Saturday, October 12, 2013
Scary Movie Month Movie Club #2: The Haunting (1963)
Many people call Robert Wise's original The Haunting the best haunted house movie ever made. It's also the movie that critics will point to when wanting to make the argument that filmmakers don't have to show ANYTHING (read: gore) in order to be scary. What do you guys think? Does the movie hold up? Is it missing all kinds of CGI baby heads and Owen Wilson?
P.S. Last week's discussion on The Lords of Salem was TERRIFIC. I hope this week's conversation is even better. Great job, everyone!
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I think it is still very entertaining but, the whole "is she crazy & causing all of this or maybe the house really is haunted... NO! WAIT! It's both?" thing left me a little cold. Having seen The Haunting I now can spot it's influence in other works like Rose Red & The Legend of Hell House.ReplyDelete
I can definitely see why the ending doesn't work for everyone, but I felt like her performance sold it.Delete
What did you think about the lack of graphic scares? It's one of those movies that if I watch it late enough at night I find that every creaky noise my house makes is suddenly amplified for the rest of the night. I love the bulging doors, too.
Has anybody seen the remake? I saw it when it first came out but I remember absolutely nothing other than not liking it. I can't recall a single detail...does anyone think it may be worth a revisit?
I didn't mind the lack of graphic scares. The bulging door was unexpected and highly effective. I think the movie holds up better than most modern day horror.Delete
I saw the remake when it 1st came out and I didn't love it. The CGI was bad even for then and they used it too much. I don't mind big visual eye candy or gore but I think that movie would have been better with a subtler touch.Delete
I could not agree with you more about the remake, The CGI in that film was totally a crutch, and probably the biggest sell for the "gotcha" moments. And since the CGI did not hold up the whole film fell down around it.
I'm sorry I missed out on the Lords of Salem discussion. I just want to go on record as liking it very much. I'm still thinking about it.(especially when walking the dogs in the predawn darkness)ReplyDelete
One last comment and I'll shut up...ReplyDelete
JP I liked the ending I just thought the movie was trying to be two things a supernatural thriller & a pyschological one andfor me I wish it would've picked one and run with it.
I love this film, one of my all time favourite horror movies. (I'm currently writing about a different horror film every day and wrote about it recently here : http://thepeoplesmovies.com/2013/10/31-days-horror-day-1-haunting-1963/ ).ReplyDelete
I would definitely call it one of the best haunted house movies ever made. Not only is it scary but it has such interesting characters and actually uses the conceit of ghosts to further explore the main character. Compare it (unfairly) to something like the recent The Conjuring. That film felt so standard to me, it was fine but nothing more. The story and the characters just felt like the tracks of the haunted house ride taking us from scare to scare. It does what it tries to do well because it's scary but beyond that I didn't get anything from it. The Haunting on the other hand is scary just in terms of all the ghostly stuff and on top of that is such a good character piece. This woman with severe emotional problems brought on by her late mother is finally going outwith her comfort zone. Then she's presented with the possibility that the dead can return meaning her mother could return. It's not just dealing in standard fears of the unknown but her deep personal fears. She is facing all of her fears at once and it makes her appropriately hysterical. Ghosts are used to forcefully make her confront her traumatic past but it ends up being too big to face.
All of the effects are really cool too. I love the scene with the constant banging. The banging isn't really getting closer and it's hard to place where it's coming from and that kind of makes it scarier. It's not like it gets louder so you know generally that there will be something scary when it gets to its loudest point. It's constant so we have no idea what will happen or when. The banging scene (*eyebrow raise*), door bending and some of the camera movements really remind me of Sam Raimi's style. He definitely seems influenced by the film.
I probably just repeated a bunch of stuff from the link above in a less articulate way so basically I love The Haunting. From the cool lesbian character who isn't portrayed as predatory to the way Wise shoots the house to make us know something's up, everything about the film is so damn good. I can't wait for a blu-ray of this comes out. It emphasises everything I love about film in the 60s. It's experimental without using dated effects, classy but isn't stagey like some earlier films and it throws in more transgressive elements. All in all, an awesome movie.
This was actually my first viewing of the original version of the Haunting. I saw the remake in the theaters when it came out and while I liked certain items like the general premise I thought it (remake) really fell short. That said, I really enjoyed this version of the film.ReplyDelete
This is really my type of "horror" film, I prefer the thriller/psychological pictures over the more graphic "slasher" genre. This film was basically a masterclass in how to create tension and fear with a minimal amount of reveal to the audience.
And whatever walks there...walks alone. *shudder*ReplyDelete
I'm sorry, I have nothing to actually add here. It's just about the perfect horror movie. Great script, great acting, just enough mystery about characters, the incredible effects and sound work and the creepiest writing on the wall ever.
Thank you, TCM (and Bill Hader), for showing "The Haunting" Friday overnight, just in time for this weekend's SMMMC (!) entry. Between this, "The Return of the Fly" and Billy Wilder's "The Fortune Cookie" (seen recently on MGM-HD for the first time) I'm really starting to appreciate American B&W 2:35:1 anamorphic films, a visual style I tend to associate with 60's Japanese cinema ("Yojimbo," etc.). "The Haunting" is one of the most gorgeous and visually alluring B&W scope movies I've seen, and there isn't even a real Hill House that was actually photographed. It's all force-perspective model photography, movie sets, Davis Boulton's photography, Ernest Walter's editing and director Robert Wise's skill with the actors and camera placement. About the only thing lacking in "The Haunting" is the score by Humphrey Searle. It's not bad, just not as memorable as the sound effects. Everyone remembers the pounding and voices, but the music cues?ReplyDelete
The original makes the Jan de Bont '99 version (which I did see) look like CGI suck fest that it is, too impressed with its now-outdated VFX to place the attention on character development and mood that Wise was wise-enough (get it? Har, har) to build as carefully as the frights and set-pieces. There were some bravura and visually interesting shots (the camera going up the rickety stairs in the library, the forced-perspective shots of Eleanor when she first arrives, etc.) but they are there not for show but to advance the story and build tension. I, for the life of me, cannot remember one shot, character or effect from the '99 "Haunting." How do you make Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones bland and forgettable? That takes skill.
