AudioMedia - February 2012 - (Page 58)
orror films have always exploited sound
to add to the shocks and scares, but too often this only stretches as far as eerie music, screams, owls hooting, wolves howling, and assorted squelching noises to accompany something unspeakable. The Haunting (1963) relies on a strident score and a variety of unnerving, other worldly sounds to represent the unseen terror that lurks in a favourite movie cliche, the haunted house. But Hill House is far more than just the scene of unexplained goings on; Dr John Markway (Richard Johnson), a dashing scientist with an interest in the paranormal, views it as a diseased place that absorbs evil and torments susceptible people. Markway assembles a research team – who are in fact guinea pigs – to test his theory and discover whether the Crain family, which built the place, has been cursed by their own acts and misfortune or the forbidding edifice that they have now abandoned.
The building of dread and terror in an audience doesn't need CGI to be effective. KEVIN HILTON looks at how Wise created effect in the classic horror, The Haunting.
been a barely tolerated guest of her sister. As Nell argues with her sister and brother-in-law about borrowing a shared car to get to Hill House, tinkly music plays on the radio, creating a brittle, child-like atmosphere behind the confrontation, mirroring Nell’s psyche and personality. Arriving at Hill House Nell meets Markway and Theodora (also known as Theo, played by Claire Bloom), who claims to have ESP. All three are jumpy and disoriented by the long, confusing corridors, odd angles and doors that shut by themselves. As they walk into the dining room Nell is spooked by a slightly sinister tinkling sound – which turns out to the be ice in a jug of martini being mixed by Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), a sceptical rich wastrel who stands to inherit the property. By this stage Wise has set up the feeling that something is going to happen in a fairly conventional way, with a few false starts. As the characters prepare for bed he begins to up the ante with more sophisticated touches. Hearing an unnatural loud and aggressive banding sound, Nell runs into Theo’s bedroom. The two women cower on the bed as the noise becomes an insistent drumming, implying poltergeist activity. The unease increases as the sound changes and distorts. The uncredited electronic treatments were by Desmond Briscoe, at the time head of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The soundtrack was mixed in mono but Wise gives us a sense of the drumming moving by panning the camera, shooting from high angles and having Harris and Bloom follow the sounds with their eyes. Although he did not witness it, this first manifestation leaves Markway – and the audience – in no doubt that something in the House is beginning to stir. The second night does not pass peacefully either but Wise releases the pressure slightly. Nell hears laughter and a child’s voice, which is treated to sound like a radio, as though the spirits are trying to contact our realm from somewhere else. By the third night passions and tensions have risen, brought to boiling point by the unexpected arrival of Markway’s wife (Lois Maxwell, who had become Miss Moneypenny in Dr No the year before), arousing jealously in Nell. By this stage Nell is convinced she belongs in the House and with Markway; Harris’ voice-overs push the conversations of other characters into the background, showing how much Nell is in her own world. Mrs Markway insists on sleeping in the old nursery, the hotspot for all paranormal activity. The drumming and banging soon returns, louder and wilder than before, accompanied by frenzied rattling of the door handles, leading to the House’s final victory.
A Horror-ific Star t
The Haunting was directed by Robert Wise, now better known for mainstream movies, including West Side (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). But he got his first directorial credit on The Curse of the Cat People (1944), a psychological horror film produced by Val Lewton that implied its threats through noises and high contrast black and white photography. Wise took a similar approach with The Haunting, which he dedicated to Lewton’s memory. Although set in New England USA, the film was shot in England, UK, with a largely British cast and crew. Hill House is represented by Ettington Hall (now the Ettington Park Hotel) in Warwickshire. The opening titles run over a shot of this imposing facade – made all the more unsettling through the use of infrared film – and are accompanied by portentous music, composed by Humphrey Searle. This sets the scenario, creating dread and tension in a manner that dates back to the earliest days of the horror genre. Scenes from Hill House’s dark past, explained matter of factly by Markway in a voice-over, leave us in no doubt about what a terrible place it is. The scene cuts to Markway persuading Mrs Sanderson, the present owner of the House, to let him investigate in the name of science. To help him in his research Markway has drawn up a list of people who have had brushes with the paranormal, among them the neurotic Eleanor ‘Nell’ Lance (Julie Harris). Since the death of her mother, who she looked after for many years, Nell has
M issing The Point?
The Haunting was remade in 1999, starring Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones, swamped by CGI effects from Industrial Light and Magic and a 5.1 sound design by Gary Rydstrom. Some might consider this missed the point that Robert Wise, Sound Supervisor AW Watkins, and Desmond Briscoe understood on the original film – Hill House itself is the monster and all that was needed was some imagination and a few good nudges for the audience to scare themselves. ∫
58 AUD I O MEDIA FEBRUARY 2012
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AudioMedia - February 2012
Audio Media - February 2012
Special Report: BVE
Cut Scene: PS Vita
New at NAMM
NAMM Show Wrap-Up
RND Portico 5024
Untrason Signature Pro
Final Cut: Drive
Allen & Health GS-R24
Product Sampler: Broadcase Consoles
ClassicCut: The Haunting
AudioMedia - February 2012