The Haunting (1963)

“….Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.”  The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

In general, the haunted house genre features homes infiltrated by ghosts, poltergeists, demons, et al.  The Haunting, a movie based on Shirley Jackson’s exquisitely written novel, is unique in that it concerns a dwelling which in and of itself is bad.

Hill House, an old Victorian mansion somewhere in New England, has been the scene of several ghastly deaths since its inception.  A professor of psychic phenomenon and three clairvoyants stay overnight in the house to find out why.  They get more than they bargain for.  One of them will not survive the experience.

Pluses:  All of the performances, especially that of Julie Harris, are fine.  Davis Boultons’ cinematography makes Hill House the central character in this picture.  Unlike modern horror cinema, all of the scares in this movie are implied, not explicit.  You don’t get to see one ghost or one drop of blood.

Minus:  I honestly can’t think of any.  If you have never seen this movie, please do so.  Just remember:  Don’t watch it by yourself.

Cast:  Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn

Director:  Robert Wise

Rating:  Unrated

Black and White

This film will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on October 31, 2016, 6pm.  You can also find it on amazon.com Prime or Instant Video.

 

2 thoughts on “The Haunting (1963)”

  1. Wow! I remember watching that movie on TV when I was in High School. Very frightening. Seemed much more “real” than any other scary movie I’d seen. I don’t watch scary things – the closest film/TV to which I can compare were some of the Dr. Who episodes (e.g. the weeping angels, and the one about the hand coming out from under the bed). The latter had a far less developed sense of realism, but managed to scare me as badly.

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    1. Hi, thanks for responding on this website!

      I also saw “The Haunting” the first time while in high school. I agree. The scares seemed very real. The director of this film appeals to the real life things that frighten us: Nocturnal creaks and groans that houses make while settling, odd noises coming from pipes and air vents. There’s one classic scene in “The Haunting” I’ll never forget. It starts with a close up of some filigree on a wall. You would swear there’s a face in the filigree. Meanwhile, you here what sounds like a man softly grumbling something. The camera pulls away, and you realize that the “face” is just part of the patterns on the wall…or is it?

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