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RELEASED: 1963, Cert.12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 111 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Robert Wise
SCREENPLAY: Nelson Gidding
MUSIC: Humphrey Searle
Richard Johnson as Dr. John Markway
Julie Harris as Eleanor
Claire Bloom as Theodora
Russ Tamblyn as Luke Sanderson
FILM ONLY REVIEW
NB: ***It appears that several people here have reviewed the remake of this film rather than the original 1963 version, the latter being the topic of this product on Dooyoo. What I write below applies to the original film.***
Dr. John Markway is a psychic phenomena investigator who becomes interested in Hill House. He publishes an advertisement inviting people who believe they have had connections with or experiences of the paranormal to come and join him in spending some time in the house, but the only people who accept and turn up are Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, who is in line to inherit the large, spooky house.
Once the group is assembled inside Hill House, strange things start to happen, which mostly appear to focus on Eleanor, a shy woman, who has spent eleven years looking after her sick mother and wants some excitement in her life for once.
Right from the start in The Haunting once the group has gathered in the old house, there is a strong element of spookiness present.
Although I'm not exactly sure and I could be wrong in my assumptions, I gather that Theodora is supposed to be psychic, as she seems able to tune into some of what is going on inside Eleanor's mind.
The acting in The Haunting is pretty good, although I have seen better on a number of occasions. Richard Johnson is quite convincing as the adventurous, yet kind and caring Dr. Markway who perhaps has bitten off more than he can chew by inviting this group of people to stay at Hill House with him, and Russ Tamblyn is excellent as the 'doubting Thomas' of the group....sceptical, and viewing the whole experience as more of a joke than anything, plus keeping a careful eye on what one day is to be his inheritance. Although I wasn't keen on her performance at first, I in afterthought mode was very impressed with Claire Bloom's performance as the stylish Theodora. She oscillated between fear, flirtatiousness, and outright bitch, yet at times being quite supportive in a friendly way, with perfect ease. I feel the overall cherry on the acting cake though must go to Julie Harris as the shy, vulnerable, confused Eleanor.
The music to The Haunting during the very early part of the film is a little over the top and very heavy on the violins, but later on becomes quite chilling, enhancing the spooky atmosphere perfectly.
This film was made in black and white, and I feel that goes a long way to create the perfect atmosphere for a group of people spending some time together in an old house which has more happening than merely a few things going bump in the night. Great attention was paid by the film crew and the director/producer to create some rather marvellously chilling camera angles that hand in hand with the storyline, the acting and the scenery, serve to make a quite convincing and penetratingly scary movie.
It is so refreshing to watch a genuinely spooky film that doesn't rely on blood, guts and gore to provide its kicks and there was a decent handful of moments where whilst watching, I did feel quite unnerved.
However, I also found The Haunting a little confusing in parts. I wasn't entirely sure how the character of Eleanor managed to fit so neatly into the proceedings, but it's possible I may have blinked and missed something important. I also found her mood swings rather baffling, as she seemed to oscillate wildly between wanting so badly to remain in the house and being terrified witless, plus lurching back and forth between reasonable levels of normality and something bordering out and out neurosis.
As is often the case with films that concentrate on a theme whereby a group of people who are strangers to one another are amassed In one place, some antagonism arises, usually between the females present....and, The Haunting is no exception. I did find Eleanor's and Theodora's on/off relationship with one another a bit rattling, as I couldn't understand how one minute they were at each other's throats, then the next minute clinging to one another for support.
All in all though, The Haunting is a gripping, pleasingly good old-fashioned ghost story that really is quite scary in parts, even if it is confusing in others. For those of a tender disposition, I wouldn't recommend watching it just prior to going to bed....the bit which scared me most was the bang, bang, bang noise outside the bedrooms, seemingly on the landings. As an aside, I was kept awake last night by a fox thumping its feet on the underside of my little mobile home, and the noise was very similar to the banging sound in The Haunting, so I hope my little feral friend spends tonight elsewhere!
If you like a good, well-made, old-fashioned ghost/horror film from an era when special effects were technologically limited, resulting in much reliance being placed on camera angles and acting skills, plus if you like to feel a chilling finger run down your spine and unnerve you - even if only temporarily - then The Haunting is something I feel certain you'd enjoy.
