Thursday, 7 October 2010
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.