Monday, February 09, 2004

Bad house! Bad!

One of my favorite sub-genres of horror is the Evil House. Not the Haunted House, necessarily, but Evil.

Shirley Jackson's most famous novel is The Haunting of Hill House. Rightfully so, because it scared the piss out of me. Every single time I read it. Though it is said that the people who die there don't leave, it is not exactly implied that their ghosts haunt the premises, while it is stated that the house itself is not right.

Richard Matheson (author of I Am Legend, the best vampire fiction I've come across to date) wrote a book called Hell House. I didn't care for it so much, as it read like a rather disgusting rip-off of The Haunting of Hill House, but Will was quite terrified by it, so I assume it must have had plenty going for it. It is not entirely clear in his book whether the house has become evil or the Bad Things are caused entirely by the 'ghost' of the original owner (and possibly other dead residents - it's been a while since I read it), but it seems to be the latter.

In 1963, Robert Wise directed The Haunting, based upon Shirley Jackson's novel. It's a fairly faithful adaptation, and quite a good picture.

Oddly, the 1963 Roger Corman movie The Terror was, according to imdb (not the most reliable source), called The Haunting for its television airing(s).

In 1973, John Hough directed The Legend of Hell House, based on Richard Matheson's novel. I've never seen it, but again, Will was terrified.

In 1999, Jan de Bont directed The Haunting, supposedly based on Shirley Jackson's novel, or on the original The Haunting, or possibly on a weird dream he had one time. It is fucking awful. I couldn't sit through the whole thing. He added ghosts and a ridiculously contrived reason for the Evil/Haunting of the house. It was a typical modern horror movie, relying too much on special effects and giving no credit whatsoever to its audience. Waste of time. There is a terrific theory here that Mr. de Bont mistakenly thought he was making Hell House: the movie with the characters from The Haunting of Hill House. Easy mistake. Hell, Hill - almost the same word.

Interestingly, there is a 1999 film, directed by Mitch Marcus, called The Haunting of Hell House. It is based on a Henry James story. I have not read the story or seen the movie, but you can bet that I will be looking into both. I certainly find the title suspicious, but Henry James died the year Shirley Jackson was born, so I'm not sure where to aim my suspicion. Oh, nevermind, I looked it up. The original story was called "The Ghostly Rental," and Roger Corman is apparently to blame for the new title. I certainly can't begrudge any attempts he makes to get people to watch his movies.