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At the time of writing, The Haunting can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £25.00 to £59.90
Used: from £7.26 to £18.89
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Nell, a reserved, emotionally unstable woman used to care for her now deceased mother. She accepts an invitation to stay in an old house as an experiment, seeing it as the perfect chance to spread her wings and become more open to new things. At the house, she meets another invitee, Theo, as well as Doctor Markway, who is running the experiment, and finally, Luke, a sceptic. Soon the house appears to come alive. The group is being divided, toyed with, and Nell is cracking under the pressure...They should go, but will the house let them leave?
Besides the Doctor John Markway, every other person staying in the house is very annoying. The protagonist, Nell, is VERY irritating. She says pathetic things like "You won't leave me behind" and "Don't send me back [home]!" It makes her sound like a baby. It is clear that she is meant to be a wallflower/introvert who rarely lets loose- as stereotypically shown by her bun that she only lets down in bed- but the script, book and/or actress takes it too far. EVERYTHING seems to faze her. If it's not a chill, it's a library. If it's not a statue, it's another statue.
Theo, the other lady staying the house, is quite confusing. One moment she is nice to Nell, and next she is teasing and accusing her. Luke was the worst character in my opinion. He always wore a smug look on his face, and his jokes fell flat.
Mr and Mrs Dudley were great characters. The husband seems like a person you could meet in your day-to-day life, and his wife is played perfectly by Rosalie Crutchley. Unfortunately they only appear at the start of the film.
The music always suits the tone, and the sound effects are great. Some sounds, like smashing glass and banging, are intensified, but sometimes the banging is so overused that the tension dies before it has a chance to develop.
Non-existent. It takes a lot to scare me, because I love horror, but even the worst films I have seen could make me jump or feel tense from time to time. This film did none of that. The characters talk and talk and talk, Nell panicks, something bangs on a door....so the build up to the end is lacking. When something scary does happen, the characters start talking, walking around or eating dinner again.
The 'evil' house shows how paranoid the characters are. An open door, a draught and muscle spasm do not point towards ghosts. To be honest, the film focuses more on Nell's unstable mind instead of the house. Although at the end they do come together.
I would definitely skip this film. I saw the The Haunting remake, released in 1999, and besides the last minute it was time well spent. This is the first time that I have preferred a remake over the original.
From what I have read on here some of these reviews have got muddled up with the god-awful re-make, which has reduced what should be a uniform five star rating. For the record, my review is most definitely centred on the classic 1963 chiller.
Based on Shirley Jackson's equally scary and atmospheric novel, "The Haunting of Hill House", published just four years previously, "The Haunting" tells the story of four very different people who agree to stay the night together at Hill House as part of an investigation into the supernatural headed by the mysterious Dr Markaway (Dr Montague in the novel). Rather than focusing on ghosts as such, the supernatural evil stems from the house itself. This is then connected to the vulnerable character Eleanor who has a troubled past. You hear the expression "psychological horror" or "thriller" banded around a lot, but "The Haunting" really is a perfect representation of this genre.
Stephen King once listed the film "The Haunting" amongst the best horror movies of all time in his non-fiction discussion on the horror genre, "Dance Macabre". He also compared it to a radio play, pointing out that fear is very effectively generated by what you can't see. Indeed, this excellent supernatural thriller proves that your imagination still can't be matched by any level of special effects.
The film's strengths are numerous to say the least. Atmosphere is superbly created by the setting in Ettington Park Hotel, one of my most favourite haunts and a strong cast ensures a creepy sense of empathy for the characters.
A must buy for people who can appreciate high class horror. Don't even bother with the remake!
Robert Wise's 1963 The Haunting is, I'll go ahead and announce right here and now, one of my favourite films of all time. Complex, intelligent, layered, beautifully shot, wittily written - whatever one's criteria for judging the merits of these things, The Haunting meets it, shortly before scaring the very pores out the skin...
The tale, based on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting Of Hill House, concerns an experiment conducted in the house in question, a place "born bad", by a scientist interested in determining the legitimacy or otherwise of the myriad of legends concerning supernatural activity therein.
He enlists a handful of volunteers to assist him, principle amongst them being Julie Harris' Eleanor Lance, a woman still riddled with guilt following the recent death of her invalid mother.
Throughout the course of the experiment, the secrets of Hill House are revealed to them and to us via a series of increasingly unsettling set-pieces - the thumping on the doors still gets me even now, umpteen viewings later.
