“An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there… walked alone.”
I first saw The Haunting (iTunes) in high school, in one of my English classes (thank you, Mrs. Rockey!). While the movie was remade (iTunes) in the ’90s with lots of scares and frights and special effects, the atmosphere of the original was superior. The cinematography was much creepier than most other movies of the time, and surpassed most movies of the time altogether, regardless of genre. Eleanor “Nell” Lance is portrayed remarkably well by Julie Harris, whose nervousness (and possible mental illness) really heightens the tense and sometimes claustrophobic feeling of the film.
One of the oft-analyzed aspects of the film is Theo’s implied lesbianism, which was just subtle enough to be ignored by those that wouldn’t have been able to handle the concept at the time. Some even go so far is to imply that Dr. Markway and Luke also appear to be in a homosexual relationship, but I feel as though that might be reaching just a bit.
My favorite scene in the entire movie is one in which all horror is left to the imagination, rather than explicitly showing the audience what is terrorizing the characters. In the scene Theo and Nell are in their locked rooms while something outside in the hall is seeking a way in, making a terrifyingly loud knocking and scraping noise. Nothing is more frightening in the dark than unexplained sounds, and The Haunting makes certain to play on those innate fears. It is a fantastic movie, and should be required viewing for any fan of horror.
Also, doors that look like faces are terrifying.