31 movies to watch in October: The Haunting

Fay Compton (1894 - 1978), Claire Bloom and Julie Harris (1925 - 2013) (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Fay Compton (1894 - 1978), Claire Bloom and Julie Harris (1925 - 2013) (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

Welcome to yet another day in our 31 movies in 31 days October challenge. Today we are going black and white old school with a classic ghost story dating back to 1963.

When you think of October and Halloween, two of the first things that come to mind are ghosts and haunted houses, and one of the best pieces of haunted house literature is Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House.

You may be familiar with the popular (and very good) Netflix series, but it was a totally different story from the book. The Haunting is very true to its source material, and it is a rare example of a movie that lives up to the original story. A word of caution: Do not under any circumstances get this amazing film confused with the dismal, lackluster 1999 remake.

Director Robert Wise was at the end of production for West Side Story when he began reading the novel and was at one of the most frightening points in the book when a screenwriter burst into the room. Wise said he was so startled that he jumped out of his chair, and figured that something that terrifying absolutely had to be made into a film.

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Dr. John Markaway decides to conduct some paranormal research inside the supposedly haunted Hill House. Though he invites several people who have experienced paranormal events, only two show up: Theodora, who is a psychic, and Eleanor, who experienced some poltergeist-type phenomena when she was a child.

Although a few other people join the group as well, most of the activity within the house centers around the two women. This is, obviously, not a CGI-effects driven film, all of the frightening events were filmed using practical effects, but they are very effective at providing the eerie atmosphere you look for in a ghost story.

A good example is a scene where a sturdy looking door begins to bulge as if someone (or something) is pushing on it. In reality, the door was constructed of thin laminated wood, and the effect was achieved by a crew member pushing on it with a chunk of tinder.

Julie Harris and Claire Bloom play Theo and Eleanor, and both give excellent performances. In my favorite scene, the two have decided to bunk together due to their fear, and Eleanor is awakened in the night by the sound of voices. In terror, she asks Theo to hold her hand and seems comforted by this…until Theo turns on the light from across the room, and Eleanor asks, “Whose hand was I holding?” Brrr…gives me the shivers just remembering that!

This is a film with no gore, and the fear is generated by the atmosphere and some great simple effects. It’s deliciously eerie and spooky, and watching it in October with the lights out is highly advised.

Next. 31 movies to watch in October: Tourist Trap. dark

The Haunting can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and iTunes.

Have you seen the original version of The Haunting? How do you think it compares to the remake and the series? Let us know what you think in the comments section.