Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Few For Halloween & One Not

                                                   A Few For Halloween & One Not

                                                                              Jay Agan

        Yes, Halloween! My favorite time of year & what better way to celebrate than with that grand tradition of THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Here's five flicks to get you in the mood.

 1.    House on Haunted Hill- No not that abortive remake from a few years back but the great one from 1958.

        Millionare Frederick Lauren (Vincent Price at his slightly hammy yet sinister best.) is throwing a party. A haunted house party. He  commandeered the idea from his avaricious wife & invited only five people unknown to one another. Survivors (Or next of kin.) get ten grand each if they last the night.

        The party takes place at "the only truly haunted house in the world". Thrown into the mix of ghosts, acid vats, creeping ropes, & bloodstains are party favors packed in little gift coffins. Colt .45 automatics! Soon, everyone is armed & precarious. And the fun hasn't even started yet!

        A mix of toungue in cheek, & deadly seriousness, the film is both funny & absorbing. Along for the ride is character actor Elisha Cook Jr. who even steals a scene or two from Price. This is a must see for any haunted house fan. Rated R (Don't know why. It's not that "mean" a film.).

 2.    The Ghost & Mr. Chicken (1966)- Luther Heggs (Ably portrayed by Don Knotts.), a nervous, high strung, homely type, must, on a dare, spend the night at "the old Simmons place". This is on the 20th anniversary of a murder/suicide that had taken place there. The house is about to be torn down & Luther is assigned by his paper to write a story.

        Complicating matters are sneering townsfolk/coworkers, a Simmons relative keen on tearing the place down, a possible romance, & poor Luthers' chronic squeamishness of life in general. A nice, scarey, little comedy about a "little" man overcoming obstacles & fears within. "Atta boy, Luther!" Not rated.

 3.    The Uninvited (1944)- The first American made film to take the haunted house theme seriously. A brother & sister (Ray MillandRuth Hussey) buy an old English mansion & encounter the spirit residing within. As the story unfolds & mystery unravels, it becomes apparant supernatural forces are intent on harm of the living through the living. A great, atmospheric, little chiller. On VHS only. Not Rated.

 4.     The Legend of Hell House (1973)- A wealthy man hires a team of researchers to investigate "the Mt. Everest of haunted houses" for proof of life after death. A scientist, his wife, & two psychics spend several days there in the chaos that follows. These ghosts are not happy & are quite clear about it (Watch out for the killer kitty!).

        Decadence, possesion, dementia & death well portrayed in an oppressive atmosphere of encroaching doom. The "action" scenes in this early 70s chiller more than show it not to be one of those cozy little tales. Rated PG.

 5.    Burnt Offerings (1976)- A writer (Oliver Reed) & his family lease a vacation home that is not haunted but the haunter itself. The family gradually falls under its' spell as it slowly draws the life from & enslaving them before going in for the kill. An interesting study of materialism & obsessivness. Quite  a bit different for a movie of its' type. Rated PG.

                                                                 And One Not

 6.    The Haunting (1963)- Acclaimed by critics & viewers alike, a masterpiece of horror. Or so they say.

        I just can't see it that way. I found the story dull & the scares unexiting. The characters are mostly bland except for Julie Harris. What she does is whine, whine, whine!, making a rather boring film excrutiating as well. I included this due to its' popularity. A lot of folks seem to like this one though I can't.

        There you have it. There are other flicks fitting into this category, but these are the ones (& one not) I enjoy most.

                                                       Article copyright © Jay Agan

Disclaimer: All film ratings are on the films respective containers. Discretion is up to you.


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