The Haunting (1963)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother Reissue)
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Overall Rating 74%
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Connections: The Haunting

Hill House has stood for about 90 years and appears haunted: its inhabitants have always met strange, tragic ends. Now Dr. John Markway has assembled a team of people who he thinks will prove whether or not the house is haunted. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: March 16, 2011
I've said many times that ghost movies are, in my ever so humble opinion, the scariest in the genre. After all, there's no real way to protect yourself from a ghost. With that in mind, I had high hopes when I popped in this DVD, and I wasn't disappointed.

And what would a ghost be without an old-ass creepy house to haunt. Enter Hill House. Built ninety years prior by the wealthy Hugh Crane. Upon completion, he naturally moved his family in, but the horse unexpectedly bucked, throwing Mrs. Crane into a tree and killing her instantly, before she ever set eyes on the house. Unable to raise his daughter, Abigail, alone he takes another wife, who likewise kicks it when she falls down the stairs. This was too much for Crane, who relocates to England, but leaves Abigail behind where she grows into an old woman, living with a young companion to help take care of her. Unfortunately, one night, her usual summoning call of banging on her wall with her cane is unheeded as said companion is busy getting her freak on with her boyfriend. Flash forward ninety years, and Dr. Markway is leading a scientific expedition of sorts into the house, studying the paranormal activity that's been recorded over the years. However, thanks to the house's reputation, only two of the invited members showed up. Theo, who has shown to have some ESP ability, and Nell, a woman who had an extensive encounter with a poltergeist as a child. A future heir of the house, Luke, also joins the group to act as something of an overseer, not to mention to get an idea of how much money he can make when he can finally sell it. It doesn't take long before shit gets real, and the very first night Luke and Markway chase a phantom dog out of the house while Nell and Theo find themselves clutching each other in fear as something is banging on their door. The phenomena is short-lived, and seemingly harmless, but there's no question that there's something to the stories of Hill House. And that something is very interested in Nell.

We need to get all of the horror directors in the industry today together and make them watch this movie so they can see how horror is done. The scenes of Nell and Theo being tormented by the supernatural are exceptionally well done. The second one in particular, where Nell is seeing faces on the wall, had me holding my breath for the entire duration of the scene. To add even further terror into an already tense scene, we're treated to her inner monologue throughout the film, (a scene where we're listening in on the woman's thoughts while she's driving should bring a smile to the face of any self respecting horror fan) and Julie Harris' puts on a phenomenal show displaying the mounting fear in the voice over work. Cap everything off with a wicked noir ending and the film makers having the common courtesy not to hammer the more subtle plot points over our heads like a club, and you have some amazing cinema. Notes should be taken. Especially by the hacks that kicked out that remake in 1999.

As alluded to earlier, Julie Harris was absolutely amazing in this. She covered the levels of sheltered naivety through a slow descent into fear-induced madness without a hiccup, and was a big part of the reason this movie shines as much as it does. Likewise, Clair Bloom pulls out all the stops as Theo: much more street-wise, she deals with her fear with a biting sarcasm that obviously doesn't meld with the increasingly volatile Nell. Given that their interaction is a good percentage of the tension in the latter half of the film, it's a good thing the two women have such good chemistry together. I especially liked the scene right after the first encounter, where the two collapse in nervous laughter and begin making jokes about Luke and Markway's confusion; it added a small sense of realism that went a long way. While not exactly on the same level as our two heroines, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn don't slouch either as Dr. Markway and Luke.

To sum up, The Haunting is everything and more one wants to see in a haunted house movie. If you're at all a fan of ghost movies, hunt this down with the quickness. Just make sure you don't accidentally pick up the atrocious remake. 10/10.
Greg Follender #1: Greg Follender - added March 26, 2011 at 12:41pm
Great film... a real monument to the genre that has yet to be equalled in both originality, acting quality, and subtle delivery...
Excellent review as well;-)

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