JB has mentioned often, in the podcast and his columns, that part of the reason he loves "Psycho" so much is that Tony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates brings to cinematic life the tragedy of a lonely person's inability to deal with being alone, and how that loneliness eats at the soul until a meek person snaps into repressed rage (or words to that effect). Julie Harris' portrayal of 'Nell' Lance gave me serious Norman Bates vibes. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent chamber drama ensemble (Richard Johnson makes expository professorial dialogue fun to listen to) but this movie lives or dies on Harris' performance and she really delivers. Even the arrival of Dr. Markway's wife out of nowhere for the movie's last 1/3 (a pleasant surprise) serves more as a trigger for 'Nell' than anything else. Eleanor is such a lonely and repressed person wishing so much to be a part of something bigger and better than her oppressive ordinary life (which Wise conveys so well in just one scene between Nell and her sister along with the backstory and her voice-overs) that, toward the end, we actually find ourselves rooting in a strange way for Nell to achieve her immortality wishes because we know how miserable her life will be back in the real word.
SPOILER FOR ENDING OF THE MOVIE: It's fitting that, like the obsessed scientist in "The Fly" movies, Nell is the sole casualty of the haunted house horror movie (excluding all those "accidental" deaths in the opening, which is 50 shades of awesome) that has established pretty clearly she'd be better off dead than alive.
Also, like 3/4's of Kubrick's "The Shining" before it tips its hand squarely one way, "The Haunting" achieves that tricky balance of allowing viewers to decide whether we're watching the supernatural or 'cabin fever/mass hysteria' take place before our eyes without making either one feel too compromised. Was the car taken over by Hill House spirits or did Nell drive it into the tree? Is there a cold spot in the center of the mansion or an actual draft? You... make the call.
Good call on that rickety spiral staircase. I hate climbing steps that you can see through in the first place, so that total nightmare of a staircase gives me all of the heebies and all of the jeebies.Delete
I'm at my folks' place for the Real Thanksgiving so I don't have time to add much but JM here says it all better than I could. Really enjoyed it and unlike most classic horror this one scared me a bit. Really well done.Delete
Also as far as the SMMMC choices, I'll have to wait until I watch The People Under the Stairs to be sure, but I feel like I'm seeing a pattern emerging.
Thanks for "making" me watch this - loved it and may not have ever seen it otherwise!
Dammit, i keep missing opportunities to say that!Delete
I'm glad so many people are enjoying this one; it's really something special and has been one of my favorites for a long time. I want to get that wallpaper pattern in MY bedroom. Boom.ReplyDelete
In gothic literature, there’s a whole subgenre of “girl and a house” stories. This is the innocent, sometimes introverted young woman who develops a connection of sorts with a big, gloomy, and historic house. You know, stuff like Jane Eyre or maybe The Secret Garden. These gothics often have a mystery to be solved, and, yes, as they gained in popularity a lot of them took the “haunted house” route. So Eleanor, her “connection” to Hill House, and even the movie’s ending all have their tradition in the old-timey gothics. I’m betting Shirley Jackson’s influence is a big part of this.ReplyDelete
The movie’s highlight, for me, was Theo and Eleanor alone in that room with the knocking on the door (also shades of Poe, I suppose). I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of Sam Raimi, what with the occasional titled angles and those fast zoom-ins on the door.
Then there's the stairway sequence. You know, The Haunting is famous for being an only-atmosphere-never-actually-see-anything movie, so I was surprised when the Eleanor’s long climb up the spiral staircase had a visual (and damn creepy) payoff. Her ride toward the gate at the end had a similar scare. So although yes, the atmosphere is what we’ve come for, it’s not fair to describe the movie as atmosphere-only.
Stephen King’s Rose Red actually began life as a Haunting remake. He and Spielberg worked together on it, but they went their separate ways. King made Rose Red a miniseries, and Spielberg executive produced the Jan De Bont version. The lesson is: Don’t remake The Haunting.
What a great pick, I have always enjoyed this film. I think it is superbly crafted. I would recommend the commentary if it is also on the Region 1 version of the DVD, it is very interesting. I wanted to comment on the suppressed nature of Eleanor’s sexuality. I find the scene where she is in Theo's room sexually charged. When I first watched this I read it as the ghosts and spirits calling out to her to be a representation of her repressed desires for Theo in that moment. As I have watched it more times, I see the film has more layers, like James' view of the spirits tapping into her horrifying experience with her mother as well as her isolation as an individual. But I have enjoyed applying the lesbian reading to the film as this explains her first very strong connection to Theo, and then after that night with the noises, she starts blaming her (for example for the writing on her wall). To me it was always obvious that Theo was flirting with Eleanor in their scenes together (especially at the beginning), and as a very cut off individual I imagine Eleanor would enjoy this kind of attention. Does anyone else connect to this reading to the film? I believe the commentary also touched upon this reading of the film.ReplyDelete