Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Haunting

Apparently I've never blogged about The Haunting before. It's a perfect horror film for the run-up to Halloween, so it's not surprising that TCM has selected it as part of its October horror lineup, airing tonight at 8:00 PM.

Julie Harris stars as Eleanor. She's the youngest daughter in a family we only see at the beginning of the movie. As the youngest daughter, she was given the task of looking after Mother in her declining years, kind of like Bette Davis' character in Now, Voyager. Unsurprisingly, she hasn't particularly liked the fate that life has handed her, and has a smoldering rage under her skin. She's also got a relative lack of social skills, what with having had to spend so much time with Mom and away from the rest of the world. The lack of social skills, however, may also have something to do with her possibly having psychic abilities.

It's those potential abilities that are going to give her a sense of freedom, at least in getting away from her family. Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) is a scientist investigating psychic phenomena, and he's got a doozy of a phenomenon. One of those grand old houses is seemingly haunted, and Markway is determined to figure out what's really going on. So he's collected not only Eleanor, but a couple of other people with possible psychic ability, notably Theodora (Claire Bloom), who gets to be Eleanor's roomate. Rounding out the crew investigating is Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn). The house is in his family, and he stands to inherit it, but deep down inside, he doesn't really think the place is haunted.

At this point, the movie becomes, if not clichéd, then at lesat slighly predictable. The investigators start running into phenomena that may or may not be explainable. And are these things even happening to everybody? Perhaps they're all just in Eleanor's imagination, since there are times that they're not all together, so not everybody sees what happens to everybody else. And Eleanor, having had the difficult family life she did, is already economically maladjusted without even having to worry about whether the place is actually haunted.

The Haunting is a great movie, in part because it's so low-key. There are a lot of horror movies that take pride in being gory, but The Haunting is entirely at the other end of the spectrum, reminiscent of the swimming pool scene in Cat People. Harris also does an excellent job portraying the woman who we don't know whether she's going insane, or whether there really are things happening to her. And as with The Cat People, forcing the viewer to use his own imagination helps make the film more frightening tha you'd otherwise think.

No comments: