Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 25, 2010

R.I.P. V: Peril on the Screen – The Haunting

peril on the screenOver the course of a year filled with the viewing of hundreds of movies, the horror genre takes a far back seat. The gore caused by chainsaw wielding madmen, viscous ghosts, exorcisms… Yeck. I just don’t usually want those images in my head. I can take the stuff in small doses, and in mild forms, and certain styles appeal to me. Hitchcock I like, atmospheric weirdness like The Shinning both pins me to my seat and thrills me. I never really know what will work for me – I just know that I’ll never feel the need to watch Turistas!

the hauntingHowever, for the Peril on the Screen portion of R.I.P. V I decided to throw caution to the wind and watch…at least one scary movie. I ended up sort of watching three, although the 2009 version of Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth failed to either scare or thrill me, and Repo Men was just outright annoying. Which leaves me with my one scary movie – exactly the sort of mood based subconscious-screwing spook fest that really gets under my skin. It was the 1963 The Haunting, of course, which I had to watch as a follow-up to my reading of the book it’s based on.

eleanor and theoIt turned out to be a startlingly fabulous book-to-screen transformation. Slight details in character names and motivations were changed for the script, but the mood of the book was perfectly captured, and the use of camera angles and tricks in set design and shot composition brought the haunted Hill House to life in a way that impressed me and totally freaked me out. Nothing truly scary happens in the movie, but the creeping of the characters through the house, the unexplained noises in the corridors, the half-glimpsed reflection in the mirror, and the build-up of the effect as seen in the reactions of poor Eleanor, is subtly frightening. My boyfriend tried to watch it with me, but it was too much for him! His nervous prowl of the house only added to my own tense state. The acting in it is excellent, with particularly good performances from Julie Harris and Claire Bloom as Eleanor and Theo. And Rosalie Crutchley as Mrs. Dudley, the strange housekeeper, was horribly perfect – of all the moments in the movie, the part that I can’t seem to forget is when she is telling Eleanor that she and her husband leave the house at dusk, so there will be no one to hear them scream, in the dark…in the night….ahhhh!! So creepy, so brilliant.

ettington park hotelOn a random side note, when I was reading the book I felt like it was set in England. I might have missed a detail. In the movie the driving instructions that Eleanor receives clearly mention Boston and indicate that Hill House is in New England. That makes sense because Shirley Jackson was American, so the house should definitely be located in New England. In the movie though, all the filming of the house was done at Alderminster, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, UK. It was filmed at what is now the Ettington Park Hotel, which has a pretty fascinating history, is very brooding and neo-Gothic ,and is really, really old – and haunted. If you follow the link to the hotel site, there is a piece written by the retired Night Manager of the place about his own encounters with ghosts there, as well as the encounters of others. Great stuff. According to him, Ettington Park’s ghosts are the nice sort: “I must emphasise however, that in all my experiences I have never once felt threatened in any way. On the contrary, I have always found the atmosphere at Ettington to be a warm, happy and welcoming one despite any sinister appearances.” Taking all this into consideration, I may have to add Ettington Park Hotel to my list of places to stay when I go to England. 🙂

I’ll make no promises about further scary movie watching. As circumstances arise they pass through my entertainment center, but even with this fine horror movie watching experience, I won’t be seeking them out on a regular basis. What I would like to get my hands on once more before the season is out though, is one of Southern Tier Brewing Company’s (Lakewood, NY) Imperial Pumkings. This beer helped me sit through The Haunting, and it is without a doubt the best pumpkin beer I’ve tried this year. It tastes like warm pumpkin bread, delicious and spicy but with a kick that is suitable considering it’s namesake – from the label: “Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed!” It’s changed me – pumpkin ales have a new standard to beat!

My movie of choice for tonight is Delicatessen – possibly a horror movie, but more likely just the right mix of mind-bending, weird dark comedy that I like. 🙂


  1. Oh man, I really need to read this book—and then, apparently, to see the movie! And what an amazing-looking location for filming.

    Based on some of her short stories (the ones not obviously set in NYC, or having to do with race relations), I can understand confusing Jackson’s America with an England of a similar era. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but especially her rural stories could definitely be taking place on the other side of the pond.

  2. sounds like a great seasonal film.. to be viewed in full daylight! the sounds, the unseen, those really get to me.


  3. […] Movies: The Haunting […]

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