The Haunting

"Weak"

The Haunting Review


Sooner or later, somebody had to make a super-spectacular CGI horror movie. I suppose it might as well be Jan DeBont, the guy who helped pioneer the F/X-over-substance, computer-generated blockbuster with his second movie, "Twister."

But lest he be mistaken for a director with any sense of moderation, DeBont lets his Intel-inside ghosts and goblins run rampant and unchecked in "The Haunting" -- a neo-classic horror remake with special effects so distractingly, excessively cool that you'll completely forget to be scared.

The plot of "The Haunting" -- that an unethical psychology prof (Liam Neeson) doing a study in fear bunks a trio of volunteer insomniacs at a haunted house under the guises of a sleep study -- is ridiculous and practically irrelevant against the backdrop of the manically over-decorated Xanadu in which hundreds of iron-cast, zombie-eyed cherubs, lions and deformed human sculptures morph to life and terrorize the cast.

Instead of playing on his audience's psyche, DeBont is far too focused on making spectral shapes swim though window dressings and cathedral-like bedrooms sprout eyes, hands and tendrils. He does a great job of that. The ghostly cherubs literally gave me chills. But while he was busy looking over the shoulders of production designers and graphic artists, his movie was slipping into the ethers, and his talented cast of insomniacs were stuck into one-note performances, introducing themselves as they arrive in the first act like a "Real World" season premiere in a haunted house.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Theo, a rich, sexy, bisexual, extrovert, fashion plate who can't sleep because she'd rather party.

Owen Wilson ("Armageddon," "Bottle Rocket") is Luke, an overgrown surfer boy, always ready with a wise-crack or sexual innuendo.

Formerly reliable indie dame Lili Taylor ("Pekcer," "I Shot Andy Warhol") turns out to be the central character, Nell -- a mousy, sentimental, care-giver type on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It seems the house "wants" her, for reasons that will be readily apparent to anyone who notices how closely her heirloom jewelry resembles that worn by the women in dark portraits on the house's walls.

Based more loosely than it ought to be on Shirley Jackson's 1959 chiller "The Haunting of Hill House" (which was made into a scarier and more subconscious movie called "The Haunting" once before), this "Haunting" borrows several elements from old-school horror pictures. For instance, presiding ominously over the grand staircase (which seems itching to eat someone alive) hangs a portrait of the wild-eyed, mutton-chopped, feral-looking, 19th Century industrialist who built the sprawling mansion for the family he never had.

It also recycles such shopworn gimmicks as slowly creeping doorknobs on humongous doors that close and bolt by themselves and a hollow-eyed, "American Gothic" housekeeper ("I leave after the dark comes. If you need help, no one will come...in the night...in the dark...") -- although she's kind of funny.

But its lack of originality is a small crime in comparison to its unrealized potential. Such great sets, such great actors, such fantastic special effects, and this unengaging amusement park ride was the best DeBont could do.

What's worse, it nose-dives in the last reel with Taylor's wildly inconsistent character taking charge and challenging the ghosts with some of the worst climactic dialogue outside of a Roger Corman flick.

"The Haunting" may set the visual effects standard for any well-financed horror movies to come, but in the wake of the made-for-$100,000 "Blair Witch Project" -- the most frightening film in at least 20 years -- it leaves a lot to be desired in the substance and scares departments.



The Haunting

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd July 1999

Box Office Worldwide: $91.2M

Budget: $80M

Distributed by: DreamWorks SKG

Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, Roth-Arnold Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 75

IMDB: 4.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Dr. David Marrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo, as Luke Sanderson, as Eleanor 'Nell' Vance, as Mr. Dudley, as Mrs. Dudley, as Mary Lambetta, as Todd Hackett, as Jane, Michael Cavanaugh as Dr. Malcolm Keogh, Tom Irwin as Lou, as Hugh Crain, Saul Priever as Ritchie, as Large Man, Hadley Eure as Carolyn Crain, Kadina de Elejalde as Rene Crain (as Kadina Halliday), Alessandra Benjamin as Psych Patient #1, Karen S. Gregan as Psych Patient #2, Brandon Jarrett as Psych Patient #3, Mary McNeal as Psych Patient #4, William Minkin as Psych Patient #5

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.