Event Report: “HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL” (1959) at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers!Books/Art/Culture,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Outside of our ongoing “FANGORIA Presents” screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers, NY/NJ-based horror fans have been treated to some excellent chilling cinema courtesy of Mondo and Chiller. Having previously presented last month’s screening of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST with Robert Kerman in attendance, Mondo and Chiller brought a more classic terror title to the big screen for March, offering William Castle’s seminal film HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) and enlisting yours truly as host for the eerie evening.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL surprisingly does not screen theatrically that often, as legitimate 35mm film prints of the title are rare and expensive. However, Mondo and Chiller provided a stunning high definition DCP presentation, giving fright fans the first time to see the film’s newly minted HD transfer on the big screen (as the only other place to see said transfer is on Scream Factory’s VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION, VOLUME 2). And luckily, the fans came out to spend an evening at HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, as the theater was packed with horror fans of all ages.
Before the film started, the audience was treated to a Drafthouse-curated pre-show, featuring clips, shorts and trailers all from the golden age of horror. In terms of the trailers, we were treated to the related, such as the Carol Ohmart-starring SPIDER BABY, to the similar, such as Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING, to the absurd, such as George McCowan’s FROGS. The featured clips included several oddities as well, including commercials for Mattel’s old-school ghost toys and old-school animated commercials as well. But perhaps the most entertaining short of them all was a THREE STOOGES short in which the trio discover a woman who is about to have her brain transplanted into a gorilla by a mad scientist, which played to each Stooges’ strength and added to the aura of fun among the patrons.
Finally, the lights went out, and after short previews for upcoming Drafthouse events (including next month’s Mondo x Chiller presentation of ALIEN), this writer took the stage, complete with a Vincent Price impression as previously promised in our event announcement. After a brief introduction and a warm welcome, we ran a trivia giveaway for Mondo’s limited-edition poster print for the film, with the question regarding William Castle’s specific theater gimmick for the film called “Emergo.” After reiterating the rules of the Drafthouse (no talking, no texting) as only Vincent Price could, the audience took the leap into the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.
Luckily, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL certainly held up as my memory had served, and with the theatrical experience, the film was even more fun and scary. Of course, the first appearance of Vincent Price drew applause from the crowd, and some of the film’s jump scares landed effortlessly, even among the most familiar viewers. And the film is undeniably strong, with a great screenplay and equally great performances that give it a 55+ year longevity and inspired another round of applause once the film came to a close.
While the Drafthouse couldn’t replicate the “Emergo” experience, the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL screening was yet another excellent offering from the Alamo in Yonkers. With an audience that had largely never experienced the film theatrically, there were definitely some Drafthouse converts in the audience, and I’m sure the promise of an ALIEN screening next month may once again entice fans to come out to another Mondo x Chiller presentation. And hopefully, with the fan reaction and presence for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, perhaps more Vincent Price vehicles will make their way to the Alamo sooner rather than later.