on 29 December 2010
Although dated in may ways this offering from Robert Wise is a perfectly constructed gothic horror movie. Making allowances for the lack of modern special effects the film is an early take on the idea of the haunted house as a character in the story. Wise and writer Gidding base the story around the interaction of the four main characters and the horror is very much about suggestion. As Wise says in the commentary, the film is really about one woman's descent into mental illness, rather than a haunted house story. Hints of future Horror classics such as Evil Dead and Blair Witch Project are obvious in the narrative structure and characterisation, yet Wise and Gidding don't give in to the more obvious horror movie histrionics we would find a mere ten years later in movies such as The Exorcist.
The commentary is well worth a listen, particularly for the thoughts and anecdotes of Richard Johnson, who plays Dr Markway, (apparently considered for the part of the first James Bond!) and the insights into Julie Harris' state of mind and relationship with the rest of the cast during the making of the film. Presently being sold for £2.79 on Amazon, you just can't go wrong. An absolute classic.
Although not as sharp as I remember the original print to be, this new blu ray delivers a more than acceptable image, the gray scale is fine, and the sound is solid, if unremarkable, too. Shot in England, rather than New England where the film/novel is set, the strange opening shots of the car driving through the "American" countryside (Kent?) don't ring true at all, with some very ordinary British houses standing in for their colonial counterparts! However, once the old dark house is entered, ( a more convincing venue) things take off quite nicely. Some splendid acting, (Harris and Bloom are particularly effective) and a good script, deliver well and with a slow-burn sophistication generally missing from this genre - although the film never truly generates the true terror required and many of the "shock" moments are curiously "mishandled" or more likely sacrificed to the creation of the "poetry" that permeates the look and feel of this extraordinary film - and Shirly Jackson's famous novel. That said, along with "The Innocents" it still remains one of the great "haunted house" movies (way superior to the ludicrously over the top re/make) and it will certainly please many fans to have this upgraded transfer. However younger, or new viewers, be aware this film is very different to contemporary horror movies - it's as much about character and "repression" as it is about ghosts and hauntings - and it's very "slow" too - so do not expect a traditional "thriller" or rollercoaster ride - or you could be very disappointed.
It's also deliberately shot in black and white too.... The perfect medium for some people like me ... But not others!
on 19 November 2009
You know, if you look at the horror genre today (because horror is what it is all about; in bucket loads) there seems to be something missing. When was the last time you were truly scared whilst watching a movie? Screen writers today, seem to concentrate far too much on CGI and tidal waves of blood and guts to cover for a poor and shallow script performed by equally poor actors. Nobody seems to know anymore how to put a good shocker together. Gone are the genuine scares, to be replaced by instantly forgettable, shallow scripted nonsense.
I have always held true, it is not what you see on screen, it is what you do not see, that generates the shocks. This technique is put to excellent use in The Haunting of Hill House, to give it its original title. The unseen menace that haunts this Gothic mansion, is atmospherically played out with minimum effects, other than sound and lighting used to perfection.
The mental state of Eleanor, played quite brilliantly by Julie Harris, is laid bare and brought it to question quite early in the movie and escalates in to full blown hysteria toward the end. What starts as a paranormal investigation, soon spirals into terror for Eleanor, as she is singled out by the entity, who is hell bent on claiming her soul.
A great movie and well worth the meagre asking price.
"It was an evil house from the beginning, a house that was born bad."
A Metro-Goldwyn Mayer production. Produced and directed by Robert Wise. Starring; Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn. Based on the novel 'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson.
'The Haunting' is still one of the best horror/supernatural films. I originally watched it in the early 1970s and it terrified me. Even now, I've watched the DVD many times since, the scenes of poltergeist activity and haunting give me a chill. They're genuinely eerie. There's a growing feeling of claustrophobia made all the more believable due to the small cast.
The spirits of Hill House are hounding down a group of eccentric individuals bought into the house by a 'scientist' to study supernatural phenomenon. The problem is; one of them wasn't selected for the research. One of them was chosen by the house!.
In the novel it's made pretty clear insanity plays a role in what's to come. In the film those themes are kept subtle. It's all about the house. There's no doubt something evil is stalking the group, searching for someone or something but who?. What's the link?.
The scene setting is excellent. The house is brilliantly bought to life. Slamming doors, long twisting corridors, cold spots and a nursery that seems to beat with an evil heart of it's own. Spine chilling stuff but; The Haunting is more than that. There's an excellent story working it's way through and the cast interact beautifully with one another.
