Monday, January 10, 2011

The Haunting

The Haunting is a 1963 British psychological horror film by American director Robert Wise and adapted by Nelson Gidding from the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It stars Julie Harris as Eleanor, Richard Johnson as Dr. Markway, Russ Tamblyn as Luke, Claire Bloom as Theo, Valentine Dyall and Rosalie Crutchley as Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, and Lois Maxwell as Mrs. Markway. The film centers around the conflict between a team of paranormal investigators and the house in which they spend several nights.

It was supposed to be  a horror movie, so to bring terror into a film there has to be some sort of element called fear. There has to be something there that is going to make you afraid of what is on screen. The house was supposed to be bad and evil, but where was that feeling? Where was that aura of terror? A few loud noises on the wall and a loose staircase is not enough to make most people nervous. "Robert Wise, the film's director, read the novel and optioned it for MGM, and used the skills he honed from his Val Lewton days to create a good old-fashioned ghost story where the unknown is more frightening than what is known" says Jonathan Stryker in The two best scenes in the film weren't even of the supernatural, they were a runaway wife doing things that she shouldn't have been doing. Without resorting to clownish and over-powering special effects, director Wise manages to convey the fear of helpless humans when their minds and lives are manipulated by an unseen and unknown presence. There is doubt, then confusion, and finally terror.
The Haunting is also keen in its images: black and white make way to light and dark and smothering shadows. Robert Wise amps the suspense as the "presence" that is Hill House tightens its grip on the characters. While maybe the music is a little too shrill at times, seeing a door wide open when it shouldn't be is more unsettling than seeing a full-fledged ghost drenched in pallor, and the only thing remotely close to one is Mrs. Markway near the end. Lighted from below at a key scene, she might as well be one of the walking dead. The other thing is playing with mirrors - there are so many of them and you can see everything whats happening in the room at the same time.

Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky says (eptember 22nd, 2003 on that Robert Wise, stripping down to basics between two grand musicals (West Side Story and The Sound of Music), operates much like Hitchcock does in Psycho. Both are keeping focused on the story, suggest more than you show, and let the camera carry the audience along. Wise knows when to move, tilt, and cut to create the strongest effect, A little sound and a lot of suggestion generate intense atmosphere, but never distract from the characters.

1 comment:

  1. Domantas!!!!!! You've been asked to present your film reviews in a very particular way - a properly academic way; and the point of that request is to ensure that your critical writing has credibility and your essay writing improves. Please - it's on the brief, so I'll be looking for it as a 'must have'; you must include a full bibliography, full illustration list and use the Harvard Method for your quotations. Take a look at the following blogs for what you're supposed to be doing at this stage of your degree education:

    You need to stop free-styling and take on some technique - it's important. Stop cutting corners - you're a BA (Hons) student now....