The Haunting

The Haunting


A group is introduced to the supernatural through a 90-year old New England haunted house. Be prepared for hair-raising results in this classic horror film!Certain to remain one of the greatest haunted-house movies ever made, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) is antithetical to all the gory horror films of subsequent decades, because its considerable frights remain implicitly rooted in the viewer’s sensitivity to abject fear. A classic spook-fest based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House (which also inspired the 1999 remake directed by Jan de Bont), the film begins with a prologue that concisely establishes the dark history of Hill House, a massive New England mansion (actually filmed in England) that will play host to four daring guests determined to investigate–and hopefully debunk–the legacy of death and ghostly possession that has given the mansion its terrifying reputation. Consumed by guilt and grief over her mother’s recent death and driven to adventure by he

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5 thoughts on “The Haunting

  1. Review by for The Haunting
    The key strength of Robert Wise’s movie is its ability to keep the idea of a possessed, evil house somewhat down to Earth, somewhat plausible, where eerieness is the goal, not getting audiences to jump out of their seats at the sight of Elm Street slashers or bloody heads floating around. I think the scenes at the beginning of the movie depicting the history of the house are the essence of plausible supernatural creepiness, unlike corny “Poltergeist” or hokey “The Haunting of Hell House.” And Wise’s work is sophisticated, unlike shock-and-shlock films in the “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th” category. The novel by Shirley Jackson, which “The Haunting” is based on, contained key scenes that were effective and contributed to the eerieness of her story (the rickety spiral staircase, for example). But I thought Robert Wise and his screenwriter were very clever in eliminating scenes that were far too literal-minded (e.g., Theo finding red liquid — blood? — splattered all over her clothes and bedroom walls) or that took away from the impenetrable, evil-lurking-inside sense of the mansion (for instance, Nell and Theo encountering apparitions of a family on a picnic out in the garden).   The screenplay also eliminated distracting, extraneous characters (e.g., the chauffeur of the doctor’s wife) and less creepy plot ideas (2 daughters — vs Hugh Crain’s only child Abigal — who have legal battles over the mansion, which they both move out of during their lifetime—compared with the story of someone spending her entire spinster life cooped up in the mansion and, most strangely, its nursery.) Also, the idea of the nursery room — kept locked and unseen until the end — as the evil heart of the house, with the cold spot directly outside the door, contributes to the movie’s eerieness. Technically, Wise’s film is well executed — Citizen Kane-ish — especially for the genre of ghost/haunted house movies. The sets — particularly if Wise didn’t use the interiors of a real mansion — are quite realistic and creepy. And I thought Robert Wise using the monologue approach to capture the weak, neurotic nature of the Julie Harris character adds to the film’s stressful tone. However, there can be moments bordering on melodrama, such as when the professor, at the foot of the staircase, tells Luke not to be so confident in his disbelief of the supernatural or when Luke gives his little closing line at the end of the film.   But, overall, if a truly evil, haunted house could be found and verified, I’d imagine a documentary depicting such a place wouldn’t be necessarily far more non-fictional-like and believable than the 1963 movie “The Haunting.”

  2. Review by Carlos G. Diaz for The Haunting
    Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House proved to be major force in the world of the ghost story and with its adaptation to film we have what may well be the all time best haunted house story. The movie is one of the last in the classic school of fright were the imagination is what gets you. With its gothic scenes and excellent use of shadow, The Haunting is that rare movie that delivers and continues to do so without having to rely on cheap gimmicks or gratuitous gore. A researcher invites a group of people to stay in the Hill House to determine if it is indeed haunted. We have two women, one an unmarried spinster, the other a free spirited lesbian. Both women have had psychic occurrences in the past and the spinster seems to have been taken by the house, her purpose in life is complete as she looks forward to becoming its caretaker. Yet the house does posses her and in a tragic turn of events claims yet another victim. Whether the house is haunted is undeniable, the actual spirits are not seen but make their presence felt in some of the most frightening scenes involving the classic school of “Fear of the Unseen” that filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock were best noted for. The photography and setting are wonderfully distorted and used to create a sense of fear and sheer terror. It is undeniable that this movie is one of the best made films in the Horror genre and regretfully we may never see another like it in our world of FX and all out gore. I highly recommend this movie to any movie buff to help show what real terror is all about, but make sure you are not alone.

