During the Franco regime in Spain the Catholic Church sponsored a documentary news service called NO-DO that made news reels for theater goers to show the news about divine occurrences and miracles. Part propaganda, part news, these news briefs were quite common in Spain during the time and worked to increase the country’s influence within the Catholic Church. Spanish Writer/Director Elio Quiroga uses these NO-DO news reels as one of the foundations for his film THE HAUNTING.
The movie’s primary focus is on a Francesca (Ana Torrent) a pediatrician who is suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her second child. At the suggestion of a psychiatrist friend, Francesca and her family rent a house in the country as a retreat to help her with her depression. The home they rent is a mansion owned by the Catholic Church that was at one time an orphanage, but it had been closed and uninhabited for years. Apparently, years before, the site had been home of miraculous occurrences that were the subject of NO-DO investigations.
Francesca soon begins experiencing the typical problems one would expect with a haunting: rattling doors, visions, nightmares, unseen voices, and some particularly creepy sounds coming out of the radio baby monitor. Pedro and Francesca become more and more alarmed by these events and turn to Father Miguel for help. However, Miguel is stonewalled by the Church when he tries to investigate the history of the home and what could be causing the supernatural manifestations they family is experiencing. What dark secret is the Church trying to conceal and what can be done to protect Francesca and her family from an evil force that seems to control their new home?
THE HAUNTING is one of the new generation of horror/supernatural thrillers that has been coming out of Spain over the last few years. Stylish and moody, Quiroga manages to take some typical story elements: a depressed and somewhat unstable mother, a hidden agenda of the church, a long abandoned mansion with locked rooms that hide secrets, and combine them into something that, while not unexpected, is certainly entertaining and often downright chilling. The use of the archival NO-DO footage, some apparently real and some shot just for the film, ads an interesting twist to the film and as the story develops and is revealed, images begin to make more sense as the viewer starts understanding their significance to what is going on. The film does drag at times and the plot is convoluted with a number of subplots that, although related, make the overall story somewhat more difficult to understand. Still, the film is entertaining and will be enjoyable by fans of a good ghost story. Especially interesting are the film’s sometimes not so subtle jabs at Catholicism as it shows the Church’s apparent willingness to ignore true miracles for the sake of appearances and their take on exorcisms and martyrdom. So if you want to delve into the world of the supernatural, check out Elio Quiroga’s THE HAUNTING, but beware, you may not like what you find behind those locked doors.