Though the title of this film is a little generic, it does accurately convey what the film is all about, if not in the classic sense that most would think. There is a house and it is haunted, but it is only as such due to the events which took place there many years ago. There are no ghosts, spooks or spirits except the ones which remain as memories and they haunt not only the house of the story, but everyone who is and has ever been associated with it. Ghouls and haints and what have you are indeed scary things and make for good movies when they inhabit a house like the one within, but just as frightening is tragedy and wrongdoing and it can follow one through the years, tormenting and torturing just as effective as any monster. As for the terror, that soon becomes apparent as you watch the film and find that it goes hand in hand with the haunting.
For the most part, the movie is the story of two people and the past that they share. It is that past which has caused Sheila Wayne to spend a good amount of time in a sanatorium in Switzerland, not to mention making her as jumpy as a church mouse. She has become a fragile creature over the years and it is only with the meeting of Philip who has essentially rescued her, that she feels any kind of peace. The two of them are soon off to a new house at his insistence and the mere sight of it makes Sheila’s skin crawl. With the introduction of the groundskeeper and eventually the landlord, the pieces of the puzzle are soon put together and it is then that past and present collide.
Director Harold Daniels delivers a solid little chiller, originally called My World Dies Screaming, filled with suspense and wonderful photography courtesy of Frederick E. West. Under their supervision, the old house becomes an important player in the game, one that at times makes its guests comfortable and at others, fills them with terror and dread as it closes in around them. Gerald Mohr plays the supporting husband who always seems like he has something to hide and while he does, it is not what the viewers will expect to see. The story manages to blend drama, mystery and horror into a very compelling film and there is hardly a moment where your eyes will not be glued to the screen as each and every scene is riveting. Mohr is perfectly cast and Cathy O’Donnell really lends a frantic air with her performance, raising the suspense and accentuating those around her.
When all is said and done, there is a happy ending of course because there was no way that there could not have been one, though there was a moment or two where that might have been in doubt. Perfectly paced, filled with tension and subtle horror, this stands out as one of the better haunted house pictures, mainly because it did things a little differently and succeeded. On the whole, Terror in the Haunted House was a highly entertaining picture and one that leaves an impression which is always a good thing.
4 out of 5