Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Haunting (1963)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the original story, "The Haunting of Hill House," the first thing to remember is that is has nothing to do with "The Legend of Hell House," although both stories are of the classic gothic haunted house variety.

Written by Shirley Jackson, the book is narrated by Eleanor Vance, a still-young but bitter and unstable woman recently freed of eleven years of the high demands of her dying mother. As she has spent nearly every waking hour with her mother until her death, Eleanor has no confidence and few social skills to draw on to help her in her new life and her new freedom. Eleanor also seems to have a strange talent, one that draws the attention of Dr. John Montague, a paranormal researcher. He issues her an invitation to-dum, dum DUUUUUM!- Hill House, the iconic house on the hill that no one has been able to spend the night in.

The House finds a sympathetic soul mate in Eleanor, whose narcissism and twisted need to be needed instilled by long years of caring for her mother make her the logical target for both Hill House's terror and its seduction.

This is truly my kind of story, whether it's in its original written form or seen on t.v. late at night and alone in the dark. I love how the story is told from the point of view of an unstable narcissist, one who you nevertheless feel empathy with. It's a triumph for Jackson, in my opinion, to be able to write such a character with such believability. The interior shots of the house are simply stunning, and the slow ratcheting up of tension by director Robert Wise is masterfully done. I'm a big fan of the "show less if you can get away with it" school of haunted house movies, and this 1963 version doesn't disappoint. In my opinion, this version far outshines the 1999 update starring Liam Neeson, though I suppose that version is o.k. if you hadn't read the book or seen the original film.

I won't post the entire movie here, as there are thirteen different parts on YouTube, but I will tell you it's available on Netflix.

Watch it with someone you trust to have your back...


  1. One of my all time favorite movies. I never get tired of watching this one. You have excellent taste!!! :)


  2. yeah, I love this one too...altho' I don't think the '99 version deserved the bad press that it got--I thought it was fun...anyway, thanks for the reminder!


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