(AMC+/SHUDDER/VOD) If you’re reading this, there’s probably a 50/50 chance you’ve watched THE HAUNTING and, if so, it’s well-worth a re-watch! If you haven’t? Well, that’s what these electronic missives are for!
THE HAUNTING (1962, not to be confused with the 1999 version, which isn’t as bad as you may remember) is probably the closest to a definitive Shirley Jackson adaptation we’ll ever get, and not just because she was actively involved with the adaptation. While it excises and condenses the book, it never loses track of the complexities of Eleanor, the figurehead of the story, wanting to be wanted, but unaware as to how she can be needed.
It helps that THE HAUNTING is shot with a pitch-perfect eye. Director Robert Wise (a goddamn Hollywood legend as the award-winning editor of CITIZEN KANE and director/producer of WEST SIDE STORY, THE SOUND OF MUSIC) and cinematographer Davis Boulton used an experimental Panavision 30mm lens that lends an unmistakably unique look to the film; the occasional lens distortion helps to amplify certain scenes near the end of the film.
The lens, in tandem with the claustrophobic and detailed sets and the intense lighting gives the house a verve (while often framing all of the primary characters as entrapped or jailed) that required almost absolutely no ‘traditional’ haunting visual effects, relying instead on perfect sound design, and all of it dovetails with the intense internal monologuing from Eleanor.
THE HAUNTING is a perfect Halloween film, one that’ll make you think about your surroundings as you lumber off to bed, all while questioning your own place.