A psychological thriller based around a study in a haunted house, where the participants gradually get more and more frightened and involved with the story of the house.
I’ve seen the remake of this film and unfortunately, I feel it restricted my viewing as I was constantly comparing the two. In this respect, I found that the original film was more effective in terms of the subtlety of a psychological thriller, where I personally found the remake more interesting and easier to follow.
Where I say subtlety, what I mean is that there is the implication of something being there without actually showing it. In the case of the haunting this was done with noises, shadows, parts of the house which looked like faces and the doors closing on their own etc. All of these things lead the viewer, and indeed the characters, to believe that something untoward is happening within the house, without anything actually happening. These implications of something frightening cause the character to react and therefore cause events to unfold, such as Eleanor crashing her car. This really helps the story to progress which makes the film far more watchable. However the effect that I really liked was when the door began to move and looked almost like it was breathing. Despite the fact that this was much less subtle than the other effects, it looked really effective and allowed me to see why the characters were so scared. I was also surprised at how realistic this effect was, considering the age of the film (I’ve seen far worse effects in far more recent films).
I found the storyline a little lacking. There was no explanation for the reason behind the haunting of the house (a house being ‘born bad’ I don’t feel is really an explanation…). I can see the connections that can be drawn between Eleanor and the house, for example she cared for her mother as the daughter was cared for, and I can empathise with her not wanting to leave the house because she has nowhere to go. However I felt these connections were overplayed and detracted from the film.
The setting of the huge mansion is a good one for a psychological horror, full of empty rooms and corridors. The characters mentioned that nothing in the house was ‘normal’ (odd angles etc.) and this would have added a degree of discomfort and given it a more frightening atmosphere. However I could not really see these oddities!
The fact that they were stuck in the house with the gates locked, emphasised by the repetitive speech from the caretaker’s wife (“…in the night in the dark”), creates a feeling of claustrophobia. This seems to be a running theme in these films. The characters were then trapped inside a house, which would be creepy at the best of times, but also has a story behind it as well as all of the spooky goings on. They are also stuck with the same people, which creates friction and adds to the tension of the film.