[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]
Do you like haunted house movies? How about genuine scares that tap into your imaginative terror? Our first October Halloween celebration horror film, The Haunting, plays with your inner-most natural fears to leave you spooked to the core. There is no well-defined monster or assailant to look out for. All you have to be afraid of is the terror bottled up inside your own being.
Unlike the similarly named House on Haunted Hill where Fredrick Loren offers $10,000 to his guests for staying the night at his haunted mansion, The Haunting features Professor Markway who offers nothing but research to his guests at Hill House. Three guests who are revealed to have had documented supernatural events in their past are brought together to prove or disprove the existence of the otherworldly. One of them is the heir to the haunted house in which they'll perform their investigations and an arrogant skeptic. The clairvoyant Theodora and the questionably sane Eleanor are more open to the spirits they soon encounter.
The house has a long history of mysterious deaths and it subtly begins to haunt it's newest tenants with it's maze-like corridors and self closing doors. The evil presence quickly escalates to heavy banging on the bedroom doors and violent shaking of the rooms. As it dies down, you may start to think what you just witnessed may have been scary back in 1963 but not by today's stand— THUNDEROUS BANGING BOOMS again from right outside the hallway, making a second attempt to get in! It's clear that the house and it's ghastly dwellers won't stop until they have another resident!
Robert Wise's classic horror film doesn't feel at all like it's two hour runtime. There's so much suspense and flat out fear that apparently your heart just stops for a few moments at a time. Eleanor "Nell"'s plotline is really the only complaint I have other than the desire for more of the good parts. She is an odd and mostly annoying character that's intended to amplify the psychological aspect of the movie. Despite Nell's behavior and Theodora's strange mood changes, The Haunting provides plenty of creepiness that will likely raise your energy bill for the next few nights.
Walking the line between an atmospheric and psychological horror, this one doesn't disappoint either crowd. More people will be truly scared by the spooks here than by the majority of modern horror as it strikes a primal chord leaving each viewer with a different vision of the supernatural tormentors. There is real technique and thought behind each and every fright that's been put on screen in wonderful Cinemascope. That's why I give The Haunting:
Two of the best scares in the movie, the woman bursting through the trap door and later running in front of the car, are unfortunately explained as non-supernatural events in the end. I would have preferred another explanation that didn't humanize the haunts but if you allow yourself to get into the movie, the damage has already been done anyway.
What movie would you like to see John review next week? Your suggestions are always welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org