Strange eerie sounds echoing through an abandoned house. Mysterious footsteps dancing across an empty floor. Howls and cries… a warning from beyond the grave?? A doorway to another world opening for you?? Do you believe in ghosts, poltergeists, banshees, apparitions, spooks, specters, spirits, and things that go bump in the night??? Well, I believe.
The main reason why so many people seem intrigued by the supernatural and in particular, ghosts, is our thirst for proof of life after death. This play on the hopes that life will go on forever, whether it is in this world, heaven, or hell. “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”, just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Public ghosts hunts, sances, and exorcisms are becoming more and more a part everyday life. You could call it end of the millennium hysteria, but as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” approach the subject of ghosts and hauntings has never been more popular.
For that reason and many more, we have established this section of the House. We have provided for your viewing pleasure”Films that Go Bump in the Night“. Although these films may not always be the most frightening, they will play on your fear of the unknown, make you think you see things that aren’t really there, and keep you awake at night. So turn off the light and enjoy!!!!!!
House on Haunted Hill Story
Would you spend a night in the House on Haunted Hill, a place notorious for death, for $10,000? Over the years, seven people have met their untimely end there and Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price), an eccentric millionaire, has assembled five complete strangers for this simple challenge. Watson Prichard’s (Elisha Cook, Jr.), a former survivor of the House, knows all too well that … “Only the ghosts … are glad we’re here“.
The plot thickens as we are introduced to Loren sultry wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), a women who would like nothing better than to see her husband dead. As the witching hour quickly approaches, Fredrick gives his guest one last chance to get out , ” It’s almost time to lock up the house and then your party will really begin. I wonder how it will end...” The door slams shut before anyone has a chance to change their mind.
Strange occurrences begin happening (i.e. blood dripping from the ceiling, a witch, a severed head, etc) to the guests, in particular, young and innocent Nora (Carolyn Craig). Lorne, being the the courtesy party host, provides his guests with a few party favors, including a pistol in a miniature coffin, to be used in protection against the ghosts and possibly each other. All the while, Annabelle is devising a way to kill her husband and now she has the perfect weapon, a frightened Nora with a loaded gun. The end comes with traditional William Castle gimmickry, but who will fall victim to this house?
This is classic Vincent Price. The film came out the same year as another Price vehicle “The Fly“, but “The House on Haunted Hill” was far more successful at the box office and in hearts of many fans. William Castle (“The Tingler“, “Macabre” and “13 Ghost“) directed this film continuing his reign as the “king of the schlock”. He made his movies into more than just a viewing, but rather an experience in cinematic terror. On this particular film, he employed a gimmick called “Emergo“. At the end, when someone falls (I won’t say who) into the vat of acid, “a skeleton on a wire who trundled out over the audience”. Price later remarked that at it’s opening in San Francisco, ” a stampede occurred taken out the first eight rows of seats”
Carnival of Souls Story
A car full of young women. A car full of young men, who challenge said women to a drag race. Not a good idea, as shown when the female- occupied car careens off a bridge and sinks into a muddy river in the pre-credits sequence to “Carnival of Souls.” Nobody survives, you think? That’s what the rescue personnel summoned to the scene think, at least until, hours after the fact, a lone figure crawls up onto the shore. It’s Mary (Candace Hilligoss), who turns out to be the sole survivor of the wreck. Strangely unfazed by the experience, she promptly says goodbye to her job as a Kansas-based organist and moves out to Salt Lake City for employment with a local church.
Now the fun begins; as she drives through the desert at night, she spots an abandoned, run-down pavilion. Simultaneously, she sees a strange, pale man (director Herk Harvey, in an uncredited role) reflected in the car window, looking at her. Freaky? Well it isn’t long before poor Mary starts seeing him everywhere. Worse still, nobody else can see him, and now she starts to feel a certain, indescribable urge drawing her towards the pavilion. But the man is closing in on Mary. What’s happening to her? Is she insane, trapped in a world of her own mind? Is she haunted, cursed with her own personal ghost? Is she already dead, stuck in limbo between two worlds? Or is it something else?
Although it may be unintentional, there’s a definite psychological/ philosophical edge to the picture. Herk Harvey is so subtle that you barely even think about, even after the ending. “Carnival of Souls” is a definite director’s picture, and it’s a pity that this is Harvey’s only film. He creates a masterfully creepy atmosphere that few horror films anywhere have been able to emulate.
Although the $30,000 budget often shows, and many of the actors clearly have little (read no) experience, this one still shines. It’s the perfect example of low-budget, high-imagination creation, and one of the only real independent horror classics to come along before “Halloween“, “Night of the Living Dead“, “Evil Dead” and the rest created giant waves on the screen. An all-time classic, deserving of every fan’s time.
The Haunting Story
Is it possible for a house to be born bad? In this case, most definitely for its violent history has been marred by scandal, murder, insanity, and suicide. “The dead are not quiet in Hill House“.
Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson (“Zombie“), an anthropologist, leads a team of psychic researchers into Hill House to investigate the strange phenomena that haunt this place. Along with him are the skeptical and young Luke (Russ Tamblyn), an unbeliever who stands to inherit the house, the sultry and clairvoyant Theodora (Claire Bloom), and the insecure and lonely Eleanor (Julie Harris), who strangely feels at home in this dark place. As Luke’s doubt grows, Markway warns “A closed mind is the worst defense against the supernatural”.
Strange noises (i.e. pounding walls, pulsating doors, and a crying child) haunt these chilling halls calling out for Eleanor. This is furthered when Luke finds a message (help Eleanor come home) scrawled on the walls. “Why am I being singled out?“, wonders Eleanor as her repulsion and love for this place seems to grow with each passing moment. At the same time, her madness continues as she struggles with a new found affection for Markway, all the while as Theo (who has her eyes on Eleanor) and Luke continue to pick upon her unraveling mind.
As the supernatural activities persist, Markway’s wife Grace (Lois Maxwell) arrives unexpectedly trying to convince her husband to abandon his far-fetched experiment. When she threatens to spend the night in the nursery, the cold heart of the haunting presence, Markway remarks “this is a deadly serious place“. She refuses his warnings, unknowingly daring the house to show itself as she prepares for bed, but Eleanor won’t let anyone take her place. Who will survive “The Haunting“???
This the quid-essential “haunted house” film. Directed by Robert Wise (“West Side Story”) from the Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” and masterful scripting of Nelson Giddings, “The Haunting” is a instant classic and one all horror fans need to see. This film succeeds for so many reasons beyond those mentioned above. First, the camera work of Davis Boulton is exquisite in making this a believable and very spooky film. Since, special effects weren’t what they are today, films like “The Haunting” relied heavily on feeding on the “unknown”.
That which you do not see is so much more effective, than any fake-looking CGI monster or spirit. Second, the cast was spectacular. Made of virtual unknowns, it is really their characterization of the personalizes and emotions Jackson developed and Giddings expanded on in his script that help bring this film to life.
Finally, along with the masterful directing of Robert Wise, another key to the success of this film was the wonderful acting of Julie Harris. This study in the deterioration of young women already on the brink of self-destruction was magnificent and Harris portrayal was a landmark role not only in our genre but in the history of cinema. If you haven’t seen “The Haunting“, rent it immediately.