Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Haunting (1963)

Directed by Robert Wise, The Haunting is an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. The film stars Julie Harris as Eleanor Vance, a questionably sane young woman who is asked to join anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) and two other individuals as they investigate the supernatural incidents occurring in the infamous Hill House. As the group learns more about the house and its tragic past, they discover the legends surrounding the mansion might hold more truth than the skeptical guests previously expected.

The Haunting is one of the most highly regarded haunted house films ever created. Instead of focusing on cheap scares and supernatural antics (which can be fun when done well), the film builds an unsettling atmosphere that enhances the natural tension of the story and situation, and includes more subtle scares that rely heavily on the "Less is More" philosophy of horror film-making.

Robert Wise, being a veteran at the art of film-making, sets up his shots perfectly, keeping the film visually interesting and downright beautiful at times. Like any good, atmospheric horror film, The Haunting uses each and every scene to build tension and show just enough to creep us out and get us scared without beating us over the head with loud scares. The music is equally fantastic, enhancing each scene at just the right moment, adding to the mood and situation.

The acting is also superb. Julie Harris does a great job at portraying Eleanor, showing her as a young woman who you believe is teetering on the breaking point of sanity. She plays the character in such a sympathetic way, making you worried about her and her mental state, hoping that she manages to stay together and make it out of the house in one piece. All of the other actors give equally great performances.

The Haunting is definitely a classic of horror cinema and one of the most influential haunted house films ever made. It does a great job at building suspense and releasing it at just the right moment. If you love haunted house movies the focus more on atmosphere and mood, you will love The Haunting.

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