Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
The Haunting (1963)

The recent remake of "The Haunting" kills off any suspense with a barrage of special effects. Interestingly though, it is very much style over substance that saves the original.

The problem lies with a foggy screenplay that is happy to throw up a confusing array of questions while failing to provide answers. Indeed the first 45 minutes are nothing short of tiresome. We're introduced to anthropologist Dr Markway (Richard Johnson) who invites two female subjects to join him for a stay at the sinister Hill House to investigate psychic phenomena.

These two are mousy spinster Eleanor (Julie Harris) and the rather more brazen Theadora (Claire Bloom). Also roped in for the adventure is Luke (Russ Tamblyn), nephew of the poor woman who has inherited the cursed house. The introduction to these characters is overlong and gives insights that have little to do with the conclusion and only slow down the pacing.

But stick with it because the star of the film is undoubtedly the house, and once inside it begins not only to haunt the characters but the viewer too. Cinematographer Davis Boulton extrudes considerable atmosphere from the gothic splendour of the house. Using deliberately unsettling camera angles he captures the movie in icy cold shadow-strewn photography (courtesy of infrared stock).

Once free of the dialogue-ridden opening, director Robert Wise dedicates the rest of the movie to establishing genuine fear that's punctuated with carefully timed shocks. Pretty soon, you've forgotten about the slow start and have entered a genuinely startling film that still retains effective tension. You might not have a lot of answers by the end but you'll find various scenes stay with you long after the movie is over.

End Credits

Director: Robert Wise

Writer: Nelson Gidding

Stars: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Lois Maxwell, Fay Compton

Genre: Horror, Classic

Length: 112 minutes

Cinema: 1963

VHS: 14 August 1995

Country: USA

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