The Haunting at the IMDb
Another haunted house yarn now with modern era Japan giving way to the black and white America of 1963. Many of the ingredients are the same as our previous offering ‘The Grudge’ and so are the uneven and lukewarm results.
The film opens with a potted history of Hill House, a sprawling gothic mansion. Its original owner’s wife died when her carriage crashed and lots of subsequent occupants have met their own grisly fates. The present owner has stayed away, but as she’s getting on she wishes to know the truth. She agrees to loan the place to the Doctor out of ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ so that he can conduct experiments to prove or disprove its haunted house status.
After extensive profiling he chooses six volunteers to stay for a few days. Sadly his time is wasted as he ends up with only three - Eleanor who has an irritating inner monologue, Theo, a psychic lady who likes Eleanor and Luke, a gadabout who stands to inherit the house and who is keen to keep an eye on his property.
The three move in and pretty soon the haunted house staples of closing doors and cold rooms take over. The two ladies don their long nighties and experiences all sorts of bumps in the night. Sadly the budget doesn’t stretch to much so the haunting stays as the loud noises and bulging door level throughout. Eleanor is quickly unhinged and soon starts to fixate on the dashing Doc who has more than a little of the Clark Gables about him.
Sadly for Eleanor the Doc’s wife shows up in the shape of Miss Moneypenny but she disappears just as fast. Soon even the cynical Luke is a believer but can the cast survive the night? and will the twist be that really obvious one signalled from the off. Oh it is!
This seems to be a well regarded horror film but there wasn’t enough meat on its bones for me. They went for that cheap slow and psychological terror build up that just gets tiresome after a while. We the viewer knew the house had issues from the off but it took the characters so long to get there I had lost interest by the time they did. There were loads of really invasive musical cues with blaring ominous portents rounded off by some plinky plonk piano keys - really annoying the second time never mind the tenth.
The actors were all good apart from Julie Harris in the lead who was really needy and unlikable. Of course it was part of her character to be unhinged and random but she just came across as unsympathetic and annoying. Her arc where she went from inquisitive to needy to plain out mental was misjudged with the haunted house seemingly turning her dial from zero to max overnight. The lesbian sub plot wasn’t really explored, but it was no surprise that the predatory psychic wore black while our chaste and chased heroine was in white.
The only special effects were a wobbly staircase and a bulging door and although some will tell you the biggest scares are those you imagine they are clearly wrong. The film would probably play better as a small stage production because as a feature film it came across as cheap and underwhelming. The overlong build-up was a poor investment as the ending was flagged from the off and you just wish the idea that “the place should be burned to the ground” had come to Luke five minutes from the start rather than at the end.
THE Tag Line - Haunted House More Shite Than Fright -52%