The Haunting's success lies in its blurring of the psychological and the "actual". By the film's end, we are no surer of the existence of supernatural forces within the grounds of Hill House than we were at the beginning. It may be that those ghosts referred to in the prologue have been responsible for the uncanny, eerie, often downright terrifying episodes witnessed, but it is just as likely that what we have experienced is the rupturing of a frayed and fragile mind.
As much as it's a ghost story and a psychological drama, The Haunting is also a love story - much has been written about the lesbian overtones of Eleanor's relationship with Theo, another female volunteer. Nothing is ever made explicit - we are left to reach our own conclusions - but plenty of suggestive remarks and asides help nudge us in the right direction.
Davis Boulton's widescreen cinematography is astounding throughout, ensuring that Hill House becomes as much a character as any of the human players. Statues, plants seem to grope and grasp from the edges of the frame. The protagonists often appear swallowed by their surroundings, swamped by the stone. Hill House becomes an ominous, living, breathing presence.
The Haunting then is at once a psychological drama, a horror film and a love story (or a lust story, at any rate), rich with influences ranging from German Expressionism to Film Noir.
And it is, I'll repeat, terrifying.
The Region 2 DVD can be picked up fairly cheaply (7 quid seems to be the average asking price), and comes complete with a few extras, best of which being a cast and crew commentary. It's absolutely a must-see, and, that done, will soon become a must-own.
A review of the DVD. There was a terrible remake of this film made in 1999, which a lot of people have reviewed in this category, but the image and synopsis suggest it's the old film we should be writing about here (I suspect two categories were merged at some point).
This is a real classic from 1963, a very frightening ghost story adapted from Shirley Jackson's celebrated novel The Haunting of Hill House. It was made by M-G-M in Britain, and directed by Robert Wise - he'd cut his teeth on spooky Val Lewton horrors like The Body Snatcher before progressing to more mainstream work. His next film after The Haunting was The Sound of Music.
A parapsychologist, Dr Markway, decides to investigate a notorious haunted house, taking two psychics (Eleanor and Theodora) with him, along with Luke, a sceptic who stands to inherit the house. It isn't long before they run into trouble. Spooky trouble!
As I said, this is exceptionally scary. It made me jump on at least three separate occasions, and creates a feeling of real, queasy dread that left me feeling a bit weirded out. And yet there's no blood, no monsters, no special effects. The sound effects, the use of light and shadow, the acting, and above all the camerawork do it all, in conjunction with the viewer's imagination (assuming the viewer has one). The music is also very good, ramping up the tension without drowning us in crescendos the way Hammer and their imitators do.
The film is shot beautifully (in black and white), and the mobile camerawork is superb, swooping and sweeping and zooming to great effect. Slow pans up a spooky spiral staircase induced a physical feeling of vertigo in me, and so much is achieved just by having the camera tilt on its axis or judder slightly at opportune moments. This will, of course, wear out the patience of people who prefer their horror a bit more in-your-face, but that's their loss. I defy anyone to sit through the 'scary wallpaper' bit without feeling at least *some* unease. The locations and sets are excellent - a haunted house film obviously needs a strong sense of location, and this house manages to seem ominous even before anything's happened. It looms very well.
The four main cast members are exemplary. Julie Harris is superb as Eleanor, the shy, mousy psychic who finds a new sense of purpose in Hill House. Always on the verge of losing it completely, she does fear very well, although there are darker hints about what she's really up to. Richard Johnson is fine as the enthusiastic Markway - tall, dark and handsome enough to be a credible focus of erotic attention from Eleanor (he was being considered for the part of James Bond at about this time). Russ Tamblyn (later in Twin Peaks, among many other things) is great as Luke, doing everything a token cynic needs to do in these kinds of films. Claire Bloom is fantastic as Theo, the rather nasty lesbian psychic, although she seems a bit too self-assured and fashionable (costumes by Mary Quant!) to get so jealous of Eleanor. There are great sinister servant roles from Rosalie Crutchley and Valentine Dyall, too.
The story itself is very clever - it leaves just enough ambiguity that we can't say with *total* confidence what exactly has happened at the end. It borrows from all the best sources. Character names sort of evoke Poe, and the New England location is straight out of Lovecraft. Spooky wallpaper and female neurosis is found in a great short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and one of the phenomena closely resembles something that (allegedly) happened at Borley Rectory. It's taken a lot of great old horror ingredients and thrown them together in the best possible order. The story was later ripped off shamelessly by Stephen King in his woeful miniseries Rose Red and, with slightly more inventiveness, by the BBC's Ghostwatch.
The DVD has a gallery of old posters etc, and a rather good trailer (in which Richard Johnson addresses the audience directly, in character). There's also a commentary from, well, almost everyone - the director, the scriptwriter, and all four of the main cast contribute. It's not too cluttered, though, as they were clearly all recorded separately (Claire Bloom sounds like she isn't even watching the film as she talks). It's not too bad as these things go, but you're left wishing there was more of some people than of others. The only fault with the DVD is that the sound level is a bit too low.
This has a 12 certificate - no nudity or violence, but very scary. Amazon have it for about £5, a bargain. If mysterious knocking sounds and door handles turning by themselves sound like your kind of thing, you need to see this as soon as possible.
*Film only review*
Ask someone to name a ride that will be in every fun fair and amusement park and people will probably start off with a rollercoaster. However, after this the only other staple ride is the Ghost Ride/Haunted House. It must be noted that there are two distinct types of haunted house; the good ones and the absolute rubbish ones. Many a time as a small child in my local village fate I would go on into the haunted house to be confronted by aging models and screams emanating from aged and crackling speakers. However, visit somewhere like Euro Disney and you will see a top quality haunted house that has top of the range animatronics and jolly songs. What all these rides have in common is a lack of real scares a trait that 1999 film The Haunting shares.
Dr David Marrow is a psychiatrist who is studying the effects of fear and mass hysteria. To achieve his latest findings he invites three unsuspecting people to an old manor house pretending that it is a study for insomniacs. The house was once owned by an eccentric industrialist who filed it will elaborate gothic art pieces. There are rooms full of mirrors and hallways that turn into ponds. With patients Nell, Theo and Luke in the house it soon become clear that Nell is not as stable as Dr Marrow would have liked. Almost immediately she begins to hear the voices of dead children and see the house moving. Is this all part of Dr Marrows elaborate experiment or is their more to the unoccupied house that sits on the hill?
The Haunting is one of those films that I love to hate. It is a huge expensive mess than manages to fail on almost ever level but what a failure! Firstly, the set design must be praised for being the most over the top and gothic style in film in years. Its a style similar to comedies such as The Addams Family, but in this case its meant to be a horror. There are rooms in the house that become merry-go-rounds and a wonderful indoor garden. The designers must have been inspired by the feeling you get at top quality haunted houses as it looks fantastic.
This over the top feel continues in the direction of the film and you can not expect much less from Jan de Bont. De Bont is one of the cheesiest directors around with films like Twister and Speed 2: Cruise Control in his portfolio. Once the actual haunting in the film begins he uses all the classic techniques and cranks them up to 11. Why not have a giant moving bed or a haunted painting that drags itself off the wall? The tone is so completely wrong that you sit slack jawed at the unscariness of it all. If you go into the film thinking its a light hearted comedy and not an attempt to thrill you can actually enjoy yourself.
The main reasons that the film fails to be scary is probably a combination of the certificate and the CGI in use. The Haunting; came out in 1999 and aimed for a teen market using the new fangled CGI effects. As many people now realise with CGI sometimes more is less. At the end of the 90s this was not the case and it seems that de Bont was determined to get his moneys worth. Every action sequence is overblown and too full. There are very few subtle scares here, instead de Bont adopts an explosive position and has the whole house chasing his heroes. Add to this the fact that the film was constrained by a 12 certificate and you soon realise that you are not going to witness the levels of gore that you would expect from a horror film.
The entire film in a hammy example of the medium and I get the feeling that the actors knew this as soon as they walked on set. Reportedly the makers of the film built a full scale set of the house so that the film would have an epic feel. Actors such as Owen Wilson, Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones must have known that this film was not going to be an Oscar winner almost instantly. Therefore, each actor plays their role in an overly dramatic fashion. Personally I found it quite fun, but Wilson was a bit annoying. This was somewhat resolved by Zeta Jones coming across as likable for the first time in any Hollywood film that she has made.
Neeson, Wilson and Zeta Jones, are all household names but none of them are the star of the film and this causes another issue. Instead that dubious pleasure is left to Lili Taylor as Nell; the annoying one. Taylor pops up in films every now and again, usually of the indie variety or as the psycho girlfriend. As Nell she is an incredibly wet character and although the film is set up for you to feel sympathetic to her, you just dont. I can forgive the elaborate sets, dynamic direction and hammy acting but the central performance by Taylor is just bad and its clear why she never went on to bigger roles.
