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Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion. As time goes by it becomes obvious that they have gotten more than they bargained for as the ghostly presence in the house manifests itself in horrific and deadly ways. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
Robert Wise had seen Julie Harris in a play and decided she was perfect for the leading role. She later confessed that shooting the picture had been very hard on her. She saw her character, Eleanor, in a different way than director Wise but didn't feel it was her place to disagree, so playing the part was a struggle for her. Still she claims Wise was a perfect gentleman and they remained friends for decades. See more »
Because the story was filmed in England, but set in the United States, Eleanor passes a house with a sign reading "To Let" instead of "For Rent". See more »
Dr. John Markway:
An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there... walked alone.
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Forty one years after its release, this movie is still frightening.
ABC broadcast this film as a Sunday Night Movie in, I believe, 1965. I watched it with my best friend at his house, which happened to be next door. After the movie was over I was afraid to walk home. Thirty eight years later, this movie is still the scariest movie I've ever seen.
It's hard to put into words why this movie triggers such an emotional response. There is no blood and gore, no creatures or monsters in plain sight. In fact, there is very little physical presence in this movie that should evoke such a fear reaction. True, there are multiple angle exterior shots of the mansion that make one feel as if the house is watching them all the time. And there are loud unexplained noises, bulging wall panels, and door knobs that turn by themselves. All-in-all, the physical evidence is pretty tame, especially by today's standards.
The fear reaction lies not in the physical form, but in the psychological sense. For example, as Theo and Nell cling to one another as wall pounding draws closer to their room, only to stop and dead silence replaces the noise. Later in the movie, Nell and Theo are again in their room when Nell grabs hold of Theo's hand as noise begins to build outside their bedroom door. Finally, unable to stand the noise any longer, Nell begins to scream which awakens Theo, who happens to be halfway across the room, and thus not close enough to be holding Nell's hand. So the question is "who or what was Nell holding?". There are many scenes that are similar to the above.
This film was directed by Robert Wise who made me believe there was something lurking around every corner, or there was something that was going to happen, but you just didn't know quite when. This is the type of directing that has given this movie the classic status it so richly deserves.
So, if you are more into the physical style of a movie, go see "Texas Chain Saw Massacre", but if you are ready for a genuinely scary movie, go rent or buy the 1963 version of "The Haunting".
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