The Haunting (1963)

THE HAUNTING (1963)
So widely praised, it's inevitably a letdown


This is a good movie, make no mistake. It's a good, suspenseful, well-made and wonderfully directed film. It's just not the complete nerve-shatterer I'd hoped for. It is for one scene, though. Voices in the night, what almost looks like a face on the wall...this scene was so excruciatingly suspenseful, I just knew I'd scream out loud if that thing moved. Easily one of the most frightening single scenes I've ever borne witness to in a movie.

But the rest of the film is merely, uh, good. And the biggest flaw I can think of lies with the four characters, who for the most part, I couldn't stand. I'd have liked them and the movie much better had they simply been flat, drab John and Jane Does. Instead, we get this wisecracking youngster who'd be played by Will Smith if the film were made today. Some lady named Eleanor who is in the "Veronica Cartwright" role of the constant whiner/sobber. Some guy (who's a dead ringer for Terry O'Quinn) who's doing his best Rhett Butler imitation. And finally, some lady who in every scene seems to be on the verge of sticking her tongue in Eleanor's ear. This lady I rather liked, but she was distracting. 

Between the four of them, I found myself without anyone to really sympathize with or hope to survive. I didn't care if the doctor got his scientific proof, if the wisecracker actually got in a funny line, if Eleanor survived sane or if the lesbian chick finally got to go down on Eleanor. For that matter, I rather hoped that Eleanor and the wisecracker would die quickly. 

This aside, like I said, it is an extremely well-made movie which makes excellent use of sound (imagine if it had been made in this day of THX and surround - I doubt that the upcoming remake will realize its full potential, but I can hope) and visuals, and boasts that one, almost unbearably terrifying scene. But with characters this poor, this
distractingly poor, I can't call this one a classic, no matter how many others do. 

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