Friday, May 28, 2010

A Review of the Three Manifestations of The Haunting

Fictional ghosts and hauntings are often the most wonderful.  My favorite fictional haunting can be found in the works of Shirley Jackson.  The Haunting of Hill house is possibly the best haunting book ever written.  The story is beautifully written and creates a story that breathes life into a house turning it into a creature unto itself.  It is a slow tale of the seductive power of darkness.  Its main characters are psychics and ghost hunters brought together for the singular purpose of opening up the darkness locked within Hill house.  According to Jackson,  Hill house was evil from the beginning. Deaths and tragedy swirl around it like the mist that settles on the grass around it.  As the main characters explore Hill house,  they are tortured by a subtle and psychological haunting that drives them to the brink of madness and pulls one of them to their death.  Jackson draws us into Hill house with words of such beauty that you could drown in them and there is nothing that can describe them as well as to quote them.

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

In 1963,  Robert Wise directed a movie version of The Haunting of Hill house called The Haunting.  Filmed in black and white,  The Haunting is a slow a deliberated film that builds on the terror of those trapped in Hill house to create a terror more real than any slasher movie has created.  This movie follows the plot of the book closely and carefully recreates the almost romantic attachment the main character, Eleanor, develops for the house. Jackson's own words start and end the film in all  their chilling beauty.   This is still one of the best haunting/horror movies ever made.

In 1999,  Hollywood imagined it could remake The Haunting.  I'm not sure if the directors of the 1999 revision of the classic read or understood Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill house at all.  This remake of  two masterpieces lacked everything that made the first to manifestations great.  It lacked the subtlety and psychology that pulled you into a dark pool of human emotion and left you there to drown.  It replaces these things,  with over the top special effects and characters that are both uninteresting and unbelievable.  It adds bizarre plot lines about child serial killers and dead relatives that are both unnecessary and badly thought out.   In the end,  it was at times so bad it was laughable.   It is a shame that this movie was even made.

The Haunting of Hill house and  The Haunting (1963) are two of the greatest depictions of hauntings in art.  Its to bad Hollywood can't just leave perfection alone.

2 comments:

Autumnforest said...

Yes, my favorite of all time! Shirley Jackon's rendition was the THE best edition. The 1963 movie version was a wonderful adapation and I can't even find a word that describes the newest version--good God! What were they doing with the storyline??? Yikes! It wasn't scary. I sat in the theater and laughed the entire time and was nearly escorted out. Yeah, you don't mess with a masterpiece--like redoing "Gone With the Wind" and casting Catherine Heigl as Scarlet!

Jessica Penot said...

Not Catherine Heigl!!!! Knowing Hollywood they would remake Gone With the Wind and add special effects and bigger explosions... It is sad.