Friday, October 20, 2006

Halloween Treats for Library Users.

There are two items that I think of for my reading and watching pleasure around Halloween. For reading try Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree.

The Halloween Tree is the stunning contemporary classic by American literary treasure Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. Meet the mysterious Mr. Moonshroud, who leads eight boys on a journey back through the centuries to discover the real meaning of Halloween. Prose of exquisite beauty will send shivers of delight--and terror--through readers, who will want to take this trip over and over again, long after the last jack-o'-lantern has gone dark.

I first encountered at a Halloween party in which the hostess gave everyone a paperback copy of the book and we all took turns reading the book aloud. Sort of captures the spirit of Halloween the way that Charles Dickens does for Christmas with A Christmas Carol.

For my spooky movie watching, I recommend The, not the special effect laden remake of a few years ago but the original, 1963, Robert Wise directed [yep, same guy as Sound of Music and West Side Story], black and white masterpiece. No special effects necessary as the focus in this movie is purely upon the characters and the effect that the haunted house has upon their behavior.

Certain to remain one of the greatest haunted-house movies ever made, Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) is antithetical to all the gory horror films of subsequent decades, because its considerable frights remain implicitly rooted in the viewer's sensitivity to abject fear. A classic spook-fest based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House (which also inspired the 1999 remake directed by Jan de Bont), the film begins with a prologue that concisely establishes the dark history of Hill House, a massive New England mansion (actually filmed in England) that will play host to four daring guests determined to investigate--and hopefully debunk--the legacy of death and ghostly possession that has given the mansion its terrifying reputation. Consumed by guilt and grief over her mother's recent death and driven to adventure by her belief in the supernatural, Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris) is the most unstable--and therefore the most vulnerable--visitor to Hill House. She's invited there by anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), along with the bohemian lesbian Theodora (Claire Bloom), who has acute extra-sensory abilities, and glib playboy Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn, from Wise's West Side Story), who will gladly inherit Hill House if it proves to be hospitable. Of course, the shadowy mansion is anything but welcoming to its unwanted intruders. Strange noises, from muffled wails to deafening pounding, set the stage for even scarier occurrences, including a door that appears to breathe (with a slowly turning doorknob that's almost unbearably suspenseful), unexplained writing on walls, and a delicate spiral staircase that seems to have a life of its own. The genius of The Haunting lies in the restraint of Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding, who elicit almost all of the film's mounting terror from the psychology of its characters--particularly Eleanor, whose grip on sanity grows increasingly tenuous. The presence of lurking spirits relies heavily on the power of suggestion (likewise the cautious handling of Theodora's attraction to Eleanor) and the film's use of sound is more terrifying than anything Wise could have shown with his camera. Like Jack Clayton's 1961 chiller, The Innocents, The Haunting knows the value of planting the seeds of terror in the mind, as opposed to letting them blossom graphically on the screen. What you don't see is infinitely more frightening than what you do, and with nary a severed head or bloody corpse in sight, The Haunting is guaranteed to chill you to the bone (from

1 comment:

Erin said...

Speaking of which, for Ray Bradbury fans, there will be a book signing in our neighborhood! You can meet him on Sunday, Nov 19th at 12:00, at Mystery and Imagination (238 N. Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA) Phone: 818-545-0206

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