The Haunting is currently doing the terrestrial TV rounds and as a guilty pleasure its an ok watch. I did not enjoy the film the way that it was meant to be enjoyed, but as a lesson is so bad its good. Saying this, I can only give the film 2 stars because the vast majority of people will only see the poor acting, OTT sets and naff direction. If you want to see a modern scary film try The Descent.
Director: Jan de Bont
Starring: Liam Neeson, Luke Wilson and Catherine Zeta Jones
Price: Amazon uk £4.97
Having seen “The Haunting” the other night on TV I thought I’d review it for you all seen as I’ve not already done so. I guess by the name of the film you’ll be able to hazard a guess as to its content. Go on, take a wild guess. What’s that I hear? Goldfish? No you plonker, its about ghosts, get it? Anyway, as with all horrors I was expecting to be sitting on the edge of the seat and/or hiding behind the nearest cusion/teddy bear/pillow. Delete as appropriate. And, as with most horrors I found myself distinctly not hiding behind the nearest cusion/teddy bear/pillow. Or sitting on the edge of the seat. Alas this film is another horror that didn’t exactly leave me scared of going into the shower or scared of going downstairs with no light on. (Ok, so no more scared than I normally am, after all, you never know who might be hiding behind the shower curtain!) You see I’m always drawn to horror films. I really don’t know why because I do tend to frighten easily. I either don’t scare very easily any more or the horror films I’ve seen lately just haven’t been that scary. (I’m almost certain it’s the latter one of the two). I’ve still to watch the whole of The Exorcist though which means I’m certainly not past being scared! But then this was based on a true story which just makes it all the more terrifying. Anyway, that’s enough introductory babbling, don’t you agree? Synopsis ``````````` It is a remake of the 1963 film of the same name. The film is set in a remote gothic mansion going by the names of “Hill House” (very original don’t you agree?). It was built in 1837 by a textile baron for his wife and children that they would never have. For more than a century, it remained uninhabited, with only a caretaker and housekeeper to tend to its
upkeep. Both of whom live in town, quite a few miles away, and neither will venture anywhere near the house after dark. The housekeeper likes to keep pointing this fact out. It is for this reason that Dr. Jeffrey Marrow (Liam Neeson) decides to bring a small group who have agreed to participate in an academic study he is conducting. He conducts the study under the premise that it’s a sleep disorder study. So the people who apply to take part in the study (they’d get paid a certain amount per week for it) have all got various sleep disorders (mainly in the form of insomnia). You may have noticed I wrote “under the premise”, well this is because Dr. Jeffrey Marrow is in fact not at all interested in sleep disorders. He’s more interested in the primordial fear reaction. You see he intends on feeding them a few mild horror stories about the history behind the house and then leave them to study their reactions. The pupils under investigation are Eleanor (Lili Taylor), Theodora (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson). And, the rest is history as they say. I’m sure you can imagine what happens in the film really can’t you? Sarah_Louise’s view ````````````````````````` I did actually get into this film quite a bit, despite the fact that I didn’t really find it scary. The first half is pretty slow to start but without the introduction it really wouldn’t work. However, even though the introduction to Eleanor was necessary, even when they actually get into the house the story is pretty slow to get off the ground. (Or rather its slow before anything actually happens). We all know something is going to happen but it just seems to take a while before anything actually does. They all go on a tour of the house and are amazed at the architecture and paintings. They come across the housekeeper who, again, says they’ll be there
on their own because “she doesn’t come anywhere near the house after dark”. All of the above seems to drag on a little and isn’t strictly necessary in my books. Confusing Bits `````````````````` When the caretaker and housekeeper leave just before dark they chain up and padlock the large gates at the bottom of the drive. On the first night one of the people helping out on the investigation (not on of the main characters) gets injured, Dr. Marrow swiftly unlocks the padlocks and drives off to hospital with her. However, near the end of the film, when everyone’s lives are in danger, there is a huge group effort in how to get out. It appears Dr. Marrow has conveniently lost his keys to the padlocks to add a bit of drama (i.e. they end up driving into the gates, it doesn’t work but there we go!) Conclusion `````````````` All-in-all not a bad film at all. Just don’t expect it to have you scared. There are a few bits that could be seen as mildly scary (i.e. if you imagine what it’d be like to be in that situation yourself). But purely from a watching point of view it really isn’t that scary. There isn’t much gore either. You’ll get a tiny bit of blood when the helper previously mentioned has her accident. You’ll get bloody footprints but these aren’t scary and you’ll get one decapitation. There aren’t any close ups of this decapitation though and quite frankly if you blink you’ll miss it! All-in-all I would recommend this film, I’d give it 3 stars but trust me when I say you could watch this just before going to bed, it shouldn’t have you lied awake for hours wondering if there’s someone about to kill you in your bedroom! (Although I often wonder that myself, I don’t need a film to get me thinking that, yes I know, I’m paranoid!) Some of the spe
cial effects are pretty good in my opinion (especially the scenes when you see the outline of the ghosts under the curtains and bed covers). Having never seen the 1963 original I can’t compare it to this but I’m sure the special effects are far better in the 1999 version! Boring Bits `````````````` “The Haunting” was released in 1999. Director: Jan de Bont Producers: Susan Arnold, Donna Roth, Colin Wilson Screenplay: David Self, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Duration: 1hr 57mins.
