Monday, 9 March 2015

The Haunting - film review

If you like stories of the supernatural, then a 1963 film, The Haunting, might be just your cup of tea. Its credentials are impeccable. The director/producer, Robert Wise, won an Oscar for his work on Citizen Kane, and was responsible for West Side Story and The Sound of Music - not exactly a bad CV, and certainly a varied one. The cast includes Richard Johnson, Julie Harris, Russ Tamblyn and the stunning Claire Bloom, each of whom gives a strong performance.

And then there is the writer of the novel on which the story is based. Shirley Jackson's book, The Haunting of Hill House, is much admired, but for me, she is above all the author of  my favourite short story, "The Lottery". All I can say is that if you haven't read "The Lottery", I urge you to do so. Jackson suffered from health problems, and died relatively young, but she possessed a remarkable talent.

As for the film, yes, it is a haunted house movie, and many will be tempted to dismiss it as hokum. But I am keen on stories of the supernatural - I've recently written a story that has undeniably been influenced by extensive recent reading of Robert Aickman - and The Haunting is very well done indeed.

We begin with the concept of an old, sick house, which has many connections with death and disaster. Johnson plays a researcher who wants to explore Hill House's secrets, and persuades Harris and Bloom to assist. Tamblyn, his sidekick, is a sceptic - until, that is, creepy things start to happen. More than half a century after this film was made, it remains entertaining, a first class example of the well-made story of the supernatural.

6 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of the very best and a good lesson in the use of subtlety.

Bill Crider said...

This is one of my top 5 horror movies of all time. A classic.

joan.kyler said...

I love the book this film is based on and I love this film. In fact, I currently have this DVRed, waiting for the perfect time to watch it. There's a more recent version which is total crap.

Shirley Jackson was an amazing writer. I like her dark stories, but her hilarious books about raising her kids are terrific, too.

John said...

Fantastic movie! If you know what's good for you you will avoid the remake. Liam Neeson was in it. I can't remember anyone else and I'm not going to look it up. Ridiculous and unnecessary remake of a true classic in ghost movies.

Anonymous said...

THE LOTTERY is one of those short stories that you simply cannot get out of your mind once you've read it. Rather like THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE it has the ability to get under your skin, and anyone who can do that has to have a rare talent.

THE HAUNTING is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. Someone pointed out to me that Wise cleverly creates an uneasy feel by breaking a lot of cinematic rules that we're simply not aware of. There is a cinematic convention that if a person is moving across the screen to the right, they will be moving in the same direction in the next shot. Wise frequently changes the direction of movement, confusing the viewer and making them feel unnerved without them knowing why!

Martin Edwards said...

Belated thanks for these comments. It's a fine film and Shirley Jackson really was a writer of distinction. I have a book of her essays etc which I just started. Very interesting discussion of The Lottery.