Director: Jan de Bont
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
A research scientist named Dr. Marrow (Liam Neeson) brings three insomniacs to 'Hill House' under the guise that he is studying sleeping disorders. In reality, he is studying fear and how people react to it. Though Marrow chose 'Hill House' for its gothic look and strange history, it may turn out the mansion is actually haunted and its not hysteria, but ghosts tormenting the subjects.
Directed by Jan de Bont, "The Haunting" is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic novel "The Haunting of Hill House." This book had been adapted before back in 1963 into a movie also called "The Haunting." This version stars Liam Neeson as Dr. Marrow, a research scientist studying fear and how it affects people. Joining him is Lili Taylor, who plays Eleanor, a woman who has spent the last twelve years taking care of her sick mother who has recently passed away. The film also stars Catherine Zeta Jones, who plays Theo, and Owen Wilson, who plays Luke. These three individuals are the subjects of Dr. Marrow's fear study, though they believe they are there for insomnia research. They stay in a gothic mansion called Hill House, which is full of intricate though somewhat creepy architecture and sculptures. As they progress in their study, strange things begin happening at the house, and their entire stay may be more than they bargained for in the end.
The film boasts a strong cast and a decent, creepy setting, but unfortunately, doesn't come together and doesn't come close to being scary. The responsibility mostly falls on director Jan de Bont and his choice to keep everything well lit and brightly colored. Maybe it's because he is used to making more action-oriented films like "Speed" and "Twister" rather than dramatic thrillers and ghost stories, but the tone never feels right and there is no tension to speak of for what should have been such a tense and eerie tale. In fact, it almost looks comedic at times. It would only take a slight change in the soundtrack to make it become an out-and-out comedy. There is also an over-reliance on CGI to create what are supposed to be chilling ghostly effects, but since it was the late 90's, the technology was not at a place to make it truly effective. Director Jan de Bont would have been better off relying on more practical, smaller effects for such an intimate setting. His choice to use CGI makes the entire production look very cartoonish, especially when revisiting the film 17 years later. The ghosts and frights wind up looking more goofy than scary and the setting feels more whimsical than creepy.
In the end, you don't really need to see "The Haunting," and we don't know why we enjoyed this movie so much when we were kids because it's not that good.
My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 17%
Do we recommend this movie: No.
One year ago, we were being scared by: "Maximum Overdrive"
Two years ago, we were being scared by: "American Psycho"
Three years ago, we were being scared by: "It"