The Haunting

The Haunting (1963), a fine example of the classic horror genre based on a foreboding mansion.

I found the original 1963 'The Haunting' to be a great example of horror achieved through straightforward yet effective means with subtle undertones. Dark tones and great use of lighting lead to a creepy atmosphere, with disturbing sounds that is never shown or revealed as to the cause or explanation - it leaves a great sense of uncertainty of the unknown further creating gripping tension and horror. Where perhaps some would find it lacking in this way, I find it much more terrifying due to the simple fact that nothing is ever explained exploiting our natural fear of the unknown, instead the horror is left to one's own conjuration in the psychological depths of the mind. This becomes particularly apparent with Eleanor Lance as we are witness to her descent into madness essentially by fear of nothing but the foreboding peculiar aspects of the mansion.

The mansion being made with walls positioned in peculiar angles was an intriguing concept fitting with a sense of the unknown and claustrophobia - perhaps also the one sole explanation as to the closing nature of the doors! The set and sense of space seemed very real with an ominous atmosphere of an environment in chaos and despair. While I didn't notice the lack of blurring in perception and depth leaving everything set in focus, the scene here illustrates this for a very dramatic effect (apologises for the small image).

The cast of characters that fill the space were brilliant, sharing their own intriguing backgrounds and individual personalities that respond differently to the terrors of the mansion. From Dr. John Markway compelled by his fascination of the paranormal, to Luke Sanderson's rather indifferent nature with light-hearted humour and sense of preservation; together the characters cultivate well for a very intriguing and engrossing watch. Of course, one can not forget the wild cries of terror of Eleanor Lance.

A lesbian subtext? I didn't think so at first, but it later became a reoccurring act with Theodora and Eleanor. As to the intention, I'm not to sure why other than the interesting make-up break-up relation between the two women.

Overall, I enjoyed watching The Haunting being a prime example where the use of subtlety can work wonders in creating tension, depth and horror; much to contrary of the more recent 1999 adaptation where I hear the use of subtlety is completely removed in favour of a obvious and horrible use of CG.


tutorphil said...

have a look at Jackie Hagan's blog for more musings about the thematic contribution of the 'lesbian subtext' - there's a predatory element to Theo's character - arguably quite vampiric, as she can 'see' into Eleanor's mind and manipulate her accordingly; admittedly, the notion of predatory lesbians is a bit of societal cliche, but in the context of the movie it just adds to the idea that Eleanor is the centre of the film - did you notice the way in which, at times, Eleanor simply faded out of existence within the house - it happens early in the film just before the two women meet the other characters - the camera tracks backwards and the lights on Eleanour fade into darkness - lovely theatrical stuff! :-)

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