Continuing my current theme of reviewing movies 'after the fact' because I know how popular it is, I thought I'd review something which was on TV last week. Once again, don't blame me if you wasted two hours of your life needlessly or reeeeally wanted to see it but missed it, y'all are just as capable of reading the TV guide as I am so I won't feel guilty. Still, TV being what it is I'm sure you'll only have to wait 6 months before it comes on again. Anyhoo, this is yet another of the seemingly endless stream of Hollywood remakes of usually far better movies released a number of years ago. The original version of The Haunting was apparently an atmospheric horror movie which worked rather well at raising the hackles on the back of the viewer's neck whilst this Jan de Bont remake is a pile of special effects driven tripe capable of causing eyes to roll but leaving neck hairs perfectly coiffured. Why do they remake perfectly good films when there are so many decent, new and unused screenplays flying around? Apparently because it is less of a financial risk to the studio but seeing as most of them end up turning out being crap and being compared unfavourably to their predecessors you have to wonder how much benefit this practice really is! Err yeah, anyway, this is a remake and you'll be better off watching the original apparently, I wish I had. The Haunting is basically your typical haunted house story with a little extra plot fluff thrown in to distinguish it from all the others. This time, the three house guests who find themselves inside the house are there because they think they are being paid a rather large sum of money to take part in an experiment about dreams. They include, Eleanor(Lili Taylor), a mousy woman who has spent the last umpteen years caring for her domineering and now recently dead mother and finds herself turfed out onto the streets by the viscious old bat's will. Theodora(Catherine Zet
a Jones), a feisty self-confident bisexual and the equally confident Luke(Owen Wilson) as well as the head of the experiment Dr. Jeffrey Marrow(Liam Neeson). Actually Dr. Marrow's experiment is to study the fear reaction but they aren't to know this because it would skew his data so he lets them think it's all about dreams. He intends to tell them spooky stories about the mansion and then let their imagination take over but all is naturally not as it seems... The haunting is a movie of two halves. The first is an atmospheric, deeply absorbing ghostly tour around a potentially haunted house, the second is a ludicrous special effects extravaganza which is so over-wrought that it feels like self-parody. I wasn't expecting too much to be honest when I settled down in front of the goggle box the other night but the opening hour flatters to deceive to the point where, when it does turn out to be crap as I'd initially expected it to be, it's even more disappointing. Less is more in the world of horror movies, when the hell will directors realise this? You don't show the monster, you don't overdo the special effects and you don't treat the watcher like a child...The Haunting falls down heavily on all three counts, particularly by making the special effects the main feature of the second half at the expense of every thing else - logic, reason, acting, script and entertainment are given the back seat to showing what the special effects guys can do with their computers. You won't care and frankly, it isn't all that good anyway! A face under a cloth pillow looks like a face peering through liquid plastic for starters... Much kudos has to go to the set designers here for all that's good about the movie because the haunted mansion they have created for us is like something out of a twisted fairytale. Huge creaking doors, large spooky statues, cherubic faces carved all over the place, a large carved gateway depictin
g purgatory, it's all great stuff. The opening segment is so good mainly because of the sets themselves as we tour around the mansion and take in the eye candy. The same level of kudos you give to these guys must be reciprocated as slaps around the head to the screenwriters director and special effects team who then proceed to wreck all the good work which had come before by over-doing it. Once the haunting business really kicks in you have animated statues, doors morphing into clutching hands, faces bulging out of ceilings and ugh, all the things which wouldn't look out of place in your typical Disney movie about ghosts and ghouls! The atmosphere generated in the first place is destroyed, the tension goes out of the window and so does the acting, script and any kind of common sense or hope the movie had of scaring or particulary entertaining the viewer. Bah! Two halves, one intruiging which draws you in, the second absolute pants. You may laugh though, particularly at one absolutely hilarious scene with Eleanor screaming some ludicrous lines at a swirling mess of special effects. Ho hum... In terms of acting it's OK but it's nothing special. I like Liam Neeson but he seems somewhat bored here, coming alive in one scene but soon slapped back down again to mediocrity - literally. Catherine Zeta Jones laps up her feisty bisexual role but soon disappears into the background sadly as does everyone in the movie aside from Lili Taylor who is the only character who gets to actually do much with her role. She is really good for, yep you guessed it, that first hour where you watch her slow slide towards a spooky-goings-on induced breakdown but then when all the special effects nonsense starts flying around she loses it too and becomes a silly parody along with all the rest of it. The screenplay suffers the safe fate, initially interesting then collapsing into cliche and self-parody and... ...and basically I can't be arsed over-analysing
it because it's just all very disappointing after a really promising start. Apparently the original upon which this is based is a far better movie so I might just go and check that out instead, maybe its director realised that splurging special effects at the screen does not make for a good movie, Jan de Bont obviously still has that to learn.
