The Haunting on Halloween

by John J. Miller on October 31, 2009 · 5 comments

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been turned into a movie twice. Both times, Hollywood shortened the title to The Haunting. That was probably a good choice. The 1963 version, in black and white, may be seen on Turner Classic Movies this morning. It’s a a little slow to unfold for modern viewers and unlikely to make audiences jump they way they do in those commercials for Paranormal Activity. But it also shows the restraint that comes from confidence and has a subtle power that so many contemporary horror films lack. It’s to a modern slasher movie what a ghost story by M.R. James is to a splatter novel. Here’s a nice review. The 1999 remake starts out well enough but soon falls to pieces. Neither one is as good as the book.


  • Anne

    The Blair Witch Project is on this list? I am not a horror fan, but I saw it because of the hype and ended up laughing most of the way through. And it was not nervous laughter because I was afraid. It was genuine “you’ve got to be kidding me!” laughter because I thought it was just about the stupidest thing I’d ever seen. The friend I went with was terrified, but I just want those 81 minutes of my life back.

  • J. Lambie

    Spot on. But the ’63 film, in a theater on the big screen, will still scare the pants off a child. When my kids were in thrall to slasher films in the 80’s, I told them I’d take them to a really scary film and trundled them off to an art-house showing of THE HAUNTING. They came out blanched and trembling. It was….extremely gratifying.

    The film’s power comes from involving the imagination of the viewers. No blood, no gore, almost no special effects. Just the surreality of black and white, wonderful camera choices, excellent performances by Harris and Bloom and the almost tangible fear that your own mind is capable of producing.

    In a similar vein, my wife and a girlfriend (of her’s I hasten to stress) were discussing recent films that they found frightening. I challenged them to sit through a film with no special effects, virtually no boogey-boogey-BOOGEY music, no recognizable actors but with subtitles. (My wife has an aversion to subtitles.) Needless to say, they scoffed. At the end of the quiet but mesmerizingly horrific Dutch film from 1988, THE VANISHING, the results were the same. They both had bad dreams that night. When it comes to fear, there’s nothing like your own imagination.

  • I watched this movie when I was eight years old (1966) when it was televised. My parents were out and we had a babysitter – this was the first mistake…my mother would have never allowed me to watch this. I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN THIS MOVIE. It scared the living daylights out of me. I remember so many parts vividly, the ghostly hand holding, the old lady’s beating drum driving the young woman to hang herself, the spooky tree lined lane leading to the house… “we who walk here, walk alone” I got chills just typing that!

    I think this movie is far scarier than any slasher movie ever made. Ghosts and the subtly of portraying a haunting is more hair raising in my opinion. I agree, this movie should have been included on any scary movie list.

    I tentatively watched it for the second time when I was thirty something. I was still scared.

    I would like to offer the following movie as equally scary – The Changeling – with George C. Scott… I recommend it…

  • Bender

    From e-mail posted on NRO — for my money, both Psycho and The Shining are contenders for #1, way ahead of the dated and rather silly Exorcist.

    Come on. The Shining was supposed to be scary? How could it possibly be scary with Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top cartoonish portrayal? Not to mention the whiny kid.

    As for the Exorcist, based on a true event, it certainly is filled with tension, but not really all that scary if you believe that Christ has power over demons. Not to mention that Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) kicks ass too.

  • George Bush

    Any Michael Moore movie scares the hell out of me!!!

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