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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for House on Haunted Hill can be found here.
Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) host a haunted house party in a large, spooky, mansion to which they invite five unrelated people -- test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), magazine columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), psychiatrist David Trent (Alan Marshal), secretary Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), and house's owner Watson Prichard (Elisha Cook Jr.) -- with the promise that, whomsoever spends the entire night in the house will be rewarded $10,000. At first, they are all eager to earn the money but, as the night progresses and they find themselves trapped inside the house with ghosts and murderers, their bravado starts to wane.
House on Haunted Hill is the brainchild of American screenwriter Robb White, who was also the screenwriter for another of director William Castle's films, The Tingler (1959). A remake, House on Haunted Hill was released in 1999.
That was the Ennis House aka the Ennis-Brown House, designed for Charles and Mabel Ennis by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1923. It is located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, south of Griffith Park.
Seven people, three women and four men, including Watson Pritchard's brother, have been murdered in the house. Parts of the bodies were found all over the house, but the heads have never been found. Pritchard himself spent a night in the house and was found almost dead the next morning. He claims that the heads can be heard at night whispering to each other.
Nora shoots Frederick in the wine cellar, Trent comes out of a side room and pulls Frederick's body toward the acid vat, and the screen goes black. Annabelle goes looking for Trent in the wine cellar. A skeleton rises from the acid vat, and Frederick's voice can be heard calling Annabelle a murderess. The skeleton advances on Annabelle, and she stumbles backwards into the acid vat. Frederick comes out of a hidden room, and the wires controlling the skeleton are shown. "Good night, Doctor. Good night, Annabelle," Frederick says to himself. "The crime you planned was indeed perfect, only the victim is alive and the murderers are not. It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing, too." Frederick turns himself over to the other guests, informing them that Nora's gun was loaded with blanks and that Trent and Annabelle were conspiring to kill him. In the final scene, Prichard looks into the acid vat and says, "Now there are nine. There will be more ...many more. They're coming for me now. And then they'll come for you."
That question has received a considerable amount of discussion. Some viewers believe that all of the spooky effects, e.g., the dripping blood, the skeleton on wires, the snaky rope, the gliding old lady, Annabelle floating outside the window, etc., were either setups by Frederick and/or Annabelle or they were parts of Nora's hallucinations. Others believe that there might be something malevolent about the house that causes people with animosity toward another person to kill that person. In the end, the definitive answer is up to the viewer to decide.
Director William Castle was known for his use of gimmicks to draw the audience into the experience of his movies. For House on Haunted Hill, he created the Emergo, an elaborate pulley system that allowed a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience.
The House on Haunted Hill Enhanced Story Presentation includes highlighted dialogue and over 200 screenshots in sync with the story.
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