The Haunting (1963) Directed by Robert Wise is a very atmospheric gothic ghost story. Dr. Markway is an anthropologist who is determined to prove the existence of the paranormal. He, along with a carefully assembled team investigates the huge creepy mansion Hill House. The house has a violent and mysterious history and was built by an exocentric mad man.
The house itself is very strange it doesn’t seem to have many 90-degree angles in the interior. This makes the house seem a little disorientating and almost organic. When the characters are walking though the halls of Hill House its like they’re walking through the internal organs of a huge beast. The sound also adds to this organic feel there is a gusting wind sound throughout the movie. This almost makes it seem as if the house is breathing. The exterior of the house is littered with dark windows that give you the subtle impression that it is watching you. All these elements make the house seem like a conscious being. Interestingly for a ghost story you don’t see any ghosts. The main antagonist of the movie is the house itself.
Hill House Exterior
Guillermo Del Toro director of Pans Labyrinth (2006) and The Devils Backbone (2001) put The Haunting in his top 5 ghost movies at number 3. There is a reference/homage to the famous ‘who’s hand was I holding’ scene in the movie The Orphanage (2007) Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and produced by Del Toro. Del Toro also talks about how the house seems to be a conscious being, he praises the Director Robert Wise saying “he makes exemplary use of sound, camera work, the pallet of darkness and the black and white film to really invoke not only the presents of something supernatural but actually the malevolent intelligence of the house itself” [Guillermo Del Toro, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nmfpjsXIvQ].
The only problem with the movie is the main protagonist and her extremely frustrating narration. The character is extremely winey and annoying and difficult to sympathize with. Her narration always seems to interrupt some great atmospheric creepy moment and take you out of the movie. She is always telling us what she’s feeling and its completely unnecessary. Actors are meant to show the audience how they feel not tell them.
Overall this movie is a fantastic, atmospheric and creepy old fashion gothic ghost story.