It was Halloween so I thought I would rent a creepy film to watch, so I went and got ?The Haunting?. I hadn?t actually looked on websites before hiring this as I usually do, I just went for it, and my theory about checking up on movies before renting them held itself up proud as sadly, ?The Haunting? which is a horror failed to be scary and failed to be creepy. Instead it tried to entertain me with a quite weird plot! The Haunting was surprisingly directed by Jan De Bont, the man behind Speed and Twister. Speed was a good film, Twister was ok, and he has just gone downhill with The Haunting. What surprised me the most though was the budget, $80m and they came up with a mediocre film. Ok, the special effects are quite good, but where?s the scary stuff?! It took $91m in the US and £5.6m over here in the UK. However, having watched the trailer on the DVD, it does give the film a kind of ?I need to see this? feel to the film. If I had saw the trailer in the cinema I would have wanted to see the film. It scored a mighty (cough) 4.7 on the IMDb website a pretty poor score to say the least especially when you see that the twister got 5.9. It?s quite entertaining and I watched it all the way through, but it would never make my personal DVD collection! It all starts off with the viewer witnessing a women getting told she has to leave her own house. You can tell this woman, Eleanor (Lili Taylor) doesn?t have much self esteem, all she wants it to keep her house, she owns nothing else and seems a bit dim if you ask me. She gets a phone call offering her $450 a week to help out with some research, only those with bad sleeping patterns or insomnia are invited, so she decides to give it a go and gets some directions to the place where the study is taking place. She arrives at Hill House, a huge huge mansion type place with would make you feel really scared just driving up to it. She?s kind of greeted by an old man, the caretaker of the place wh
o takes the chains off the gate to let her in. She is then taken to her room by the women who runs the household. Her room is huge, with statues and carvings everywhere, mostly of children?s heads, she soon falls in love, and soon gets told by the housekeeper than no one will be around after dark, no one will be able to hear them, after dark. You know that something is going on. We soon meet the other people who are participating in the study, being Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson). They are just as happy to be there, Theodora being a bit of a know it all and up herself and Luke just being like he is in any other film apart from Behind Enemy Lines where he actually gives a very good performance! After all the meetings etc we learn a little more about the house, about who built the house etc etc and then the hauntings start, the weird things start going on, but only one of the group can see it to start with, the rest are oblivious. Then it all starts happening and we see everyone starting to go mad, but they don?t seem to get scared, or maybe the acting let that bit down! Ok, it sounds quite good on paper, or on monitor should I say, but really it isn?t. It?s probably the plot that lets it down, or is it the acting, or maybe the lack of scary moments, or maybe the special effects. Oh I don?t know, maybe it would just everything that let the film down. The special effects are actually very good and I was quite impressed, that?s probably what most of the $80m of a budget went on, but just because the special effects were good, it didn?t make this a good film. The ghosts were just to obvious, they were right in front of your eyes, there wasn?t really any suspense build up and nothing was believable. Acting was what you?d expect too, it was ok, but it seemed to me like they just wanted to get the film finished. What would you do if you had just been pulled underwater by a huge statue with blood pouring
out of its mouth, would you just get up and carry on like not much had happened or would you get the hell out of there screaming and whaling like a scared kid?! I know what I would do. There were just no emotions in the acting, the characters never seemed scared or confused by what was going on around them. It seemed like they weren?t really surprised or shocked by the stuff they had just seen and that a babies silhouette in a pillow calling your name was natural and you?d just talk back. No, it just doesn?t work that way! The film is more than a scary film, its about purgatory, which I don?t understand much about anyway, but this only becomes apparent towards the end of the film. I thought I was in for a scare fest, or to at least be a little nervous at what was around the corner, but this was a sad excuse for a horror, in fact, the last film that really got to me was the Blair Witch Project, and I?ve watched a fair few films since then, what?s happening to horror films these days, where?s the frights? It?s a 12 certificate, so not much sign or blood and gore and I should have taken note of the 12 rating when renting it as it would have told me this wasn?t that scary, Gremlins is scarier. Not recommended. If your looking for a film of this type, try House on the Haunted Hill, it?s a better film but made in the same sort of way with the same kind of plot.
