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THE HAUNTING(1963) is an important horror film because it is one of a tiny
handful of films within the tradition that genuinely unsettle the viewer.
Are the events at Hill House for real, or are they happening on the inside
of Eleanor Lance's head? The author of the novel upon which this movie was
based, Shirley Jackson, left us to wonder at the end of her story. A
constant theme in Jackson's work was the displacement and the destruction of
the hopes of women (Most of her work was written in the 1940s and 1950s).
Jackson, in her own intriguingly artful manner, asks us in The Haunting of Hill House to contemplate the domestic prison that many women like Eleanor Lance found themselves in. Eleanor is a spinster, the slightly dotty older sister compelled by restrictive family relationships to care for an ailing mother. She's been nowhere, she has had no experiences, and she barely has social skills. Like anyone else, she wants love, intimacy, friendship, and she doesn't know how to seek them. Naturally, she operates from a place of low-key fury. Julie Harris conveys this so successfully in the film that she actually bounces the viewer between feelings of empathy and feelings of exhaustion. "Why doesn't she make up her mind to go or stay?", we ask ourselves. Eleanor isn't an attractive person, and Julie Harris plays this to the "t". THE HAUNTING explores Jackson's extended metaphor of feminine anger damn near as skillfully as the author presented it on the page. Certainly whatever "walks alone at Hill House" is not such a distant cousin from the Corn Goddess, or other archetypal representations of the understandable rage of women whose lives have been restricted by domestic roles. But how much of it genuinely resonates from that house with its "doors that stay sensibly shut", and how much of it is between the ears of Eleanor Lance, who, even in a crowd, is walking alone, just as is whatever is in Hill House? In creating this book, Shirley Jackson was able to breach the same territory the 19th century feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman explored in her remarkable story The Yellow Wallpaper. And it is no small thing that the cast of The Haunting- Julie Harris and Claire Bloom foremost- were able to recreate on the screen and do this complex novel such justice. Director Robert Wise, who fifteen years before gave us the Val Lewton masterpiece THE BODYSNATCHER, labored diligently to establish the same stifling atmosphere found in that earlier film. Patterns in wallpaper that vibrate with voice, doors that breathe, and that steady, horrific hammering on the walls that chills as certainly as did Jackson's description in the book itself.
Certainly Rus Tamblyn and Richard Johnson do more than pull their weight in this piece, and it couldn't have been easy to play second line to talents like Harris and Bloom. The cast, the direction, the set, everything works in this movie, a remarkable work of harmonic convergence on celluloid. THE HAUNTING is an important film to see because it does what horror films rarely do, it freely explores the internal and takes us all along, and babies, we ain't laughing. But it works. And that's more than can be said for three quarters of the over-hyped movie offerings in the horror tradition. Among U.S. horror films of the 1960s, only PSYCHO and ROSEMARY'S BABY touch so boldly on the unspoken terror in the horror film:a common fear among our spieces that we may be unworthy of love. Are we talking frightening now?
After watching "The Haunting" 1963, I slept with my hands under the
covers for 3 weeks.
I was alone in the house, very late at night. Every sound amplified.. I was a full grown woman. For Pete's sake, I have watched almost every monster movie made. Even the original "Wolfman." Hummm, I could handle this.
Wrong! I have never been so frightened in my life. Who or What was holding her hand??...
The door at the top of the spiral stair almost gave me a stroke.
This movie made a believer out of me. The sound effects, the lighting, the "breathing door", plus the fact it was Black and White.. The house, well don't ask me to attend a dinner party there. You will be eating alone.
Perfect movie for Halloween.
I give this movie a "10", The "remake" ?? Was that from the same book?
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
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
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".
There is no blood, there is no slashing, today this would be rated "G."
But, this is the scariest movie, ever. Every time I watch this
masterpiece (and I have watched it over 50 times), I see or hear
The density of the black and white is incredible. The camera angles and reflection shots are unsettling. The score is appropriately terrifying, from the ringing of tiny bells to the cannon ball rocking down the hall.
