Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Haunting (1963)

Director Robert Wise turns Hill House into a nightmarish place to be for its visitors as it unfolds its dark past into an unnerving haunting tale. In the opening credits images of the house are shown on a stormy night, straight away building ominous feel surrounding the house before it is even entered. The house itself appears very gothic with is towering roofs and arched windows, the blacked out widows on the house are almost like eyes that create an uncomfortable feeling of being watched. The uncomfortable thought of not being able to see in but knowing they can see out, almost like a two way looking glass.

Hill House

BBC Film review describes “...the star of the film is undoubtedly the house, and once inside it begins not only to haunt the characters but the viewer too. Cinematographer Davis Boulton extrudes considerable atmosphere from the Gothic splendour of the house. Using deliberately unsettling camera angles he captures the movie in icy cold shadow-strewn photography. (Almar Haflidason (2002.) The star of the film is certainly the house, it soon develops into a character of its own with a violent temper of banging on walls and the clever illusionist. “A perfect example of the power of implied threat...” Stuart Heritage (2010.) Davis Boulton’s ‘unsettling’ imagery is achieved by tilting the camera offsetting the angles within the scene, setting things out of the ordinary.

Screen shot of Eleanor standing at the bottom of the spiral staircase. Strong shadows from the stair well on the wall with a beam of light where Eleanor stands, creating strong lights and darks.   

Davis Boulton also uses other distortion techniques like this ‘Fish-Eye’ like this shot of character Eleanor fleeting down a corridor towards the camera. The distortion of the lens creates an illusion of looking into another world of a distorted reality. Mirrors are commonly used in the horror genre as representing a ‘gateway’ to the afterlife or a paranormal significance. The shot below could be interpreted as Eleanor being watched by a paranormal presence.
'Fish Eye' Mirror Shot: Another supernatural realm? 

“By choosing to ratchet up suspense with creeping psychological terror rather than relying on the gorefests that would define horror in years to come, The Haunting should be seen as a precursor to the current crop of low-budget frighteners, such as ‘Paranormal Activity’.” The psychological horror of ‘The Haunting’ comes from our instinctive fears of what lies in afterlife and our irrational fear of the unexplained. Something that can’t be explained by science or logic is normal deduced down to something of the supernatural. The strange happenings at Hill House begin with an echoing pounding within the walls, the sound of the banging gradually becomes louder within the girls bedroom. Characters Eleanor’s and Theodora’s reaction to the noise are that of sheer terror skilfully acted Julie Harris and Clair Bloom, it’s hard to be scared at nothing. You don’t always have to see something to be scared of something, ‘gorefests’ tend to rely on the visual horror. Luke Sanderson’s from the film quote nicely sums up this notion “I haven't seen a damn thing! I just don't like the way it looks.”
Julie Harris and Clair Bloom hysterical with fear of what is trying to break down the walls.

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