The Haunting (1963)

Updated: Mar 12

Review by Kelly


A scientist doing research on the paranormal invites two women to a haunted mansion. One of the participants soon starts losing her mind.”

The Haunting was released in 1963 and is based on the infamous haunted house novel, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It stars Julie Harris (Eleanor), Claire Bloom (Theodora), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), and Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson). It has seemingly achieved cult status and, as per Wikipedia, “is considered by many to be one of the best horror films in cinematic history, and one of the most unsettling. In 2010, The Guardian newspaper ranked it as the 13th-best horror film of all time. Director Martin Scorsese has placed The Haunting first on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time”.


The film is about the experiences of Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke, who were invited by a paranormal investigator, Dr. Markway, to investigate the purportedly haunted house called Hill House. Luke is eager to purchase the house and wants to see if the haunted claims are accurate. Theodora seems to be some psychic abilities whereas Eleanor is a meek woman who had a paranormal experience as a child. They all move into the house and weird events start to happen like loud banging on the walls and doors and Eleanor’s name gets written on the wall. The house (or spirits) seem attracted to Eleanor and she soon becomes more involved with the house itself, never wanting to leave it.


It took me three days to finally finish this movie, due to personal fatigue, and absolute disinterest. It took almost one hour until something supernatural happened and by the end of the 112-minute run-time, minimal actual paranormal events happened. Many haunted house movies take a while to get into the haunted aspects of the story line, which sometimes creates for a less than a thrilling ride. It also is a reason that many of the haunted house movies I have seen I don’t find to be too noteworthy.

The cinematography and music are wonderful, though, as is Hill House itself. It’s ornate and decadent, exactly what I want from an old, potentially spooky house. I can see it has a story to tell but sadly this movie does not. The Haunting seems to be more about the descent into relative madness over being about a haunted house. The narrative is relatively incoherent which made for a slightly frustrating, but mainly, unexciting experience. I did enjoy Mrs. Dudley’s line at the beginning of “No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark.” So very grim. I really was hoping to have a more creepy time. I also very much enjoyed the use of the term of feeling “ghoulish”, which means “reminding you of death in an unpleasant and frightening way”. I should bring this term back!


I was definitely disenchanted by The Haunting so wouldn't recommend it. There is also that Netflix adaptation that people were swooning over, though I haven't seen it yet. The book is probably better. I hope so as I am going to read it next month! I would recommend watching Psycho instead. What does Norman Bates have to do with haunted houses? Absolutely nothing at all.

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