Year: 1963

Director: Robert Wise

Cast:Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell, Valentine Dyall, Diane Clare, and Ronald Adam

The Haunting is just that, haunting.  It is not a slasher.  It is not gory, It has a strong atmosphere.  This is a film that relies heavily on stimulating emotions and getting those little hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end.  It allows the imagination of the viewer to run wild, creating an experience that is uniquely creepy for every member of the audience.
 
It follows a scientist into a home that is apparently haunted.  He brings a small group of people he has hand selected to the home who have had supernatural experiences in the past.  Most of them take the experience in stride but one of the young participants, Eleanor Lance becomes increasingly distressed by the home.  Eleanor Lance is played by Julie Harris whose performance carries this film.  Claire Bloom also stands out at the only other female in the house.  She comes across as simultaneously supportive to Eleanor Lance and at the same time judgmental and condescending.  There also feels like there is a certain tension between the two that is enjoyable to watch.
 
Another element of the film that is especially impressive is the cinematography and the sound design.  This is a film that utilizes the skills of a expert filmmaker to deliver the chills, not gory encounters and CGI like so many films that have been released since The Haunting was released in 1963.  This is a ghost story for those who love the medium of film in the purest sense.  In some respects this strength of the film may also be its weakness, since many modern audiences crave explicit content in horror films.  This reviewer, relishes a film that is able to creep an audience out without simply relying one hundred percent on gore and violence.
 
As a side note, fans of early Bond films will enjoy Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny, from so many of the earliest Bond movies) in The Haunting, who has a key, but small role in the film.
 
Also, fans of the rock band White Zombie will notice a line from the film that was sampled and utilized at the beginning of the song Super-Charger Heaven on the album Astro-Creep: 2000

Year: 1947

Director: Robert Wise

Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long

Sam Wild is a man who is inexplicably confident and is willing to trample over anyone in his way to get where he is going. His confidence ends up taking him places, despite being a nobody. He is impulsive and dangerous. Women want him and wise men stay out of his way. When he encounters Helen Trent, played by Claire Trevor, she begins to fall for him, despite her engagement to a successful man who means stability and comfort for her, which she claims to desperately desire.

There is a difference between characters making poor choices and characters making choices that are contrived to further the story.

At times this film teeters on the line between the two. There are too many moments that seem contrived and hard to swallow, including some of the actions of Sam Wild. His character comes across as sensational at times. This is Hollywood trying to be shocking, and not being as convincing as I would like.

Had they ironed out the script a little I think this film could have been so much more.

There are some memorable performances by some great actors in it however.

Elisha Cook Jr. plays Sam’s best friend and the relationship between the two is interesting to watch and analyze. His devotion becomes more and more interesting. It seems Sam’s confidence is attractive to everyone, and even breeds devotion from those like his friend who would be better off not associating with such an impulsive man. Keep your eyes peeled for the interaction between these two.

Esther Howard is also fun to watch as an old woman who amuses herself vicariously through the escapades of young women she befriends, especially one Laury Palmer who ends up dead after she is spotted by her boyfriend with another man.

This movie is worth seeing but mostly forgettable. Despite my relative indifference towards the film I can understand those who really enjoy it and unlike some films that don’t overly impress me I wouldn’t want to discourage people from seeing it. I think some of the ideas behind the film are quite intriguing in fact, I just didn’t feel they were executed as well as I would have liked.

Seinfeld fans will remember Lawrence Tierney, who plays Sam Wild, as Elaine’s intimidating father. It seems Lawrence Tierney had a face for intimidation. He is intimidating in this film as well, and is just wild enough (his last name can’t be a coincidence) that he should be feared and avoided.

By Greg Dickson