Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|House On Haunted Hill / Don't Look In The Basement |
Actor: Vincent Price
Similarly Requested DVDs
Two scary locales on one DVD
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 03/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"(Please note that I have individual reviews of the two movies on this disc available at the following links: House on Haunted Hill and Don't Look in the Basement.)
Companies that specialize in the release of public domain movies on DVD will often try to maximize their output by combining two (or more) titles on a single disc. It makes the already cheap disc appear to be even better value. The movies on a disc can often times be based on a theme: movies starring a particular actor, movies of the same genre, et cetera. On the other hand, some companies will pair utterly random seeming movies in hopes that at least one of the titles will appeal to some member of the audience (thus doubling their chances of the disc being bought). In this case, the conflating of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, the two films do share a very weak link. Ironically, the one thing that ties the two films together, also serves to demonstrate how utterly different they are.
The theme these two films share is their style of location. In HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL the setting is a spacious mansion being used by an eccentric millionaire for his strange kind of macabre game. DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT takes place in a large house which has been converted into a mental institution. Very often horror films will throw as much atmosphere as possible at their setting, in an attempt to make the background seem almost as real and as menacing as one of the characters. Both of these movies do something along those lines, and in doing so both reveal the strengths of the eras in which they were made.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is a very typical 1950s horror movie, even down to the fact that it stars Vincent Price. Price has rented a supposedly haunted mansion and is offering a group of diverse characters $10,000 for each person who manages to survive the entire night there. The house does indeed become another character. Sure, it looks like a 1950s Hollywood set, but it's a set with secret rooms, mysterious cellars, and dark passageways (where the actor is always bathed in bright spotlights, yet always seems to be surrounded by utter darkness). The set dressing is very rich with all manner of half seen objects sitting on dressers or lying on tables. You could easily imagine a character quickly pulling a gun out of a drawer, or poison out of a cabinet. The clutter adds to the mystery. Some of the things we see will be important; others will be mere red herrings.
In stark contrast is the setting of DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. While again we have a large structure with countless rooms, corridors and closets, this time the backgrounds are very sparsely adorned. Remember now that BASEMENT comes from the horror films of the 1970s where realism ruled. No longer are murders committed half-seen in mysterious shadows. If someone meets their demise via a chainsaw to the neck, then, by God, we're going to see every bit of sinew that comes flying out. And it's going to be brightly lit. And we're going to hear every scream.
The sanatorium in BASEMENT looks exactly how we expect a low funded mental hospital to look like. Exactly the way the filmmakers of HAUNTED HILL played on the expectations of a mysterious mansion. The fantasy of the 1950s gives way to the realism of the 1970s. The sets of BASEMENT are spacious enough, but the sparsity in decoration and the clinical, bright white walls make us feel almost claustrophobic, like the room is closing in on us. Whereas the grand fantasy of HAUNTED HILL causes us to imagine that there is some ghostly, evil presence lurking somewhere in the shadows, just out of sight.
Getting back to specifics about this DVD, of the two movies, I preferred HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Not because of any stylistic preference, but because I felt it told a better story (apart from the goofy ending) and did a better job of holding together. BASEMENT was just a little too incoherent for my tastes.
I got this disc for a buck, and for that money it's well worth it. The two movies are at least watchable, and are rarely boring. Sometimes with double features you'll get a bad movie stuck along with the one you actually want to buy, but in this case, both films are worth a look."