There seem to be two kinds of horror movie watchers: those who hated The Blair Witch Project and those who loved it. For the latter, like myself, who prefer smart psychological tension over brainless gore and the all-too-easy manipulation that comes from awaiting something jumping out of the dark, I offer up an insistent suggestion to find and watch the original 1963 version of The Haunting.
This movie knows what so many imbecilic horror filmmakers of today canâ€™t seem to understand, that the scariest things imaginable are the unseen. Sound is used magnificently in the film, much like in an old radio show, where aural clues allow the audienceâ€™s own imaginations to craft their own visions of the terrors hounding the filmâ€™s characters. The wonderful result of this is that the audience feels as though theyâ€™re one of the people in the house and not simply watching a movie. Picture being in a huge, scary old mansionâ€¦at nightâ€¦aloneâ€¦in the darkâ€¦in the coldâ€¦and something thatâ€™s causing an inhuman pounding is coming down the hallway toward you. Thatâ€™s the way this movie plays, and as a result itâ€™s one of the absolute scariest films Iâ€™ve ever seen simply because you never SEE the ghosts, you only perceive the occurrences they cause.
After seeing the original, Twister director Jan de Bontâ€™s 1999 The Haunting remake is almost moronic in comparison because de Bont doesnâ€™t appear to understand that seeing CGI ghosts, moving statues, animating skeletons and the like are nowhere near as terror-inducing as NOT seeing them! The most impressive CGI that could ever be possible is still no match for the horrors that lurk in the subconscious mind.
Also, unlike de Bontâ€™s remake, director Robert Wiseâ€™s original actually gives each of the characters a purpose to be in the story. Theo isnâ€™t just some thrill-seeking bi-sexual; in the original film she has strong ESP and is invited to the house for that reason. Throughout the occurrences sheâ€™s the one who â€śsensesâ€ť when somethingâ€™s about to happen. The sexual orientation of her character is played very subtly, not as a main character trait but to add tension in a kind of â€ślove triangleâ€ť fashion when Eleanor (again, the key word here is â€śsubtlyâ€ť) begins to show signs of an infatuation with Dr. Markway. Even Luke has a solid purpose in being at the house (more than just as comic relief, anyway). Heâ€™s an arrogant playboy who stands to inherit Hill House and wants to see for himself how much money he stands to make from its sale, as well as prove wrong the absurd rumors of its â€śhauntedâ€ť condition.