Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#40 - The Haunting

The Haunting (1963)
Slightly Trashy

Directed by: Robert Wise. Written by: Nelson Gidding, based on The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Plot: A small group of people go to a spooky, old and reputedly haunted house to research psychic phenomena. It slowly becomes clear that the house is not strictly haunted, rather inexplicably malicious, and it begins to sort of possess one of the visitors (Julie Harris).

Review: Haunting of Hill House is one of my favourite novels, subtly creepy and sort of chick-y, if you know what I mean. It’s chick horror. Nell Vance is a character I can totally relate to and sympathize with even though she’s a totally pathetic loser. Possibly because she's a totally pathetic loser.

And they adapted it quite faithfully here, making a pretty good movie. It is creepy and claustrophobic, making effective use of lighting more than anything else. See, in movies today (ex: the remake of this one - you know, with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones and Lili Taylor) they use CG for everything. When They want a movie to be creepy They stick some weird CG shit in there. Sure, those scare you at first but eventually you realize it’s not even remotely real and the scare wears off. But lighting, man, it’s actually there. You can see it. It’s awesome.

Robert Wise directed The Body Snatcher, above mentioned, which is another one of the best thrillers ever (he also directed The Sound of Music which is not…), so obviously the guy knows what he’s doing (or maybe not… as much as I enjoy The Sound of Music (and I do, really, I’m actually not being sarcastic. I genuinely like The Sound of Music. I think Christopher Plummer is Sexy), it really doesn’t effectively use creepy lighting for its scares… [insert cheap Julie Andrews joke here])

But yeah, this movie is admittedly sort of slow, but it’s not really about the thrills and shit. It’s about the building of character and atmosphere, working up to an extreme pinnacle of creepy. You could even say this movie is the motherload of creepy (although, you know, that’s probably not true. There is probably a movie which would be more aptly described as the motherload of creepy. Ex: anything with Joaquin Phoenix).

The cast does a very good job too. Though I’ve never heard of the actors (I vaguely remember noticing ‘Claire Bloom’ in the credits of Look Back in Anger, and I’m pretty sure I saw Julie Harris in something else), which was the selling point on the other version - crap with a star - they all are very good at doing their respective things. Although the performance which sticks out most in my mind is that of Rosalie Crutchley as the creepy old housekeeper, notable for her bizarre dialogue.

Anyway, for super-creepiness, this movie is the best. I don't even like haunted house stuff but this makes the grade or whatever. Fuck. Do you know how hard it is to end one of these damn reviews? I mean, you blather on and on for paragraphs and then you get down to the final words and you basically just have to sum up the whole review in, like, thirty words or so. Which makes you wonder what's the point, ya know? Reviews need only be one paragraph. I saw a website that does haiku reviews of video games and I'm thinking maybe I'll do that...

Favourite Part: “There will be no one to hear you. If you need help. In the night. In the dark” I remember I saw the remake of this first and laughed my ass off at that line, then found it weird when the same line was in both this film and the novel. Weird. I guess it’s all in the delivery.

Other versions: The aforementioned remake, which, though I described it as a piece of crap (and really, it is), I kind of liked for some morbid reason.

Sequels: Return to Hill House. No, I jest, there are none.

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