The book and the film are very different. The film highlights haunting and the paranormal while the novel concentrates on the characters, their growing paranoia and the influence of their environment. It's much more subtle. If you watch 'The Haunting' and then read the 'The Haunting of Hill House' you might be surprised how different they are.
The Haunting runs for approx. 107 minutes and is contained on one disc. This edition is black and white. Special Features; feature length audio commentary (by Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Director Robert Wise and Screenwriter Nelson Gidding), Stills Gallery and Trailer.
The DVD has an age 12 classification due to scenes of moderate horror.
on 19 January 2012
This is one of the best Haunting Ghostly Scary Movies ever made !! The cast are just right and the atmosphere is captured perfectly. This B/W film could not have worked in colour the dark creepy soundtrack adds to the tension and the music deserves and oscar. The Haunting is mid paced and allows you to get to know the characters instead of rushing in and slashing around, this film smoulders away drawing you in patiently and unsettlingly. The camera work is excellent as are the script and the sub-plot; The questions are asked ... Are the experiences in this house related to each persons personal life and struggles ? Are the ghosts real or purely in the mind ?
The Haunting knocks the socks out of many new chillers especially the terrible remake in recent years. With the exception of Guillermo Del Torro I personally find the majority of ghost / supernatural films predictable and ultimately boring, this classic film set the blue print for many future films, ( a plot, creepy atmosphere and believable characters ). Sadly so many modern films miss the mark completely, going for gory SFX, speedy storyline and the ubiquitous merchandise / gaming dollar. I think that aiming a film at teenagers with deep pockets instead of deep minds has ruined many current horror films so it is great to be reminded of the excitement of hearing a proper ghost story.
The Haunting is exactly what a fantastic and chilling yarn should look and sound like !!!
on 25 December 2001
Modern horror film today relies upon computer graphics, copius amounts of cursing and beautiful actors and actresses pretending to be talented.
Directors and producers should take heed from the imagination and uniquity that was shown in the amateur flick "The Blair Witch Project" which, despite a 6th form college Media Studies A-Level type ending, and annoying american actors was a highly engrossing film.
What Blair Witch Project got right was the rule that you should never show the evil doer throughout the film. Evil Dead 1-3, Blair Witch and other now noticeably cult films used this technique.
And so did the director of "The Haunting".
This film is an intriguing analysis of a disturbed woman from an uncaring background, haunted by her mother who fell ill and was bed-ridden. The daughter had to look after her for a long time, suffering from depression and stress until one night her mother banged on the wall and she just ignored her. The mother died and the daughter blames herself. She decides all of a sudden to join a team of people that are going to spend a few days in a house on a hill. (Hill House). The team is made up of paranormal enthusiasts, a sensitive, and the young heir to the house.
The mixture of people really decides the amount of tension between the characters, let alone the ghosts! The sensitive senses the main characters psychological problems which stem from her poor background. Small conflicts happen between them throughout the film until the sheer terror presented to them by this evil, dark, twisted house ultimately unites all the characters.
The House begins to mock the disturbed woman who begins to lose her mind, very much like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining". This eventually leads to a very decent ending for a film of this sort.
The actors are quite literally superb, from the disturbed woman to the paranormal investigator who coins the excellent phrase "The worst protection against the supernatural is a closed mind"
The Ghosts are never seen. This really heightens the fear factor and makes you wait for the next chilling moment. One truly chilling moment is when the disturbed woman is lying asleep suddenly awoken by a noise. As she mulls over about what had happened during the day she grows more tense about her surroundings. The camera moves toward a very strange position, it points at the wall with moonlight shining from the right. In the background a monk-like chanting begins to grow in intensity and volume while a small childs crying can be heard under the chanting. As the moonlight begins to heighten in the sky small holes in the wall begin to shadow resembling a statanic looking face. This is *the* most evil, dark, disturbing image and sound you or anyone on this planet will *EVER* see. I assure you, this film sets precedents that will never be bettered. I'm surprised that this film did'nt win an Oscar, well actually I'm not surprised, because this film is far greater than the trash that has fouled such a impressive awards ceremony.
You must buy this film.
on 15 July 2014
I appreciate the fact that in today's market of splatterfest gore with beautiful people on screen, this might be seen as not scary?
The fact of the matter is, under the surface, this film is one of a clutch of true horror classic, which delivers the chills NOT through gore, but tension, atmosphere and great story telling.
This film scares the hell out of you because of what you DONT see, and the tricks of the imagination and sight it plays on.And what it plays on is your fear of the unknown.Primal and stunning, this film left my wife in a cold sweat.And she doesn't normally sit through b/w films.Night Of The Demon is another thriller chiller.
