Suffering from the extreme bad luck of being released at the same time as the low-budget The Blair Witch Project, this adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House attempts to update Shirley Jackson's psychologically terrifyin... more »g ghost story to the era of big-budget, computerized special effects. Does it work? Well, let's just say that showing isn't exactly the same as telling. A prime example of bloated studio filmmaking, The Haunting telegraphs all its frights so blatantly that it forsakes any of Jackson's subtle horrors for the remedial scares of a clunky carnival ride. The story remains basically the same, with four people called to an old mansion for experiments in the supernatural, but instead of getting inside the heads of its main characters (as the 1963 adaptation by Robert Wise did so well), Jan DeBont's film deserts character development for the huge, glorious set design provided by Eugenio Zanetti (Restoration). Thus, instead of a well-drawn story you get... a well-drawn house, one that four very talented and underutilized actors--Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liam Neeson, and Owen Wilson--wander around in endlessly (as Zeta-Jones puts it, the house is "sort of Charles Foster Kane meets the Munsters"). Taylor, as the hypersensitive Nell, is the unknowing lynchpin in the battle between good and bad ghosts and gets saddled with most of the expository dialogue of the mansion's gothic backstory. Zeta-Jones (showing some spark) and Neeson (showing none) are sadly reduced to providing reactionary shots of the film's disastrous climax, which mixes hapless new-age affirmations with computer-generated effects of ghosts and exploding windows, walls, doors, etc. For this haunted-house story, take a quick tour of the breathtaking rooms, but definitely don't stay the night. --Mark Englehart« less
"When I saw the trailer for The Haunting, I was expecting the film to be a "thrill-a-minute scarefest." When I went to see it, I left the theater feeling pretty disappointed in not feeling scared (in fact, I walked right over and saw Blair Witch for a 2nd time.) Now that The Haunting is on video (DVD specifically,) I wanted to give it another chance. After a 2nd viewing, I felt it was a good "old fashion" ghost story, but it still failed at being scary. This movie is Lili Taylor's movie. Her portrayal of a sweet, hopeless romantic is very convincing. Everyone else in the cast is along for the ride. Owen Wilson has to be one of the worst actors around. I would cringe everytime he was on screen. The story about the hill house was good, if not a little vague at times. There are many good scenes that are slightly scary, but none of it is terrifying. Even though her acting was solid, where was a scene where Lili Taylor was smelling something that was pretty laughable. The good: special effects, sound effects, story, Lili Taylor (most of the time.) The bad: most of the acting, some horrible dialogue. All in all, I can recommend this film because it is fun, has very little graphic violence and next to no profanity. I give the Haunting a B-."
The Surprise Comedy Hit of the Season!
(1 out of 5 stars)
""The Haunting" offers a textbook example of what happens when too much money is thrown at an ill-conceived project in the hopes that it will bear fruit. To terrify an audience, a good director needs no more than the ability to recognize and manipulate the power of the human imagination; the original "Haunting" or "The Blair Witch Project" come to mind. Jan de Bont, the director of this film, seems to have set out to make an aggressively mediocre movie: nothing, but NOTHING, is left to the imagination here. Every single supposed "fright" in the film is served up naked under a spotlight for us, leaving us with nothing but a collection of bland computer renderings. It was as if the advent of computer technology permitted the filmmakers to reveal all that was so cunningly suggested in the original with no thought as to the consequences. All psychological terror is expunged by the lack of faith in the intelligence of the audience. On the lighter side, the audience with whom I saw "The Haunting" had a grand time -- we recognized this contempt the filmmakers had for us and laughed from beginning to end. I never thought a decapitation by a huge stone lion's head flue could be funny...but films can always surprise you, can't they?"
Overblown nonsense, more laughable than anything else!
Rod Labbe | Waterville, Maine | 05/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this when it first hit movie theaters in 1999 and actually fell asleep halfway! Now, as a horror movie fanatic (and not someone raised on Freddy and Jason--I'm 53), when a movie heralded as "frightening" and "shocking" knocks me out (literally), I gotta wonder. What was the point of remaking something that's already so perfect? The 1963 version hit all the right notes. It was filmed in black and white, had a truly eerie feel, some spine-numbing frights, and enough ambiance to satisfy anyone interested in the macabre. This "new" version is just terrible on every level. Where to start? The cast. I hated--emphasis on that last word, HATED--Lili Taylor as Nell. The reviewers here say she's "talented," but I gotta ask, where ARE they getting such an impression? Certainly not from this movie, because she's downright awful! When Taylor screams (and she does a LOT of that), it sounds like an angry bull in heat, and the sight of her galloping down the hallways bellowing (again and again, it seems) are sure to either make you cringe or break out in gales of laughter. As for the rest of the cast, they're washed out and blah. Owen Wilson does his stoned surfer boy with the crooked nose schtick, Catherine Zeta-Jones is slumming on her way to an Oscar, and Liam Neeson looks so incredibly uncomfortable, like he's about to have dental surgery. The sets are way overdone, and when the CGI kicks in, the whole kit and kaboodle just collapses. What was suggested in the original is realized in the remake and done up BIG. The "breathing door" morphs into a frickin' house moving and undulating and actually forming faces and claws and whatever. It's all wacked out nonsense, courtesy of a director with absolutely no style whatsoever.
I gotta say, it amazes me that some of you have given this high marks. Either you guys have a low tolerance for horror, or Dreamworks is employing "plants" on Amazon to promote this piece of garbage. If you want true haunted house scares, check out the original Haunting, as well as Legend of Hell House, The Changeling, Suspiria, and the original House on Haunted Hill.
Oh, and I gave this one star because "no stars" isn't an option."
dan moore (firstname.lastname@example.org | virginia | 11/15/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I'll agree with everyone that this movie wasn't really faithfull to the novel and would have fared better if it had relied on a more subtle approach to a good scare (like the '63 version and the Sixth Sense) instead of a special effects exravaganza but folks let's face it, this was a 'summer' movie and summer movies mean one thing... mondo special effects, huge budgets and big sound! I am a lover of all types of movies and summer movies with all their noise and CGI are an American tradition now just like baseball and apple pie and we should just enjoy them for what they are and stop complaining. Let's save the more intellectual films for the winter and spring months. Bring on the popcorn! Can't wait for The Haunting to come out on DVD."
Wow, What a Disappointment
Cole Carley | Fargo, ND United States | 10/29/1999
(1 out of 5 stars)
"It's really difficult to make a good movie with bad material. But making a bad movie with good material must be easy---Jan DeBont proves it with this turkey. Shirley Jackson's story was a spooky classic. Robert Wise's B & W version was excellent and one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. And HE did it without special effects; just sound, shadows, and camera angles. This movie could have been so much better by relying on the original premise and forgetting all the comic book special effects. Mr. DeBont is proving that he's better as a technician than a director. Liam Neeson must have lost a bet to go along with this."