6 June 2016

THE HAUNTING. (1963) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE HAUNTING. (1963) BASED ON THE BOOK 'THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE' BY SHIRLEY JACKSON. DIRECTED BY ROBERT WISE. SCREENPLAY BY NELSON GIDDING. STARRING JULIE HARRIS, CLAIRE BLOOM, RICHARD JOHNSON AND RUSS TAMBLYN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Oh wow. I can't find fault with this classic horror film, not one single fault. Not that I want to, you understand. This is one of the best 'haunted house' films I've ever seen in my life. I put it on a par with my other favourite 'haunted house'-slash- possession films, namely: THE INNOCENTS (1961); BURNT OFFERINGS (1976); and AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (1982).

The film is based on Shirley Jackson's famous book from 1959. Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco in 1919. Her stories appeared regularly in posh, exclusive literary journal THE NEW YORKER (lucky cow!) and many were anthologized and dramatized for radio and television. (Again, jealous...!) She died two years after her best-known book was turned into a terrific film. That's all I know about the lady who gave us THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. But what a legacy to leave the world...!

I've read the book and enjoyed it. I have to say, though, that this may be one of those occasional instances when the film is actually better than the book. The book is excellent. The film is superlative!

Hill House in the film is more like a flippin' castle. It's huge. It literally is the kind of magnificent sprawling house you could get lost in. It's fabulous. The shots of the exterior of the house by day will have you ooh-ing and aah-ing in admiration. The shots of the old dark house by night, however, will have you running for the hills screeching: 'Evil...! It's eeeeeeeeeeeevil...!'

We get to hear a bit about the back story of this 'evil' house. The house has a grim and troubled history. People who've had dealings with the house clearly think it's haunted to buggery, if you'll excuse a wee bit of slang. The family who built the house in the Victorian era are long dead. The house is now cared for by a sinister pair of husband-and-wife caretakers, the Dudleys. They take the greatest of pleasure in telling guests the risks they're taking by staying in such a 'deranged' house...

Dr. John Markway is a parapsychologist. He's invited two women with psychic backgrounds to stay in the house with him to observe any supernatural phenomena which may occur there. The three of them will be chaperoned by the sceptical nephew of the house's current owner. He's hopeful of inheriting the whole kit 'n' kaboodle when the old dear finally shuffles off her mortal coil. They're a motley crew indeed. And once the doors of Hill House close behind the four of them, the fun really starts...

Claire Bloom plays the nasty, superior Theodora who seems to enjoy making Eleanor's life a misery with her bitchy comments and savagely cutting insights. Eleanor, the other woman, is fragile with a past nearly as troubled as Hill House's and she is deeply unsuited to such a potentially dangerous psychic experiment.

On the other hand, being at Hill House is the best and most exciting thing that's ever happened to Eleanor Lance and she's dead-set on staying till the bitter end. The toll the house takes on her delicate state of mind will be monumental, however...

I hope it's not a spoiler to say that the house is, in fact, as haunted as f**k and that it should be renamed HELL HOUSE. All the incidents of haunting are genuinely terrifying and have actually caused me sleepless nights. Yes, I've lain in bed in the dark gibbering like a madwoman and repeating the words: 'Whose hand was I holding...?' to myself over and over till I fell asleep...! I'm sensitive like that, you know. Kind of deeply in tune with the supernatural and all things spiritual. It's a cross I have to bear every day.

The interior of the house is every bit as impressive as the outside. The furnishings and ornaments, the paintings and statues are all exquisite. Well, now I think of it, some of the statues look like gargoyles and are quite disturbing, but otherwise the house is beautiful. And sooooo haunted it's off the freakin' scale.

There's a haunted library, haunted corridors, a haunted rickety staircase and a haunted nursery where Abigail, the original daughter of the house back in Victorian times, spent her joyless, typically Victorian childhood. It's got the works. It might just be the most haunted house you'll ever get to see. And, whatever you do, remember this:

'Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within. Whatever walked there, walked alone.'


If that's not a warning to keep your distance, I don't know what is.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com






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