Dont be put off 1 star reviews.Watch this at night, do not compare to todays horror flicks, dont expect blood, guts or a man with an axe, just sit back and be prepared for a psychological thrill ride.
The Haunting is directed by Robert Wise and adapted to screenplay by Nelson Gidding from the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House. It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn and Lois Maxwell. Music is by Humphrey Searle and cinematography by David Boulton.
Hill House has a troubled history, death, either by accident or by suicide, has occurred there over the years. Today, Dr. Markway, an anthropologist and investigator of paranormal activity, leads a team of four for a stay at Hill House, where they will stay for a period of time in the hope that Markway can prove something paranormal resides there...
The haunted house premise has been a staple for horror film makers since forever. To place the viewer in a murky house, alongside some character unfortunates, and then scare the tar out of them has always been the aim. It hasn't often worked to great effect, in fact the number of genuine scary haunted house movies barely trouble the fingers of both hands. How strange, then, that the best of the bunch chose a simple formula that has never been replicated since with the same great effect.
The Haunting thrives not on what it throws at you by way of jumps and peek-a-boo visceral shocks, it deals firmly in the realm of what you can't see scares you the most. Where we have to use our own fretful imaginations to fill in the blanks for us, which is never a good thing in psychological horror parlance. Robert Wise, a most gifted and versatile director, uses oblique camera angles, thundering sound effects and angled close ups of his actors to get the maximum amount of atmosphere from the premise.
Distortion is very much a key component here. We are told the history of the house and some of its structural quirks, the camera angles heighten this for ethereal impact whilst simultaneously marrying up to the distortion of a key character's mental health. The story in essence sounds simple, yet there is much bubbling away in Hill House, both on the page and up there on the screen. This is not simply a case of a group of people being haunted by a spectre or otherwise, the mind is a key player here, very much so.
Along the way are some truly breath holding scenes; a bending door, pounding in the corridor, a face on the wall (the lighting here genius), Nell's hand holding incident, a rickety spiral staircase that we fear from the off, and the ghostly finale as Hill House reveals its hand and what we thought was a simple and true narrative is actually more clever, more chilling than we first imagined. Suggestion is a very big thing in The Haunting, it's what drives it to greatness, but it also has scenes that really bring the gooseflesh jumping up on your arms.
The acting is mostly great, with Tamblyn and Johnson correctly underplaying their roles to let the two girls take centre stage. Both Harris and Bloom are excellent. As Nell, Harris is nervous, introverted and caught up in the atmosphere of the house, it's the pivotal role and Harris instils a heart aching fragility into the character. Bloom as Theodora has mystical qualities, a sexiness and a devilishly playful disposition, things that play off of Harris' egg shell walking quite brilliantly. While the house itself (exterior is Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon) is an ominous character all of its own. As Nell first spies the monolithic frontage she muses that it's a monster waiting to swallow her, a small creature, whole; we know exactly how she feels.
Still the template haunted house movie, accept no substitutes and ignore stupid claims of homophobia, this is intelligent, scary and crafted with great skill. 10/10
on 6 March 2015
The Haunting is an absolute classic!! Modern Horror film makers watch and learn. This is how you make the perfect horror film... It's of the old school setup proving that what you don't see is far scarier than what you do see, relying on suspense and atmosphere over blood and guts. The cast is perfect as well from our 2 stunning leading ladies Claire Bloom and Julie Harris to their 2 male counterparts Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn. As a fellow reviewer has already mentioned not only do we have the supernatural events occurring throughout the film but also the personal disintegration of Eleanor, who in her fragile state of mind is pure fodder to the spirits haunting Hill House. Truly tragic to witness but acted superbly by the awesome Ms Harris. The whole atmosphere of the film grips you and it makes me wonder whether a certain Mr Sam Raimi wasn't slightly inspired by it when he made The Evil Dead, especially with regards to the ominous sound effects used quite brilliantly in this gem. This film is pure genius. I upgraded to this Bluray from my DVD copy and I was so engrossed in the movie that I failed to notice if there was any real improvement in quality, To be frank I don't really care. The overall quality of this film says it all.... As I've already suggested.. Watch and learn..... They just don't make horror films like this anymore. Now to get The Legend Of Hell House House on bluray. Another classic in the same vein as The Haunting..............
on 9 January 2015
FOR ALL THE BAD REVIEWERS....Its a 1963 film...1963....its not a hollywood blockbuster from 2014, its from 1963.
This film was a milestone for the year and decade...its a sign of the times when everyone expects to see p[eople being butchered, de capitated, burnt, eaten alive by rabid starfish from another planet....for gods sake just watch the film for what it is...a classic from 1963...
in the dark, with popcorn...enjoy.