The Haunting (1963)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Haunting</strong> (1963)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) If there’s a single path to longevity for horror movies, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s atmosphere. The Haunting may be one of the best examples of this: As strangers travel to an isolated mansion to investigate its paranormal nature, the plot is far less important than the sheer oozing oppression of its setting. Taking place in a grand gothic manor, The Haunting never misses an occasion to crank up the eeriness of its location. Director Robert Wise uses a succession of askew angles in order to reinforce the foreboding production design. The Haunting is remarkable for its black-and-white cinematography in that it almost always imposes incredibly dense images, with immensely detailed walls, cluttered decoration and intricate architectural flourishes. By the time the house walls seem to breathe, well, The Haunting has earned its place in the horror pantheon. Richard Johnson is quite good in a familiar kind of role, while Julie Harris has perhaps the most skillful performance as a haunted person. There’s a dash of humour and self-awareness to the proceedings, but The Haunting still feels respectable and highly efficient—taking chances that still feel daring such as giving extensive internal voiceover monologues to the characters. Even the strong hints that the entire thing may be in the character’s heads isn’t quite enough to lessen the supernatural experience. This is one horror film that can still hold its own against more recent entries—in fact, it has now clearly outlasted even its own remake as a still-worthwhile film.

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