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Horror Month – ‘The House of Evil Spirits’ – Vincent Price at his best

The 1959 work is featured in the actor’s extensive filmography

One of the most iconic names in Hollywood horror is Vincent Price, above all the rest. His performance style, unmistakable thanks to his aristocratic posture, has been immortalized in several works of the genre produced from the 1930s.

Another recurring characteristic of their characters was the sharing of the same disturbing, even devilish aura. One of the first works of the genre in which he moved from a supporting role to something more central was in A Mosca; Film from 1957 (which had a famous remake in 1986) in which he brings back to life a scientist who, after an accident, has his body mingled with that of a fly.

However, it wasn’t until 1959 that he definitely wrote his name in the horror genre. After meeting director William Castle (who, decades later, would become one of the most influential producers of low-budget horror films), Price liked the idea that the two could work together on a new project. . Soon the director began to develop the idea around a new work.

Vincent Price, a horror icon B

This project, called The House of the Bad Spirits, brought together many of the characteristics that have made “B movies” famous (thin budget, little variety, dubious special effects); this nomenclature refers to additional films that have been screened in double sessions, type “A” works being the main attractions.

The screenplay, signed by writer Robb White, features five people invited to a party on behalf of millionaire Frederick Loren (the character of Vincent Price) and his wife Annabelle in an unsavory isolated mansion. When they arrive there, where each guest has been driven by hearse, Loren challenges them: if they manage to stay overnight at the house, they will each receive the sum of $ 10,000.

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This then becomes the incentive for the film to develop some of the characters in the guest group, many of whom have dirty secrets, as well as the Loren couple themselves. As soon as Frédéric and Annabelle have their first scene together, it’s already obvious that their relationship is problematic.

The couple Frederick and Annabelle have a very transparent mutual hatred

She is Frederick’s fourth wife, all of whom have had suspicious deaths, and Annabelle constantly confronts him with sarcasm that he wants to kill her too. The wife, in which Price uses his already mentioned acting style, threatens him in a veiled manner, still retaining a veneer of cordiality.

Even technically limited, The House of Evil Spirits has managed to immortalize some exploits, including those with frightening sounds. This inspired the opening scene for the work and, such was its success, many haunted house attractions began to use a sound device to heighten public fear.

Another detail of the work takes place in the emblematic scene of the skeleton emerging from the acid pit; contrary to popular belief, it was in fact a human skeleton and not a scenographic skeleton. The eccentric choice was due to the aforementioned simplicity of production, as using a real skeleton would be cheaper than producing a fake.

The classic scene from the movie

Yet perhaps the greatest legacy the William Castle film left in cinema, in general terms, was that its low budget drew the attention of British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock to the fact that even with little money, it was possible to do a work by effective terror. From that point on, Hitchcock turned to the development of the classic Psychosis (1960).

The House of the Evil Spirits is both an important chapter in Price and Castle’s filmography and an influential work in its own right. At a slow and unpretentious pace, it impacts both cinema and popular culture.

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