thinking Loren is trying to kill her, causing her to kill him in "self-defense".
- Out-Gambitted: "Little did you know, as you were playing your game... that I was playing too."
- The Bluebeard: Loren is on his fourth wife. The first one disappeared, and the second two died of heart attacks, despite being in their 20s. The fourth one is scared to death during the course of the party. She was a Gold Digger planning to murder Loren for his money, however, casting an unsavory light on the intentions of the first three.
- In retrospect however We can't be sure that his first three wives did die under such mysterious circumstances, since the person who described them was trying to create an alibi for Loren's eventual demise.
- Character as Himself: The skeleton is credited as "by itself".
- Colliding Criminal Conspiracies
- Closed Circle
- Creepy Housekeeper
- Dem Bones
- Domestic Abuse: Loren skates along the edge of this as he prepares his reluctant wife for her party.
Loren: Are you ready, dear?
- Annabelle, meanwhile, has tried to poison him at least once when the film starts.
- Empathic Environment: That House is easily believable as haunted.
- Enclosed Space
- Haunted House
- Haunted House Historian
- Hollywood Acid: Doesn't eat at bone or for that matter, strings.
- Implied Love Interest: Lance and Nora. He saves her several times, keeps her secret, and when he goes to look for a way out he says he'll come back for her if he finds one. She's very concerned when he gets locked in the basement, and even after she accuses him of not believing her she begs him to get her out. They also happen to have adjoining rooms.
- It Was Here, I Swear: Happens to Nora a lot. When Lance finally sees one of the severed heads that she insisted was there, he just grabs it by the hair and brings it with him to show everyone.
- Kansas City Shuffle
- Large Ham: Frederick Loren. He's played by Vincent Price, so would you expect anything less?
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: After all is said and done, the existence of actual ghosts is left ambiguous.
- No Fourth Wall: The film opens with both Pritchard and Loren speaking directly to the audience. This would have been even more blurry in the original theatrical run, where William Castle would dangle plastic skeletons from the ceiling during scare moments.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: "They're coming for me now... and then they'll come for you."
- Old Dark House
- Ominous Pipe Organ
- On One Condition
- Out, Damned Spot!: The House has a blood stain that cannot be cleaned up, nomatter what. It gets even creepier when it starts dripping on Ruth's hand.
- The Place
- Prophet Eyes: Mrs. Slydes.
- Screaming Woman: Nora Manning. Justified in that Annabelle's plan is entirely reliant on keeping Nora on edge the whole time.
- Taking You with Me / Ghostly Goals: Subverted as part of Frederick's scheme.
But you're not going to live to enjoy it!
The remake contains examples of:
- Abandoned Hospital
- Amusement Park of Doom: Price plays with the line between "safe" thrills and "dangerous" thrills early on, when he sends guests for a ride on a roller coast that is designed to fling the train ahead of you off the track, leading you to (logically) believe that you're about to die horribly, only for your train to continue over the same stretch of track unharmed. He thinks the whole thing is hilarious.
- Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted with Steven and Evelyn Price. In spite of both of their repeated attempts to humiliate and kill the other, there are moments that hint their may have once been real love in the marriage. Steven seems genuinely distraught when he believes Evelyn has been murdered. Not only that Evelyn fearfully calls out for Steven right before she is consumed by the evil spirit of the house.
- Backup From Otherworld: Pritchard, after having died, appears as a ghost to help the last two escape.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Eddie escapes with Sara. Played straight in the sequel.
- The Blank: During Price's hallucination, The Blank shows up swimming through darkness. It has no eyes, no face, but a mouth. And fangs.
- Bloodier and Gorier
- Bloody Handprint: Prominently featured in the cover art.
- Can You Hear Me Now: Everyone has a cellphone. None of them work.
- Chair Reveal
- Closed Circle: This starts out apparently engineered, until it becomes quite clear that the sanitarium is calling the shots.
- Creepy Basement: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Death by Genre Savviness: Pritchard.
- Doomed Defeatist: Pritchard.
- Enclosed Space
- Face Revealing Turn: Hey, one of Price's guys, maybe can help us escHOLY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FACE...
- Genre Savvy: Pritchard. "The house is alive. We're all gonna die."
- Haunted House: A madhouse, to be exact. On a hill!
- Heroic Sacrifice: Though usually not a very heroic character, Price shoves Sarah out of the path of the resident Eldritch Abomination, and is consumed by the monster himself.
- Ironic Hell: The last shot is of the spirits of Stephen and Evelyn Price still trapped in the asylum, being vivisected by patients for, one may assume, eternity.
- Mad Scientist: Vannacutt.
- Meaningful Name: Price. Also a Shout-Out.
- On One Condition
- The Place
- Punny Name: The head doctor heavily into vivisecting is named Vannacutt (say with a Transylvanian accent).
- The Remake
- Screamer Trailer: A similar effect is used in-movie.
- Sins of Our Fathers: The whole reason the house has called these particular guests is because all of them are descended from the sole survivors of the fire that destroyed the asylum. Except for Eddie (adopted) and Sarah (lied about her identity).
- Too Dumb to Live: The character who wanders alone into the basement with a video camera.
- To be fair, her character hadn't really seen any of the really horrific stuff going on in the house at that point and probably assumed the minor events so far were rigged by Price or had a logical explanation. By the time she realized the truth, it was already too late.
- Under Crank