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'The Conjuring' a throwback to 1963 movie 'The Haunting'

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Movies & More reviewer John Gillispie finds a little bit of common ground between the 1963 film "The Haunting," rated G, and the 2013 film "The Conjuring," which is rated R.

When I saw that the 1963 black-and-white version of "The Haunting" was available on Blu-ray Disc, I thought it would be fun to watch since I am very familiar with the 1999 remake of the film starring Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor.

I wanted to compare and contrast these two films to see how different the remake was from the original. I also really wanted to see the performances of Julie Harris and Claire Bloom in the roles later played by Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

I found one scene in the 1963 film to be frightening, with some of the credit for that going to Harris and Bloom for their acting performances, which convinced me their characters were terrified. I did see some ways the remake of the film differed from the original and I think I understood why those changes were made. But, the element that keeps me from loving the remake - an ending that I don't like much - is similar to the original. I know that all movies can't have a happy ending, but I guess I wish this one could have had one. "The Haunting" is based on a book titled "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. (As a junior high student, we studied Jackson's short story titled "The Lottery," which is very memorable for its shocking storyline. I don't remember it having a very happy ending either.)

Speaking of happy endings and horror films, "The Conjuring" is now available on DVD and I think it has a pretty satisfying ending for the family members who are tormented throughout the film. Lili Taylor plays the mother of five daughters who moves into a house with her husband to find supernatural forces up to no good. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play a married couple with experience in these types of situations who help the family.

"The Conjuring" is suspenseful and scary with a creepy house that has an even creepier basement. And that's a great combination for a horror film in my opinion.

So, what do "The Haunting" and "The Conjuring" have in common besides the word "the" and Lili Taylor? Both feature a haunted house.

While I know a haunted house can be a cliché in horror movies, the atmosphere created in these types of settings is just a lot of fun. You never really know what is going to be around the next corner and who or what might be lurking there. Sure, you might have to endure some doors slamming, window shutters rattling or cats darting out of the shadows, but that can be fun, too.

John Gillispie is the public relations director for the Huntington Museum of Art.

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