The Haunting (1963)


A paranormal investigator (Richard Johnson) invites three others to stay with him at a ninety-year-old mansion to determine whether it is haunted. One of his guests is a skeptic (Russ Tamblyn) who will one day inherit the house, while another (Claire Bloom) is a clairvoyant. But it’s the third guest (Julie Harris) who has the strongest and most unsettling connection to the property — one that may ultimately consume her.

Under the subtle, stylish direction of Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story), The Haunting winds tension without any overtly supernatural displays. Instead, there’s suggestive camera work and spooky sound design representing the paranoia of its characters. While the film operates on a more psychological level, boosted by frequent inner monologues by Julie Harris, Wise creates a palpable atmosphere where you absolutely believe there might be a ghost in the room or that a statue might move.

Harris’s performance is grating at times, but she succeeds in helping Wise create an ambiguous interpretation of the film — is the house really haunted? Or is she insane? Either way, the house wins at the end of The Haunting, making the explanation brilliantly irrelevant.

With Fay Compton and Lois Maxwell (James Bond’s Miss Moneypenny).

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