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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

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.