Next up on my list of favorite not at all unnecessary remakes that have somehow not been made yet, a classic-among-classics haunted house story.
The original original version of this story is The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson.
More specifically, it’s about timid, pitiable Eleanor Vance, never having had the opportunity to make friends before, bonding dangerously with the group she’s been thrown together with and then, when that fails, with the evil of the house.
The Haunting is a 1963 movie adaptation, and it’s pretty much awful. It’s a slow, dull and very literal translation with a community theater vibe throughout. Then there’s a 1999 adaptation by the same name involving a mansion very obviously haunted by CGI and Eleanor fighting the minions of hell for the ghost children’s souls.
The Imaginary Remake:
Yes, The Haunting of Hill House is an incredibly difficult book to translate to screen.
In the nonexistent remake, Eleanor doesn’t have to explain the crazy in her head, because we see it. We get some economical flashbacks, as in The Haunting, to the essential moments in her life that made her and brought her here, and the rest we get to infer from her interactions with the rest of the ghost hunters and the house.
Eleanor and Theodora’s friendship and the triangle Eleanor invents between them and Luke take center stage. Their instant rapport and the subtle hints that Eleanor, however pitiable, is not someone you want becoming emotionally attached to you, serve to build the slow dread that gives the book its flavor.
We can’t ignore the house itself, of course. Every bit of tangible creepy it yielded in the book can be made use of, and maybe then some. Hill House has a habit of manifesting visions (or possibly realities) that later cease to exist. At one point it bleeds all over Theodora’s clothes, then leaves them clean less than a day later, after the resulting damage to Eleanor and Theodora's relationship is done. A few incidents like that, all presented from Eleanor’s perspective, with maybe just a tiny bit of her narration to let us know we’re seeing things only from her perspective, leaves the audience guessing for a while whether even the house’s most blatant proof of haunting is real.
Eleanor talks to the house with some natural wariness and incredulity at first (giving her more chances to let us know what she’s thinking), transitioning slowly into affection and familiarity, until finally the slow build breaks into the frenetic finale of the book, Eleanor going from cowering against some unexplained banging on the house’s interior doors to running madly through the halls, banging on every door she can find in the hopes of being embraced by the house and then climbs a condemned observation tower.
It would take a hell of a screenwriter, director, and lead actress…
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!