The Haunting

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Hill House is a massive, ninety year old mansion that is vacant, unless you believe the rumors and local legends, that is. The eerie mansion is the subject of countless stories, as everyone seems to have some kind of supernatural tale about the abode. But do ghosts wander the hallways of Hill House, or are all the stories just old wives’ tales? The answer is soon to be decided once and for all, as Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) is leading a team into Hill House to observe and uncover the truth about the mansion’s reputation. His band of investigators also includes Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), who is lined up to inherit the old place, Theodora (Claire Bloom), who thinks she has powers of clairvoyance, and Eleanor (Julie Harris), who has some kind of unknown, but powerful bond with Hill House. Eleanor has been ridiculed since a supernatural event in her childhood and in recent days, her invalid mother passed on, so she sees this venture into Hill House as an escape from normal life. These four have the task of exploring Hill House, to see if spirits roam within the mansion and if so, to learn more about their presence. Luke is skeptical about the chance of real ghosts, but everyone else seems to believe the stories. But will this be a simple open & shut case, or will these four wind up with more than they bargained for?

A horror movie with no gore, no graphic violence, and no special effects, The Haunting is even rated G, to be enjoyed by all audiences. I know what you’re thinking, how is this safe movie one of the best haunted house films of all time, right? The Haunting more than lives up to its reputation however, as it has some elements most modern horror pictures lack, such as style, effective character development, and endless atmosphere. As fans of scary movies know, the eeriest elements are often those within our own minds and in The Haunting, we’re forced to explore some parts of the storyline in our own imagination. The premise here is an excellent one, as evidenced by the numerous movies based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. But this was the first and in my opinion, by far the best take on the material and in truth, The Haunting is still one of, if not the best haunted house movie out there. The eerie atmosphere is so ever present, it should qualify as a cast member, but even without it, this movie has a formidable collection of stars. You’ll see Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, and Richard Johnson, all of whom participate in an audio commentary track on this disc. In short, The Haunting is a true horror classic and even for casual genre fans, it is nothing less than a must own release.

Video: How does it look?

The Haunting is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I had hoped for a restored print to be used here, but Warner has supplied an untreated presentation. Even so, the print used is solid, though it does show some nicks, scuffs, and other signs of wear & tear. In some scenes, the print defects become frequent, but most sequences have only minor instances of debris, though grain can be problematic also. The image remains sharp and effective however, as softness never proves to be much of an issue. The gorgeous black & white visuals come off well on the whole, thanks to smooth and well balanced black levels. I did detect some inconsistent moments, but overall, contrast is well executed. So yes, I would have loved to had a new restored presentation, but this isn’t a bad treatment in the least.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original mono soundtrack is included, which doesn’t provide a dynamic experience, but it sounds more than solid. I mean, you can’t expect every older mono track to sound out of this world, as sometimes, a passable presentation is just fine. Perhaps a new remix could have enhanced the atmosphere in this case, but even as it stands, this soundtrack is acceptable. It is mono of course, so don’t expect depth or range, which is a real loss in a movie like this, which could have used some added eerie presence. The dialogue sounds good though and no real defects can be heard, so I see no reason to complain too much. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A great audio commentary is up first, as director Robert Wise, screenwriter Nelson Gidding, and several cast members recall the production. The comments run at a steady stream and while the speakers were recorded apart, the editing is well done. All you could want to know about The Haunting and more, this is one great session. This disc also includes some still photos, an essay on ghost stories, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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