A perennial favorite of the "Shock Theatre" TV circuit, House on Haunted Hill stars Vincent Price as sinister gent (you're surprised?) Frederick Loren, who resides in a sinister mansion on a sinister hill, where seven murders have occurred. He makes a proposal to several strangers, offtering $10,000 to anyone who can last the entire night. Loren festively gives each of his guests a tiny coffin containing a loaded handgun, designed to protect them from the spooks that emerge in the house over the course of the night. The picture hinges on its surprise ending, which packs in several by-now-familiar twists. When originally released to theaters, House on Haunted Hill was accompanied by one of those gimmicks so beloved of producer/director William Castle: the gimmick was "Emergo," and it involved a prop skeleton that "emerged" from the side of the screen at a crucial moment to frighten the audience. Like most of Castle's best films, House didn't really need the gimmick, but its presence added to the fun -- especially when second- and third-time viewers responded to "Emergo" by bombarding the skeleton with popcorn and empty soda bottles.
by Hal Erickson synopsis