For Reel

The Haunting (1963)
March 29, 2015, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Wise
5 Stars
The HauntingMuch has been made of the terrific use of subtlety in The Haunting–few films so confidently fulfill the audience’s perverse desire to be terrified by doing so little. But that almost seems to undermine its heavily stylized tendencies, from the Wellesian prologue and deep focus camerawork to its articulation of Julie Harris’ rapidly deteriorating mental state. Although it shows very little, what it does show is an absolute feast. Davis Boulton’s cinematography (and certainly the direction of Robert Wise, who worked on Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons) makes terrific use of the wide-angle lens, using the warped dimensions on the edges of the frame to further suggest Hill House’s sentient, ever-changing quality. One of the best shots foregrounds a nervous Harris as two characters converse in the background, all in perfect focus. It’s both an impressive trick of deep focus photography and one of the many shots that brings the viewer into Harris mental state. Harris’ performance (or rather, her character) is oft-criticized, but her psychosis is one of The Haunting’s most terrifying qualities. She’s a collection of turbulent neuroses, among the most outspokenly miserable of screen heroines. Perhaps Hill House is not so specifically enamored with her, rather she’s the only one too weak to resist its authority.

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