The Haunting (1963)

Article #941 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-12-2003
Posting Date: 3-10-2004
Directed by Robert Wise
Featuring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson

A scientist investigating the paranormal takes a team into Hill House to investigate reports of its being haunted.

One of the reasons I embarked on this MOTD project was to finally organize my watching in such a way that I was bound to explore many of the great genre movies that had somehow eluded me for many years. This is one that I’d never had the pleasure of seeing, though I had heard many things about it. In some ways, it’s interesting to compare it with HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL; the Castle movie is a carnival spook-house ride, whereas this one takes itself quite seriously indeed. The characters are also more complex and better developed than those of the Castle movie, and the scares are less blatant and more subtle. It’s also interesting to realize that one of these movies attempts to debunk its thrills towards the end, while the other makes no such concession. I love the way this movie uses sound to convey its horror (many of the scary moments are heard rather than seen), and I also sense a subtle use of distorted visuals to make the house feel wrong; when I first see the house, I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t look quite straight, and a later comment about none of the edges in the house ever coming to a perfect right angle adds to that sense of unease. It also looks like a movie that would be great for re-viewing, as I can sense the subtle similarities between the characters of the researchers and those of the various residents of the house who have died over the years. I’m very glad I got a chance to finally see this one, and I agree that it’s one of Wise’s masterpieces.



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