Director: Robert Wise
Stars: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton
Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic novel The Haunting of Hill House is the antithesis of what modern horror audiences are used to seeing. There's not a drop of blood in it, nor do you ever see any actual ghosts, demons, or other variety of supernatural antagonist. It's a pure sonic nightmare, with Wise's brilliant use of sounds, implications, and his actors' terrified facial reactions to relay the terror. Which, if you watch The Haunting home alone with the lights off, is no joke.
Like in Jackson's novel, the four protagonists in The Haunting are all assisting in a paranormal investigation, one for which they must spend several nights in a row living inside massive, imposing, abandoned Hill House. Wise's film is a Master's class in slowly developed dread and subtle visual effects—the sight of a bedroom door getting pushed inward, as if Bigfoot's trying to punch through it, is all Wise needs to conjure shrieks. It's the same less-is-more technique employed decades later by the filmmakers behind The Strangers and Paranormal Activity. —MB