Monday, 28 March 2011

The Haunting Review

In 1963 Robert Wise directed the cult thriller "The Haunting". A film that over the years has gained remarkable reputation with it's restrained technique of building up the tension and terror.

The film sees Dr John Markway gather three other people with prior paranormal experiences to investigate the haunting background of 'Hill House'. The story of Hill House is relayed for us at the beginning of the film. The house was built 90 years before the film's present day by a man called Hugh Crain. He built it for his wife and daughter but it is told that the evil of the house killed the wife before she even saw it (her horses bolted smashing her carriage against a tree). Crain married again but she soon died in strange circumstances as she was startled by an 'aparition' and then fell down the stairs. Abigail, Crain's young daughter remained in the house, living in the same nursery room for her whole life until she was old and bedridden. She took on a young local girl as a paid companion. After Abby's death the girl inherited the house, Many of the locals wondered whether she murdered the old lady. Again the evil inside the house was to drive this young woman mad and she too died by hanging herself.

Now in the present day Hill house is empty but is under investigation by Dr Markway, a paranormal enthusiast who desperately wants to witness evidence of ghosts. He is joined by two women, Elenore and Theo and a young man named Luke who actually has inherited the house. During their stay a mixture of evil paranoral activity draws them closer to the building's horrific past. The film closely follows the experiences of Elenore and her belief that the house wants her and has chosen her as its next victim. This later comes true as she crashes her car into the same tree that was the fate of the first Mrs Crain.

It is important to say at this point that no ghosts or aparitions are seen in the film. The events are portrayed through strange use of lighting, diogetic sounds and uncontrolable movements of furniture. The architecture of the house is vitally important. Low angle camera shots enhance the house looming over the people destined to venture inside. with its, dark and gothic towers and large black windows it appears incredibly threatening. Elenore responds to this by saying that she thinks "It is staring at(me)".

"Silence lay steady against the wood... and whatever walked there walked alone." This is one of the first quotes in the film emphasising to the audience that every part of this house is evil and dangerous to it's inhabitants.

Mentioning before the use of low angle shots to make the house appear tall and threatening there are other uses of camera shots to build the tension and terror. Very high angle shots are used to increase a sense of vertigo The still to the left is a prime example of this. The scene when the companion hangs herself at the top of the spiral stairs. The shot is well composed to allow only the bottom of the victims legs within the mise en scene and the sudden drop to the floor with nowhere to break the fall.

Aswell as camera shots sound was also a very important in creating tension of an aperition of force that cannot be seen by the victims. Through certain scenes in the house dripping taps and the howling wind are regular (most likely non diagetic soundtracks passed off as diagetic sound). During the scene when Elenore and Theo have retired to their (ajoined) rooms a threatening thumping on the doors frightening the characters inside the rooms and again building up the tension with the audience as to what is going to happen next.

Elenore's character is deeply explored during the film. She comes from a home with her sister and brother in law. Her mother had reacently died after Elenore had spent many years looking after her. She recieves much anger and bitterness from her sister and it is insinuated that her sister believes that Elenore wanted her mother dead. In fact during the film the audience begin to question if Elenore murdered her mother. Because of her charcaters nature, very juvinille and innocent there is some debate over her mental stability. She needs stability and dependancy. Starting off by clinging closely to Theo. As she soon begins to believe that the house is focusing its attensions on her then her behaviour becomes even stranger. She goes from being a person who is looked over and taken for granted to the centre of importance. Her behaviour is very self centred and even endangers the others, for example when she is climbing the spiral staircase that is soon to collape she ignores Dr Markway's begs for her to come down and so he follows her in attempt of rescue. The end of the films sees Elenore sent away from the house for her own safty and against her own will, she wished to stay "forever" in this house that wants her and that she has beceome a part of. when driving away her car steers out of control into a tree. The audience questions whether the house took over the control of her car or infact it was Elenore who unknowingly tried to turn back to the house? whatever happened she succeeded as she now is part of the House's long and tragic history, she is one of those who walks alone within the silent walls

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