The cast is excellent. The direction superb. This is horror at the peak of perfection--it is in your mind. The only thing better is to read the book by Ms. Jackson on a dark night when you are all alone, and "far from town." As Stephen King said about Shirley Jackson, "She never had to shout." Mr. Wise is to be credited with bringing her whispers to the screen.
Rent this for Halloween. Or, own it forever. I still have trouble getting to sleep after I watch this.
This movie is a genuine Hitchcock-esque classic. Predating modern
special effects, this movie subtly maneuvers the viewer into a
crescendo of paranoia. My mother introduced me to this movie when I was
still very young (and since the terror is of the psychological variety,
it is a strangely age-appropriate movie for youngsters who wish to see
I think that the casting, concept, and script are all brilliant. This movie does not need the glitz of Hollywood effects because there is enough cranial content to more than compensate for what most people nowadays consider necessary visual enhancements.
The cast has an amazing chemistry and plausibility. I don't recommend this movie to effects-addicts. If you appreciate well-executed theatre, believable acting, using your OWN imagination, then... see for yourself!
The Haunting is the best haunted house movie of all time. It is creepy as
hell, packs a real sense of dread, and always leaves the shocks to the
It starts with an extremely effective prologue detailing the sinister history of Hill House over it's 90 year presence, and this prologue includes some really excellently done scenes.
Flash forward 90 years, and four guests are invited to stay the night at Hill House, and experience the house's hypnotic power. The main character is Eleanor (Julie Harris) who is starting to believe the house wants something from her.
The Haunting is a teriffically crafted, genuinely creepy story from Robert Wise, and many elements have been used in recent films (The freezing breath in The Sixth Sense, and the ghosts only implied by strange sounds and giggles in The Blair Witch Project).
Overall, this is an excellent horror movie proving you don't need special effects and gore blah blah blah... Just see the movie. 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert Wise took the time between WEST SIDE STORY and THE SOUND OF
MUSIC, two very different musicals, to direct this cult-ish film of a
house gone bad which seems to have a will of its own and is looking to
acquire another soul to inhabit its walls.
The production is a homage to Val Lewton's less-is-more taken to the extreme. From the moment the house is introduced, there is only mounting dread and things that go bump in the night and three scenes are a standout of modern horror. The first sequence is of course, the first sequence with the relentless pounding that is slowly moving towards the rooms where Eleanor Vance and Theo -- two of the psychics chosen by Dr. Markway to assist him in his ghost hunting. All they, and we, can do is focus on that twisting, turning door knob. The second sequence is even more disturbing: Eleanor Vance is sleeping with Theo in her bedroom, and as Theo holds her hand, Eleanor spots a pattern on a wall which seems to be malevolently observing her as unintelligible rants and raves by what seems to be an old man and the whimpers of a frightened child are all she can hear. When she reacts she finds she's not even in Theo's room (or bed) anymore.
The third and scariest sequence revolves around the events after the arrival of skeptical Mrs. Markway (Lois Maxwell from the JAMES BOND series) who could care less about his paranormal investigations and is staying in the nursery -- a room reputed to have a dank, cold spot. The crew huddle together, listening to the increasingly deafening pounding with a will of its own and then staring in mute horror as the door separating them from that unseen entity seems to bend inwards, in a breathing fashion. This is the most claustrophobic moment in the entire movie, full of the power to scare the wits out of anyone. (Stephen King adapted numerous elements from this movie to re-create them for his classic horror novel THE SHINING with incredible success; ergo the influence this film has on the appreciation of cerebral horror.)
THE HAUNTING is excellent in establishing character instead of making its players behave like they were automated puppets meant to do the very thing that they're not supposed to. Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) is a serious minded fellow who has a paternal approach to his assistants. Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn, well cast) is a playboy, arrogant young man whose very insouciant nature will be tested. The ambiguously named Theo (a silky voiced Claire Bloom) is icy cool, someone in touch with herself, who can't understand why Eleanor can't be. She has a predatory quality about her, although she genuinely likes Eleanor. Lastly, Eleanor Vance is a wounded individual full of baggage whose impressionable nature is just what Hill House is looking for: someone whom it can suck the will out of, using her own weaknesses and inner turmoil as a weapon against her.
