Last week Your Humble Narrator received a letter in the mail from a friend Back East. For you younger readers, a “letter” is a piece of paper on which somebody you know writes down some personal message, folds it, places it in a specially-designed paper container called an envelope, on the outside of which they write your street address and then paste a stamp—a little sticker indicating that they’ve paid a small delivery fee to the U.S. Postal Service.
Then the person places in it a receptacle called a mail-box, and agents of the Federal government see that it’s left at your home. It’s like an email, except that it actually, physically exists, and takes a couple of days to get to you.
I was delighted to be at the receiving end of the charming old-fashioned custom—believe it or not, this was once a major means of communication—and even more delighted at the contents of the letter, which I pass on to you below, slightly edited, as a Halloween video recommendation:
“…what happened kind of hit a nerve—Julie Harris died this August 24th. In the little article they printed in Entertainment Weekly they mentioned some of her films. But not The Haunting, and that just sucks [Indeed!—MVM]. I remember the first time I saw it about the age of thirteen and it scared me to death. To this day, once in a great while I’ll have an unsettling dream and upon waking I’ll know it was caused by The Haunting percolating around in my gray matter…I don’t know what Shirley Jackson thought of the film but for me it’s an example of a fine film based on a fine novel. The Haunting is one of the few films I know that makes the supernatural seem real. I Walked With a Zombie and Don’t Look Now might be a couple of others but for the most part after watching most horror movies you can shrug it off and know that nothing like what you just saw could ever happen. Not so with The Haunting. Sometimes when an actor passes away I’ll watch one of their films (when Patricia Neal died I watched A Face in the Crowd. When Andy Griffith died I watched it again.) But this time I’ll wait til October 31st. When the porch Jack O’ Lanterns are all extinguished and the last kid leaves with his treat, I’ll be watching The Haunting, to hear Eleanor Lance say ‘And we who walk here, walk alone.’”
If you’ve never seen The Haunting, and wisely choose to follow my friend’s example, see to it that you’ve rented the 1963 version, and not the unfortunate 1999 remake with Lili Taylor, Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Also, check out my Halloween tribute to the great Brother Theodore, on Topless Robot.