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VIDEO DISCOVERY

Bloodless Chills and Thrills? Try 'The Haunting' for Its Psychological Horror

August 02, 1990|ERIK HAMILTON

Is it possible to scare the holy geebees out of someone without the use of elaborate special effects, fake decapitations and gallons of make-believe blood? It is, and it's called "The Haunting." This black-and-white gem, based on the late Shirley Jackson's best-selling novel, "The Haunting of Hill House," just may be the best supernatural movie ever made.

You never even see the malevolent spirits. Director Robert Wise ("West Side Story," "The Day the Earth Stood Still") works the viewer's imagination with chilling sounds, suburb cinematography, weird camera angles and dark and light shading.

The plot is simple: An anthropologist (Richard Johnson) wants to prove once and for all that there are such things as ghosts. So he finds a 99-year-old haunted house in New England and enlists the help of two psychics--Julie Harris and Claire Bloom (talk about mega-casting)--and a wisecracking skeptic, played by "West Side Story" and "Twin Peaks' " Russ Tamblyn. The viewer ends up with 112 minutes worth of sweaty palms, elevated blood pressure and just about everything a scary movie should deliver.

A few suggestions: Watch it at night--the later the better--with the lights out. And, if possible, watch it with someone who doesn't mind having his or her arms gripped.

"The Haunting" (1963), directed by Robert Wise. 112 minutes. No rating.

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