The Haunting (1963)

haunting poster 1963 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great ghost story

Moves intentionally slow

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Haunting

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  September 18, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Now, why are we here again?

Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Having spent her life taking care of her mother and forced to live with her sister and her family, Nell is invited by Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) to investigate a haunted house known as Hill House with a woman named Theodora (Claire Bloom) and the home’s future owner Luke Sannerson (Russ Tamblyn).  Something is wrong with Hill House however…Nell feels like she belongs there and cannot leave.  As the study progresses, Nell finds herself slipping more and more into the madness of the haunted home…she has been chosen!


You might want to use the other way up…

Directed by Robert Wise, The Haunting is based on Shirley Jackson’s classic haunted house story The Haunting of Hill House from 1955.  The movie is frequently listed as one of the scariest movies of all time and was a critical success.  The film has gained cult status despite having an average take at the box office.

The Haunting is one of those atmospheric pictures.  Unlike a movie like Paranormal Activity movie which is loaded with bangs and screams, The Haunting takes a much more subtle approach to the horror…and in turn became one of the more interesting horror films of the period.


Hold me…seriously!

The story of The Haunting is quite average, but in its seeming up front storyline, there is a lot buried.  Wise was considering having the haunting being entirely psychological, but did make it a true haunting by having the story actually have haunted events occur.  Scenes like the spiral staircase however get their chills from natural horror rather than supernatural.  I do rather wish that events like the door bend and banging didn’t occur…I like that the haunting could all be in their minds (like in The Innocents).



The acting by the cast is top-notch.  All the members play their parts well.  Julie Harris plays the psychologically scarred Nell perfectly, and she also has the difficult role of carrying the heavy load of voiceover without it sounding over-the-top.  Richard Johnson is strong as the professor (though I don’t entirely understand the point of his experiment), and Fay Compton is good as his obnoxious wife.  Russ Tamblyn was hesitant to take the role of Luke because he saw himself as a one dimensional jerk (and I do agree he is the least convincing character).  Claire Bloom is unique in that she is a rare lesbian character which is more expressed than in the book (un-filmed scenes made it even more evident).


I like this house…

The movie also looks great.  Wise wanted it in black-and-white and it does give it a true old haunted house feel.  The visuals are quite basic and low tech….but they work with how the story is told…they also realize that people in sheets just aren’t scary and a lot of the technology at the time wouldn’t haven allowed truly scary ghosts.

The Haunting is an interesting and fun film in the classic gothic sense.  The movie might not leave you terrified but it is a great example of real horror.  The movie has been redone multiple times.  Rose Red was Stephen King’s attempt and a big budget remake was released in 1999 to poor reviews…stick with the original.

Related Links:

The Haunting (1999)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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