THE HAUNTING is also keen in its images: black and white make way to light and dark and smothering shadows. Robert Wise amps the suspense as the "presence" that is Hill House tightens its grip on the characters. While maybe the music is a little too shrill at times, seeing a door wide open when it shouldn't be is more unsettling than seeing a full-fledged ghost drenched in pallor, and the only thing remotely close to one is Mrs. Markway near the end. Lighted from below at a key scene, she might as well be one of the walking dead.
Where this movie fails is in the casting of Julie Harris as Eleanor Vance. Her performance is the only weak link here: she's much too shrill, even when in repose. One gets the hint that her Eleanor is already unhinged as it is and may be causing these events to herself for attention. So needy is Eleanor that it seems she would want to put herself in danger as seen when she climbs the already wobbly staircase and as Dr. Markway reaches out towards her, she veers so far backward it's a miracle she didn't actually fall. And if that isn't enough, another flaw in the movie is Harris' intrusive voice-overs. A little is fine, too much, and coming from her as petty drones and moans, is almost like getting a molar wrenched out without Novocaine. It would have been best to have Harris approach her acting with subtlety and eliminate the voice-overs.
A film that has become the haunted house to beat despite the stilted acting of Julie Harris, THE HAUNTING can still give the feeling one is not alone at home and will make people think twice before listening to the rustling noises that linger after everyone has gone to sleep.
I saw this movie the summer I got out of high school. I went with a date and he about dug a hole in the arm of my sweater, it scared him that much. What makes the movie really scary is the fact that it does not have any slashers, monsters, blood and/or gore. Robert Wise scared you with camera angles, the unknown "presences" that seemed to be always lurking behind every door, and the sound effects were very effective. Filming it in black and white also made it creepier. The audiences imaginations and their own personal fears make the movie very effective. We have all experienced a frightening event at some time in our lives (dark closets, what's under the bed, what's outside the window after dark, did you hear that?, etc.) This movie plays on those feelings as you watch it. The remake was disappointing at the least. It had a great cast, but the producers/directors were trying too hard. These days, it seems that special effects can sometimes ruin a movie. There's nothing to play on ones imagination. That's why the book is usually much better than the movie. I purchased this movie on VHS a few years ago and I watch it every once in awhile in the dark (of course) when my husband is here. I don't think I could watch it alone - in the dark - in the night....
This is one of the best haunted house movies where you actually don't see the ghosts, you just hear them, and you wonder whether they're really there or just the people's imigination. The movie is about four people who go to spend a weekend at a well known haunted house and experience some real bumps in the night! Excellent acting and direction not to mention the creepy music. Highly recommended. they should make more movies like this! Hopefully the remake will good as well
Seeing 'The Haunting' in the horror section, rated G, was the first surprise this movie offered. Even though the rating may seem tame, the film offers a lot more than many of the trashy 80's and 90's horror movies which always seem to make it into video stores and hang around like a bed smell. This small gem of a movie may not stand out on the shelf and probably wouldn't appeal to many horror fans scouring the shelves for the latest gore flick, but if their eyes were to look past these to 'The Haunting,' they would be in for a pleasant surprise. This film is what a supernatural story should be - forgoing the usual barrage of special effects and buckets of blood, and relying on excellent cinematography to achieve the scares. The black and white combined with unique camera angles give Hill House an eerie, almost mystical appearance. Even though some of the acting may be a little corny at times (amid some superb acting, it must be said), the film manages to build tension steadily without ever showing the 'ghost,' therefore leaving you on the edge of your seat throughout. The main character (Elenor Lance) does unfortunately grate on the nerves after a while, being an overly neurotic and paranoid character, but otherwise the cast acts creditably well...even though the house steals the show! If you want a movie that gets your heart racing, turn down the lights and pump up the sound. Hill House will have you on the edge of your seat and keep you there for almost 2 hours. I only hope the remake this year does this superb film justice.
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