  3. Review by Mannie Liscum for The Haunting
    If you want your horror spoon-fed to you and all your scares have to be sight gags (as has become common place in recent horror flicks), this is definitely NOT the movie for you. “The Haunting” is great cinema. Filmed in B/W – which does great things to the mood of the movie – and almost entirely without obvious scares. The Haunting’s ability to deliver goose bumps comes from the expert visual flair delivered by Robert Wise, as well as solid ensemble acting. Wise was a critically acclaimed and accomplished director (The Day The Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep & West Side Story) when he made The Haunting, and directoral abilities come through loud and clear. This movie never fails to give me the shivers when I watch it.

    Wise’s film (Nelson Gidding’s screenplay – Gidding also scripted Wise’s The Andromeda Strain & The Hindenburg) is based on the the book “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting (the movie) remains faithful to the basic story set forth in Jackson’s book. However, like most movies, The Haunting, is not a direct translation of the text to film. The first third or so of the book is quite well represented. However, it would seem for pacing reasons that Gidding constricted the “action” of the middle portion of the book, and for simplicity of character’s condensed two characters from the last third of the book (the wife of Dr. Montague [book]/Dr. Markway [film] & her friend Arthur) into one (Markway’s wife). The latter change results in a different final act of the movie as compared to the book and leads to the only “overt” scare of the film (which is not present in the book). Otherwise, I believe Wise has brought to screen a creepy rendition of Jackson’s book, at least equal in its ability to scare as this classic piece of literature.

    The 90’s remake of The Haunting is utter garage in comparison. No mood at all, everything is feed to the viewer not by spoon but intravenously. Where Wise assumed that moviegoers would have a brain and enjoy using it, the makers of the 90’s version of The Haunting felt we all wanted to be plugged into the “Matrix” and have no personal experience. If you like a thinking persons horror/suspense movie try Wise’s materpiece. If you want blood, guts and everything obvious go see a Saw movie.

    The Haunting – great cinema, 5 stars!

  4. Review by Deborah MacGillivray for The Haunting
    It is not often I love a book and go on to enjoy the Movie adaptation. To Kill a Mockingbird, comes to mind. But this is the case with the marvellous movie The Haunting. Since I adore spooky, sinister tales, I treasured Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. And forget the silly, inane remake, this is the Mount Everest of Haunted House movies, only rivalled by The Legend of Hell House made nearly a decade later with Clive Revill, Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowell and the Innocents with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. These three would make a super triple-feature of Houses with Things that go Bump, since all three deal not only with the supernatural, the complexities of the mind, but the force of the will lingering after death.The Haunting is a rather faithful adaptation of Jackson’s dark and spooky novel. The key word being spooky – not gory. If you are looking for buckets of blood, search on. This is a sophisticated movie that chills rather than shocks. Staring the gorgeous Richard Johnson as Dr. John Markway, a man determined to prove ghosts do exist. And since he believes he will find them at Hill House, he arranges with the current owner to rent the house to carry out his research – though part of the pact is he must accept her grandson Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblin) to keep an eye on things.Markway invites a wide range of people to come and take part, people with a past that showed their lives were brushed by the paranormal. However, only two come: Theodora, a clairvoyant with vague lesbian hints played by Claire Bloom, and Eleanor Lance brought to aching life by the brilliant Julie Harris.Eleanor is a timid woman, browbeaten her whole life. She spent her youth tending her ailing mother and is now forced to live with her sister and her family. They are quick to take her money for rent, but show her little respect. In her one act of rebellion in her whole life, she accepts the invitation from Markway. When she arrives at Hill House, no one is there except a cranky gatekeeper and his equally cranky wife, who inform her they leave when it gets dark and there won’t be anyone to help her.Eleanor gets spooked, but finds Theodora, a chic, smart woman with a biting sense of humour. Despite the women being total opposites, they instantly like each other and set about to explore the dark, brooding and nearly suffocating house. Just as they are about to panic, they stumble into the dining room where Markway is. He performs introductions, and takes them on a tour, while giving the strange history of the house. Seems despite the house’s ancient feel it is not that old. Hugh Crane built it for his first wife. However, she never saw the house, being killed as the carriage crashed into a tree on the way to occupy it. We learn Hugh was an overbearing, macho, zealot who tormented his daughter with devils and Hell rather than nursery rhymes. The second Mrs. Crane met an equally strange death in the house, leaving it to go to Hugh daughter, Abigail. She grows old and dies in the room that was her nursery, tended by a nurse/companion. Since there was no family, the nurse inherited the house. However, her enjoyment is short lived, as she later hangs herself from the ceiling in the library. Since then, no one has been able to live in the house.It is not long before all sorts of sinister and chilling todos begin plaguing the women, especially Eleanor, for it seems the House has targeted her, even to a mysterious “welcome home, Eleanor” scrawled across the wall. Eleanor begins to remake her
    image into the person she would like to be in her heart. She starts to have romantic illusions about Markway, only to have them shattered when his strong willed wife ( Lois Maxwell, Moneypenny from the Connery Bond films!!) shows up demanding he stop this nonsense about ghosts. The movie is quite believable, walks the thin line in the Henry James’ Turn of the Screw style story, of how much is real and how much is within the mind. The acting is faultless with the four leads turning in understated, yet oh so perfect performances. In Black and White, I could not imagine this movie in the brilliant washes of colour needed for colour filming. The dark lensing of The Haunting lets those shadows rule and give it threatening, disturbing feel that sets the tone for the movie.So turn out the lights and enjoy one of the best haunted house film, and if you are lucky enough have that triple feature with The Innocents and The Legend of Hell House! A great way to spend a rainy Saturday night!

