The Haunting (1963)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Haunted House Film, Ensemble Film, Gothic Film, Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Between his phenomenally sunny musical successes West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), director Robert Wise found time to make this brooding, low-key shocker, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The material seemed to free up Wise's baser talents: The off-kilter, black-and-white photography goes a long way in intensifying the production's minimal special effects, and the actors uniformly overplay their parts, giving the film a streamlined momentum it might have lacked otherwise. Though the story's lesbian subtext was toned down for the film, the sleek Claire Bloom injects some much-needed sexual tension into the proceedings; the film is less about the group's battle against poltergeists than about the inner struggle between the virginal Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) and her conflicting desires. Jackson's story would be adapted for the screen again, in 1999's sub-par The Haunting.