I took some suggestions via Facebook for an October read. Every year I try to read a "scary" book during the month leading up to Halloween, and while I got a number of suggestions (many of which confused "thrilling" with "Halloween scary"), I had to pick one or two and get on with it. I almost read The Turn of the Screw
again, I went for the source material to one of my favorite scary movies, instead. In the end, I read Shirley Jackson's 1959 book, The Haunting of Hill House
The book has been adapted into two movies, The Haunting (1963)
and The Haunting (1999)
. One of these movies is directed by Robert Wise, who never made a bad movie, and the other was done by the guy who made Twister
and Speed 2: Cruise Control
. If you liked those movies, your mileage will vary.
The good news is that the book diverges from both movies, and, really, after the introduction of the characters, has very, very little to do with the 1999 big budget CGI-FX driven snoozefest. In the case of the 1963 adaptation, the movie and book match and diverge in similarity, enough so that I really wasn't sure what to expect from chapter to chapter. Really, though, it's the perspective of the book that provides the greatest difference for the reader, and provides an experience the movie simply cannot as the camera must always show something going on, and cannot rely on the reflections of the characters in the same way. The characters simply are on the screen, perhaps with hints of something otherwise, but the frame has to capture an interpretation one way or another.
Eleanor is a 32 year old woman who has spent her entire adult life caring for her sickly mother. She has no profession, no friends, no home of her own as she is now in limbo, living with a sister who has inherited her mother's prickly nature and the sister's boorish husband and young daughter. At some point in the distant past, she experienced a supernatural event as stones rained down upon her house, an act she grew up believing was the work of unkind neighbors, and perhaps it was. We can't know for certain.
A parapsychologist, Dr. Montague, has scoured the country for those who have experienced legitimate psychic events, and has invited them to the mysterious Hill House, a 19th Century mansion built to house the family of an industrialist with what seems to have been an unhealthy parenting style for his two young girls. The house was believed "born bad", already evil before the many deaths that occurred in the house even began.
The house itself is built with doors that hang at an angle to shut, walls that are not exactly at the right angle, and various optical illusions meant to make the house a showplace of the era in which it was built. The effect, however, seems to unsettle and confuse visitors, not create any sense of wonder.
Of the many invitations sent, only two visitors arrive, Eleanor - who may have once had stones hurled at her by unseen forces, and Theodora, a beatnik who may be able to catch glimpses of the thoughts of others. Also, the young man who stands to inherit the house, an idler and wanna-be playboy, Luke.