The Haunting (1963)
Film: The Haunting
Director: Robert Wise
Writer: Nelson Gidding
Starring: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Richard Johnson
This film begins with a voice-over narrative of the history of Hill House. We learn about the man who built it, Hugh Crane, and we learn about the deaths of his two wives, his own death and what happened to his only daughter. The house itself is filled with weird statutes and the interior is like the inside of a deranged mind.
Next we meet the doctor who wants to stay there for a few weeks to see if he can prove that ghosts exist, played by Richard Johnson. When he gets the okay, he invites people who have paranormal history to see if they can’t get the house going.
One of those he invites is Julie Harris. She is living with her sister and her family, but she sleeps on the couch in the living room. She wants to go because she needs something in her life. After meeting her, we hear what her thoughts are throughout the time in the house. They are voiced-over and we soon learn that she is on the verge, even at the beginning, of breaking down.
She arrives and we meet the other two people who will be staying at Hill House with Johnson and Harris. One is a psychic woman who does a lot of picking at Harris in this film; she is played by Claire Bloom. She is also kind of exotic compared to Harris. The other one being the relative of the woman who owns the house, played by Russ Tamblyn, who doesn’t really have any paranormal history, but he is lively and wants to look at the house.
Soon after they stay at the house, strange noises and bumping in the night follow Harris. She seems to be the one that’s targeted, but the question is, is it really happening, or is it all in her head?
This film is creepier than the remake. This one is based more on how creepy the house is and less on cheap scares. You never know what you’re hearing is real or just in Harris’ head, but regardless of what is really happening, it still gets your heart beating. Now with that, the acting is good because their reactions are what we are basing everything on.
I was really impressed with Harris in this film as well. This film focuses a lot on her and her mental state. As I have stated throughout, we don’t know if it is in her head or really happening, because it is focusing on her. This film can be looked at as either a haunted house or the descent into madness of this woman who doesn’t have a lot going on in her life. I really think that makes this film a classic.
I would recommend this film if you’re into a classic horror films. It doesn’t have all the computer, gore or cheap scares we see a lot of today, but more about the atmosphere, acting and creating fear out of little things. It actually is enjoyable to see the deterioration of a woman who is already unstable as well.
My Rating: 7 out of 10