American Terror Story

Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) – Writer


I’m still shaking my head over the memory of public school officials in my home state of Indiana showing us a well-done educational film adapted from Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery (1948). I’m fairly certain those estimable stewards of the American Way thought it was about “Comm’nists” and how bad things would get if “Roosha” took over.

They had no idea it was about them.

I’m also fairly certain another Hoosier native, Robert Wise, knew what Jackson’s story was about. And he made a great movie out of Jackson’s best novel, The Haunting of Hill House (1959). Wise’s film is called The Haunting (1963), it’s in black and white, and it stars Julie Harris as the fragile main protagonist. The Haunting relies on anticipation and suggestion (i.e, terror rather than horror) to achieve its effects and Martin Scorsese – among others, including me – thinks it’s the scariest movie ever made.

If you go in expecting that, of course, you’ll be disappointed. So forget we said anything and rent or stream it some windy night. Read the book first. And, whatever you do, skip the 1999 remake directed by Jan de Bont. Ugh.

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