Okay, I’m breaking a rule of this challenge right now. I am including a film from pre-1968 because it’s too good to not review. It’s 1963’s “The Haunting”.
When people talk about horror nowadays, slasher films and torture porn, with their blood and gore, come to mind. But, it takes a cool individual to recognize that horror doesn’t need to shed a drop of blood to unhinge its viewer. Sometimes, the worse scare is succumbing to mental and psychological warfare. “The Haunting” provides enough psychological frights that you find yourself calling your therapist for one extra visit for the month. Okay, that’s just me. Nonetheless, the scares are plausible as haunted houses aren’t simply based on fictional stories. Some of them are real and that, kiddos, freaks me out.
Based on the novel, “The Haunting of Hill House”, the film explores the trope of the “haunted house” with simple scares. It’s definitely pre-Amityville, without the exaggerations. Dr. Markway, researching paranormal activity, decides to further his studies by staying a few days in Hill House, known for mysterious deaths. His stay is accompanied by a psychic (“Theo”), an heir to the house (“Luke”), and a timid young woman expressing extreme guilt over the passing of her invalid mother, who she served as caretaker (“Eleanor”).
Over the course of the stay, the guests experience ghostly occurrences, some which leads Eleanor questioning whether it’s the house or her progressing mental instability. As the stay grows long and more stories about Hill House become known to the guests, the occurrences become stranger and scarier.
I won’t go further because I want others to see the film. It’s so sublime in the psychological horror, and I have yet to see another film like it recently. I related truly to Eleanor and her sense of growing mental instability. She’s never sure if things are entirely black, white, or simply grey. That’s more horrific than running from Jason Voorhies for the umpteenth time. Knowing that when the mind goes, life follows may be the most damaging fear of all.
I won’t call this film underrated since I’m sure audiences of a certain age know the film. It’s worth definitely the fright.
9 out of 10 , considering the movie. No blood!
Fun Facts About “The Haunting”
- Directed by Robert Wise, of “West Side Story” fame.
- Russ Tamblyn, who played Riff, the leader of the Jets in “West Side Story”, stars as Luke.
- Theodora, the psychic, is one of the few lesbian characters that’s seen as feminine and not predatory. However, censors did not want Theodora touching Eleanor to not make the lesbianism as clear to the audiences. Whatever!
- This film has achieved cult status.
- There’s a remake. It’s not as good as the original (of course!). However, if you need to kill about 90 minutes, I won’t judge.
- The Best Haunted House Novel? (waytoofantasy.com)
- 31 Days of Horror: Day 1- The Haunting (1963) (thepeoplesmovies.com)