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The Haunting (1963).

October 8, 2010

The Scoop:
I don’t know what you look for in your horror movies, but “The Haunting” is, quite simply, the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen. Forget about the much-ballyhooed “The Exorcist,” which was enjoyable but not particularly scary. This is where the real goods are.

This adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” directed by Robert Wise and written by Nelson Gidding, puts all other ghost stories to shame — not to mention the inferior remake from 1999. Richard Johnson is Dr. Markway, a paranormal investigator who is hired by a skeptical heir (Russ Tamblyn) to investigate the old family mansion, which legend says is haunted. Dr. Markway brings along two psychics, the mysterious Theodora (Claire Bloom) and the timid, insecure Eleanor (Julie Harris). As they spend a night in the house, things start to turn strange and the foursome has to figure out what is real and what is just a figment of their jumpy imagination.

Forget monsters, forget stalkers and forget torture porn. Everyone involved — including Harris, who gives a brilliant performance — knew that the scariest thing a viewer can face is what is in his or her own mind. The psychological terror is executed wonderfully here. It’s definitely something that will keep you awake at night. And that throbbing door is an image you won’t soon forget.

Perfect — and perfectly creepy — on just about every level.

Best Bit:
The throbbing door.

Side Note:
Although the film takes place in New England, it was shot in Great Britain. The house used for the exterior shots is Ettington Hall near Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Companion Viewing:
“The Uninvited” (1944) and “The Legend of Hell House” (1973).

Links:
IMDb.
1,000 Misspent Hours.
Classic-Horror.com.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The opening:

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