Made in 1963 The Haunting is one of the best-ever movie ghost stories and was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. Suave ghost-hunter Richard Johnson takes a couple of psychic women–neurotic spinster Julie Harris and elegant lesbian Claire Bloom–to stay in Hill House, which has unsettling architecture (the spiral staircase is especially unnerving) and a bad reputation. Russ Tamblyn is along as a jive-talking sceptic, but he soon shuts up as the eerie phenomena mount up. The scene with a breathing door is a wonderful terror highlight, and the business about whose hand Harris is holding in the dark (she thinks it’s Bloom, but Bloom is on the other side of the room) provides a moment of unmatched creepiness. Perhaps director Robert Wise allows too much psychology into the picture, letting you off the hook with the possibility that the twitchy Harris is behind all the spookery, but he fills the widescreen frame with really scary stuff and the cast are perfect.
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