Thursday, 2 December 2010


Director: Robert Wise
Producer: Robert Wise
Cast: Julie Harris, Richard Johnson, Claire Bloom, Russ Tumblyn
Year: 1963

Adapted from the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting is a British psychological horror film based on man's fear for the supernatural, the unknown. The story takes place in a n old Mansion with a sinister past where the anthropologist Dr. Markway was seeking the existence of the the paranormal. As part of his investigation he invited people to spend a few nights with him in the same house in hope of experiencing with them the creepy back stories the house was so famous for. And this is when the story starts: four people ( two men and two women) going through an unbelievable, crazy experience in this haunted house.
Even from the opening of the film we are already introduced to the its dark, nightmarish character. The film is in black and white (1963) yet the playfulness with the light and darkness is quite vivid which makes it so intriguing to watch. There is something truly uncanny about this house.It looks as if it's starring upon you. Thanks to the ingenious camera work, the eerie music and effective lighting the building looked alive, ready to haunt your soul and fill you with wickedness. As Michel Burgess said: ‘Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there… walked alone.’  (Burgess. 2010)

Psycho (1960)

The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The interior of the house was very rich in Gothic style furniture, paintings on walls, chandeliers, sculptures, long staircases and endless corridors. The light sources were very low at night time which created long dark shadows and of course the feeling that there was always someone or something moving around the house the whole time.
The sculptures of the previous owners of the mansion in the garden added a creepy mystery in the story. It felt like they were still living in it, trying to haunt and scare away all guests. They almost appeared alive as they could be real humans and that's what makes them more disturbing: their resemblance to us.

It is very interesting how Eleanor, possibly the most important character of the story after the house itself, had a deep connection with it. Eleanor was a fragile woman who was taking care of her sick mother for the last eleven years, and appears to be psychologically unstable. She was in search of a place that would make her feel like home, somewhere where she would be accepted and be part of. The haunted mansion both frightened and attracted her as she was drawn deeper and deeper within by the forces of the house.

All in all, the film was a remarkable achievement for its time and it still continues to amaze us. Despite the lack of special visual effects, like the absence of an actual ghost for instance, it is still thriving as the majority of the terror is achieved through the unexplainable sounds that constantly fill the air. After all, there is no need to visualize  something to scare you, its all what's going on your the imagination that counts. 'Director Robert Wise has fashioned a psychological tale of terror that doesn't scream 'I am a horror film!', but rather supports its credentials on the premise that the mind is, and can be, a powerful conductor of emotions, thoughts and ideas that run the gamut of principled escapism as it runs past the rules of orderly comprehension as we know it to be.'  (Sibley. The Spinning Image)

  1. Burgess, Michael (2010) Top 10 Houses of Horror (accessed 2/12/2010)
  2. Time Out Film Review(2006) (accessed 2/12/2010)
  3. Sibley, Mary. The Spinning Image (accessed 2/12/2010)

List of Illustrations
FIG.1: The Haunting Film Poster (1963) ( accessed 2/12/2010)
FIG.2: The Haunting Film Still ( accessed 2/12/2010)
FIG.3: Psycho Film Still (accessed 2/12/2010)
FIG.4: The House on Haunted Hill Film Poster (1960) accessed 2/12/2010)
FIG.5: The Haunting Film Still (accessed 2/12/2010)
FIG.6: The Haunting Film Still (accessed 2/12/2010)

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