Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion.
Based on the 1959 novel "The Haunting of the Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting is a psychological-suspense with implied, off-screen violence that all ages, who can tolerate expressions of uncertain powers of the "unknown", will enjoy huddled beneath a blanket on the couch.
Dr. John Markway, a research anthropologist of the paranormal,assembles a group to partake in his study within the Hill House, which he leases from the owner, Mrs. Sanderson, for a week. 90-year old Hill House is known around the Boston, MA area as the place you do not want to be at when it is dark because something undetermined is wrong with this house. Dr. Markway wants to discover the problem in hopes to prove the existence of something beyond human.
Only two of the invited guests, Theodora and Eleanor, accept hisinvitation of study. Those chosen to stay in the house posses aunique sensitivity to this unknown which he feels will help surface the proof needed to support his supernatural theory. Theodora, a psychic and taunting manipulator to those who are not on her level of awareness, and Eleanor, a determined, slightly off-kiltered woman with a past experience that is as mysterious and uncertain as Hill House, are the first to arrive. They are joined by Luke Sanderson, the heir grandson and true non-believer in experience beyond belief.
Pay attention to the use of music, sounds, and composition of frames for they intensify the eerie tone. The music shapes the protagonist by providing an emotional insight to her psyche, and plays on the fears of other characters. You will also find yourself lingering in silent suspense alongside Eleanor and Theodora in several scenes. The creative editing splices out the gruesome details leaving only the implied thought of murder which is appealing to those who dislike being forced on its viewing. What is in the frame further heightens the sense of that not-quite-right feeling throughout the film and can make you feel like you are have transcended to somewhere outside theliving room.
Also establishing the unnaturalness of the house is the odd manner of the Dudleys, especially Mrs. Dudley. They are the hired help and the only ones in town who will come to Hill House to maintain its condition. Mrs. Dudley's presence is unnerving and you will enjoy how her smile sends an unsettling chill up your spine. A question left unanswered is why Hill House has been the culprit of several murders. Mr. Crane provided a beautiful mansion for his family, but the family was either prevented from living there or fell under its panes entrapping the individual for life. Was it just poor construction of the mansion, or was Mr. Crane a truly disturbed being who wanted to forever possess something he can no longer have? I leave you to discover this answer on your own.
Do not think of Director Robert Wise as strictly a man of thischilling genre; he is versatile. Check out other movies he has had a creative hand in: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), The Sound of Music (1965), West Side Story (1961), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and The Body Snatcher (1945).