  5. Review by Paulo Leite for The Haunting
    The story has, by now, been imitated endlessly. Four people on a haunted house just to study it. But this is just the premisse.The great Robert Wise sets up the most perfect, most classic haunted-house film ever made. The screenplay is built on the principle that you don’t have to see it (the gore, the blood, etc.) to feel the fear. So, this is one of those great films where the tension is constructed upon the things you hear… the things you know are there.In the pre-CGI era, you really had to create something out of what you had. So, Mr. Wise had a great script (years ahead of its time), great characters, great actors, a great cameraman, and settings that are a wow!This is what makes this film so much better than any other (not to mention its remake – who clearly goes for the predictable cheap-trick CGI effects).The story is told in the most perfect classic form. From beginning to end, you follow the story in the most careful pace. Beat by beat. From the prologue to the conclusion, the story is peerlessly told.The characters and actors are great to watch: Julie Harris is the perfect troubled woman haunted by inner ghosts, while Theodora (the beautiful Claire Bloom) is the perfect icy clairvoyant who may or may not be a lesbian (everything is constructed with such taste…). Richard Johnson is great as the Doctor who must keep control of the experiment. Russ Tamblyn is also great as the non-believer who’s in just for the adventure. As we will discover, all of them have weak points the house will explore. So it is possible to say that this is one film where the set (in this case the house itself) is one character just like the others.The house has personality. It’s not that unbelievable-monumental-lifeless-overdone-cathedral we see in the remake. This one is more realistic. We all know (and are fascinated by) houses like this one. It has style, visual integrity, proportion and it also puts into the film a nice touch of claustrophobia. As long as the characters are there, they are at its mercy. This “house character” is always present. Trying to get in. Banging at the walls and doors, trying to make itself graphically visible through the shots……This is where we get to the camera work – certainly one of the best ever made. In a house so rich with character, the distorted wide-angle lenses (let’s not forget that Wise worked with Orson Welles) add much to the final effect. Corridors, statues and other objects are always there to remind you the house is present. They actually keep surprising the characters as if they were saying “we are here”. This is why this film is so much superior than its sequel: you don’t have to see the statues move… for you know they do when you are not there. In fact, this film constructs a state where you know the things that happen when you don’t see them happen. That’s pure film magic.I wonder why nobody does films like this any more. Why do they always go now for the CGI obviousness…I just love the wide-angle lens that smoothly move through the rooms… the time we are allowed to see those beautiful sets. and all the uncontrolled fear that invades the characters. The soundtrack is another great element. The film is constructed in an almost silence (which is very confortable at the beginning). So much that the noises made by the hauntings are almost unbearable when the things get rough.This is one of those films that were meant to be seen ONLY in widescreen, for the compositions inside the shots make great use of it (in fact I never saw it in a Pan&Scan version – I cannot imagine how awfull it must be). This DVD edition has a great commentary audio track by the actors and director but lacks any kind of documentary about how it was made (which I’d love to see). But we can’t have it all… If (like me), you love the genre, you will love this film, which is a one-of-a-kind effectively constructed cinematic work. Just don’t watch it alone… in the dark… in the night…

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