Well I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and I started my Halloween viewing early (at first I felt a little guilty about it but then I figured we start on christmas before the Thanksgiving turkey has a chance to cool I figured why worry about it.)

For this week I chose the theme of “Less is More” that is to say that the horror films that get the big scares by suggesting the monsters rather than showing them (or at least not showing them that much)  and letting the viewer’s imagination do the rest.

Halloween Double Feature Night of the DemonThe first film on my list Night of The Demon (Marketed as Curse of the Demon in the states with at least fifteen minutes cut out) tells the story of a professional skeptic Dr. John Holden played by Dana Andrews investigating a satanic cult led by Dr. Julian Karswell played by Niall MacGinnis. He retaliates by placing a magic runes on Holden’s person which summon a demon to kill him on a chosen night.

Regrettably, due to studio pressures, we do see the Demon in the beginning and end of the film. Make no mistake, it is a remarkably impressive puppet for the 1950s. But it’s really unnecessary and everything else in the film makes the reality of the Demon questionable at best. Yes the Demon kills one of Holden’s colleagues but the man could have just as easily been electrocuted when his car crashed into an electrical pole, similarly when Karswell meets his end after Holden manages to trick him into taking the runic script back, he could have just as easily been hit by a train . In fact I would be interested to see a fan cut where the Demon closeups are removed.

The rest of the film is great Niall McGinnis is fantastic as Karswell and the rest of the effects in the film are much more subtle…  (with the exception of a scene where Karswell’s cat turns into a leopard and we have two minutes of Holden wrestling a stuffed animal. Monty Python did it better.

Halloween Double Feature less is More The HauntingThe next on my list was Robert West’s The Haunting. Ain this adaptation of the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, West takes the old chestnut of ghost hunters investigating a haunted mansion and turns it into high art. “Anthropologist” Dr. John Markway (played by Richard Johnson) recruits a supposed psychic Theo (played by Claire Bloom) and the shy Nell (played by Julie Harris) who apparently experienced poltergeists as a child to help him investigate the alleged hauntings of the notorious Hill House. Completing the team is the skeptical Luke (Russ Tamblyn) who is the heir to the houses owner, (and was drafted to keep an eye on the rest of them).

From there things get REALLY spooky.

This has quickly become my favorite West film (and considering his resume includes West Side Story and The Day the Earth Stood Still, that’s saying something. )

All of the scary stuff is done by sound editing camera angles and of course brilliant performances by a great ensemble cast who could have you believing they are experiencing this if they were in a fully lit room let alone Hill house. In fact the only overt visual effect I noticed was a rubber door near the end (no I don’t know if it was actually rubber but the prop department definitely didn’t make it out of wood! )

Back to the cast this is the best part. This film is very much Nell’s story and we share her insecurities as she narrates the story in a frantic stream of thought (or is it the ghosts messing with her?) But just as interesting is the relationship between Nell and Theo. There is no secrets made about Theo’s sexuality. It fluctuates between her cruelly taunting the sheltered woman child to acting like a comforting big sister… and then when the noises start they’re in each other’s arms desperately seeking some form of comfort in this terrifying situation. (Quite frankly I kept being reminded of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona.)