Thursday, 7 October 2010

The haunting

The Haunting - the original, not the awful-sounding remake - was another big influence on The Dead of Winter. I hadn't seen the movie for ages and in fact I had only ever seen it two or three times, but it was the first time I saw it, when still in my teens, that seemed to have seared itself onto my consciousness. It scared the bejabers out of me.

Famously, nothing very much happens in Robert Wise's movie. There are no ghouls or monsters. Heads don't spin round. There is no projectile vomiting. Instead we have shadows and a wonderful use of sound. We also have Julie Harris, whose performance and narration is superb throughout. As with the House of Usher, Hill House appears to be sentient.

I didn't watch The Haunting again until after I'd written the book. I bought a DVD on Amazon and stopped myself viewing it until I'd sent the book off, worried that it might contaminate my thinking. When I finally did watch it I was a little taken aback by what an influence it had been. The terrifying banging on the walls and woodwork had certainly made its way into my book.

It is dated - of course it is. It feels rushed in places and Russ Tamblyn is not a great asset to the movie. Some of the dialogue clunks. But it still works somehow and I realised - as is so often the case - the reason it had such a lasting impression on me, was that it really is quite strange.

It was only recently that I finally got round to reading the book on which the movie was based - The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. What a great book and what a wonderful writer.


  1. I agree--Shirley Jackson's novel is superb, and the film is very chilling ('whose hand was I holding?'---eeek!) I can also recommend Shirley Jackson's equally chilling novel, 'We have always lived at the Castle', and her horrific short story, 'The Lottery'.

  2. Yes - I must get round to reading some more Shirley Jackson. I was really impressed with her writing. Stephen King was recommending The Lottery in something I was reading recently.

  3. I did think about the film the Haunting (I've not read the book) while I was reading 'The Dead of Winter'. It totally freaked me out the first time I saw it as a child.
    It is great to read about the influences behind your writing. I was sorry to hear that you are unable to come to Liverpool on the 21st October, I was looking forward to hearing you talk and to ask you to sign my books. Hopefully you will get to visit at some point in the future.

  4. Yes - I wish I was coming too. Haven't been to Liverpool in decades. There was a confusion over dates and I got double booked with an event in Dublin. Hopefully we'll try and sort something out for the future.