Whose hand was I holding ?

It’s odd to think that in fifty or sixty years from now there might be only a handful of films, released in the last decade, that will be remembered at all.

However thinking back to the black and white films, that still keep me glued to the edge of my seat, there is one director who has such an incredible influence on the films I still enjoy, Robert Earl Wise born today 1914, sadly died 2005.

He made the fantastic seem not only plausible but very likely with “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and I can honestly say, that every alien encounter I’ve ever experienced on screen has been measured against this.

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But even after all these years, there is one film that still gets under my skin, and I find it just as unsettling now as the first time I watched it, relying on subtlety and suggestion for its horror “The Haunting is what my father still calls a real “scary film” !

It centres on the notorious Hill House a group of “paranormal” investigators rent it for a few weeks for the summer with Dr John Markway (Richard Johnson) explaining that he hopes to find either “a few loose floorboards… or maybe the key to another world?”

But soon after they arrive, Hill House begins to demonstrate how and why it achieved its reputation- dividing its newest occupants Luke (Russ Tamblyn), Theo (Claire Bloom) and Eleanor (Julie Harris) and preying on their weaknesses.

Eleanor (Nell) feels that she has finally found a place to call home, she sees it as her paradise – but it’s not, there is something wrong with Hill House, something terribly wrong – all linked back to its original owner Hugh Crain, with a series of tragic accidents – the upset carriage that killed his first wife, the fall down the stairs that killed his second and the suicide of his daughter’s companion.

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Something un-natural and unseen lives here – the statues seem to move in the corners of our eyes, the mirrors catch you off guard – giving the impression that some mysterious stranger is watching from the shadows.

The one thing you will never forget is the sound – what we, along with Nell can only hear. When that unseen “something” or “someone” pounds closer and closer along the hallway outside Nell and Theo’s room the fright comes from what we can’t see hitting the walls, scratching and then hammering on the door, even as the camera focuses mere inches from the doorknob turning by itself.

Again the next night Nell hears some ghastly chanting and the cries of a child from behind the wall – like her we can’t see anything, our imagination fills the gaps – but when she screams, the lights come up and realises the cold hand she has been holding wasn’t Theo’s!!!

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Robert Wise was a master film-maker and this is what makes the film so very special he leaves us to create the horrors ourselves; what IS that on the other side of the door turning the knob? What is that scraping on the woodwork? Is there really a child trapped in the house?

It proves that what scares us the most is what lurks in the shadows, whispered voices, the odd angle of a hallway… and something that pounds its way around a huge, dark old house at night.

It’s all about atmosphere, ghost stories should frighten you – something that crawls into your brain and makes you turn the lights on when the night is too dark! And let’s face it, you’re not likely to run into a psychotic madman who forces you to solve deadly puzzles (like SAW) but who’s to say that strange noise coming from your empty upstairs rooms isn’t a ghost?

I would urge you to get yourself re-acquainted with the house that started it all. The house that influenced countless others, the house that is “not sane” that has stood for 90 years and may stand for 90 more, but remember the dead aren’t quiet in Hill House…in the night… in the dark… !

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One Response to “Whose hand was I holding ?”

  1. I adore ghost stories/haunted house films and you are right, the unseen things are the scariest (and my favorite). The first time I saw The Hunting it was the remake, I thought it was creepy and fun but did not dive into the real terror until years later. The first, the only, the Robert Wise directed masterpiece terrified me. I was home alone and it was Halloween night too!

    So happy I revisited your blog, I’ll be commenting more soon!

    Blog| http://www.thecinemadoll.com

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