The First Film With the Amazing New Wonder EMERGO: The Thrills Fly Right Into The Audience!
Millionaire Frederick Loren has rented the legendary House on Haunted Hill for one evening so that his wife can give a party. The guest list, however, consists solely of five seemingly random strangers (test pilot, secretary, psychologist, gossip columnist, and the drunken owner of the house) whom Loren has promised $10,000 each if they stay the entire night. Oh, and survive, of course. Along with the alleged vengeful spirits which inhabit the house, it becomes evident to the guests that Loren and his wife Annabelle might not have the best intentions towards one another. Following a number of supposedly supernatural occurrences, Annabelle is found hung and pronounced dead by the psychologist. Suspicion naturally turns to Loren. After a few more ghastly happenings drive the secretary to the brink of madness, she panics and shoots Loren, believing he has come to murder her also. Meanwhile, in another part of the house, the psychologist revives the not-so-dead Annabelle and informs her that their scheme to have Loren murdered has gone as planned. There are, however, more games going on in the House on Haunted Hill than even Annabelle and her lover are aware of and the night just may not have claimed it's last victim.
Finally, it's the film club review that almost never was. This month, we dare to spend an evening with The House On Haunted Hill, the original 1959 classic starring Vincent Price. Christina from The Northern Cross and D. G. D. Davidson from The Sci-Fi Catholic pitch in again with complete reviews on their own blogs. Let's start with some excerpts from their posts.
...I was skeptical at first since I dislike scary movies, but found that I enjoyed this movie a lot. It's not really that scary at all, although I did jump a couple times. I also found it predictable though; as in I knew Annabelle wasn't dead, but couldn't figure out how she'd fooled a doctor, until it turned out he was her lover. Ok, that sort of makes sense, but how did Frederick know to invite him?
And that gets to what I was left wondering for the rest of the night. All the questions that just didn't make sense if there were no ghosts involved...
...I know many of my questions have answers, some probably do not, but it is probably best to leave it up to faith. As a scientist I often feel the need to get all the answers before believing something is true. Many times I've been tempted to accept the belief that unless I fully understood something I couldn't put my faith in it. However, the Catechism teaches us that Faith is "the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself."...
D. G. D. DAVIDSON
...The movie makes a number of forgivable mistakes. Central to the film is an elaborate attempt to commit a "perfect murder," but this murderous scheme has so many holes in it, it would be remarkable if it did work. Additionally, the movie sets up certain things but doesn't follow through: for example, a character is "marked" for death by the ghosts early in the film, but this never amounts to anything. Furthermore, the film's ending is hokey in the extreme and entirely unbelievable, yet emotionally powerful nonetheless.
The movie's greatest sin, and the focus of this discussion, is a conceit of poorly written horror, one I've encountered numerous times: inexplicable events occur, yet at the end of the story, we are expected to believe that it was all just a trick and that the ghosts were fake, even though they could levitate, travel through locked doors, and make objects move on their own. Several inexplicable events occur in House on Haunted Hill, but we get only a weak naturalistic explanation at the movie's conclusion...
...Catholics are used to stories of miracles and visions and similar supernatural events. Some of these are folklore, some are medical phenomena with no known explanation, some are witnessed miracles, some are visions, and some are all in people's heads. The Church examines many claims of miracles and visions; when unable to determine they are hoaxes or doctrinally objectionable, she labels them "worthy of belief," which means the faithful can take them or leave them, but are not obligated to believe in them...
"Do you remember how much fun we had that time you tried to poison me?"
That one line of dialog should tell you all you need to know about the relationship between Frederick Loren and his latest wife Annabelle in this movie. Played pitch perfect by Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart, the unloving pair spends most of their screen time together trading snide quips and making veiled murder threats. I don't think it's going too far to say that without these two performances, this whole movie would never have risen above standard B-Movie schlock in the way that it does. And to give even more credit to the actors, it's got to be tough to play a couple consumed with hatred for one another and yet still make them so enjoyable to watch for the audience. Any time the Lorens are on the screen together it's just a blast.
I wouldn't want to know'em in real life, though. These two are nuts. If there was ever poster children for how things can go wrong in a marriage, this is them. "Every man experiences evil around him and within himself." the Catechism reminds us, "This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation." Yep, that pretty much sounds like the checklist for any Saturday night at the old Loren household.
Maybe the Lorens could have avoided all this heartache by popping over to YourFriendlyDivorce.com where they have 10 helpful hints to make sure your marriage ends nicely. They include insightful tips like #3 Seek common goals with your spouse, #4 Learn to see things from your spouse's perspective, and #5 Have a parenting plan. "Let's face it: divorce is painful." the website explains, "But with proper planning and a desire to reach agreement, you and your spouse can achieve harmony, fairness and mutual respect." (Look, if you can't make your own smart aleck remark here, you're just being lazy.)
Another possible solution (and call me crazy, but I think it's the better one) would have been to enter into the marriage properly in the first place. And that's with one huge sobering thought in their heads from the get go, that "since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man." Dietrich von Hildebrand, philosopher and theologian, wondered "Why does Holy Scripture choose this particular relationship as an image?" (Which was rhetorical, of course, because he immediately answered his own question.) "It is chosen because marriage is the closest and most intimate of all earthly unions in which, more than in any other, one person gives himself to another without reserve, where the other in his complete personality is the object of love, and where mutual love is in a specific way the theme (that is to say, the core) of the relationship."
That's a lot to strive for, but it sure beats the alternative, especially if the ending of House On Haunted Hill is any indication. I'm not saying all failed marriages end with a life-sized skeleton puppet shoving someone into a vat of acid, but I've met plenty of people who say it felt that way.
Well, that wraps up another film club review. All thanks and praise to Christina and D. G. D. for sitting through another one of these nutty movies. If I think they can endure it, I might give it another try. And remember, this is open to anyone who reads the blog, so be sure to chip in next time if the spirit moves you. See you then.