Ok! a lot of you wanted more! Here goes... In 1963 (I think) a black and white film entitled 'The Haunting' came out. It was about a group of people who are sent to stay in a house as part of a ghost study. Of course they did in this film. Yet the true masterpeice was that special effects didn't exist as they do today. The greatest effect was a door opening by itself. It was so real it frightened me like I've never been frightened before. It created the phrase 'scary movie'. Then in 1999 the Director of Speed decided he wanted to make a remake of this ultimate ghost movie. But instead of making it a ghost study, he changed the scipt to make it a sleep study. So the group are there to study there sleeping habbits. But unknown to them is that they're really there as part of a experiment into group anxiety and fear. The doctor wants to witness them creating there own fear. Yet unkwown to him is that the house is haunted by the ghost of the evil owner who died years earlier. But the ghost wont let them escape easily. I was excited when I heard this film was to be made. I just expected a colour version of the original classic. Yet, somewhere along the line the Director has though 'wait, why do we need a good script? We have all of this Hollywood trickery at the touch of a button. If they can make dinosaurs in Jurassic park look good, we can make ghosts and scary children float round the room. Why, lets make the whole thing over dramatic and Hollywoodised." The script is very poor. It seems that it's there just to fill in the silence. The star of the film is supposed to be the incredible things they can do with a blue screen and a computer. The house in which it set is nothing like the original. Instead of a normal stately home, it looks like a hollywood set. Yes it is a hollywood set, but it's not supposed to look like on. It's just too fake looking and dis
tracts your brain from being drawn into the story. The acting is way too much. They all try to make more out of their lines than what is actually there. You get the feeling that the woman who playes Elenor is trying too hard to impress other directors who are watching. This film is why she has never been seen in anything else. Yet she did a wondeful job as a blind woman in the X-files. The script in most parts was corny...like a scooby doo cartoon "Wait there Thelma! I'll save the day! Oh no there's a ghost. What ever shall I do". Sorry, I want something more intelligent than this. The Roger Rabbit part...the cartoon style graphics are a laugh. There is nothing scary about a bed turning into a cartoon ghost head. All the FX are just too Walt Disney. People are afriad of things that could happen to them in real life. This is why it is such a failure in the scary department. There is no way that a cartoon baby cherub will frighten the pants off you. If you want a true ghost story that will scare you...see the original.
The horror movie industry has been relatively slow, lately. The times of Friday the 13th (oh, last friday by the way), Halloween and the likes have clearly passed. All that is left are horror-spoofs like the Scary Movie I and II. Right? Think again. They are still being made, only not with mind-boggling dumb plots and even worse (and gross) special effects. Nowadays, the stories like Dracula etc. make for some fine movies. As with most genres, the new powerful computer graphics can add greatly to the experience. In effect, together with the obvious SF movies, horror is THE genre to benefit the most. In comes ‘The Haunting’. This movie from 1999 contains all the ingredients for being a great movie. Great casting, great setting, and tremendously great special effects. Notice however, that I don’t include ‘great plot’ here. Does that mean the plot stinks? Stick with me, and I’ll tell you. The story ~~~ Eleanor Vance has taken care of her mother almost all her life. But, now that her mother recently passed away, things don’t look too good. She lives alone, has no income, and suffers from insomnia. Further, her sister and her husband are trying to persuade her to sell the house. In all her misery, she receives a phone-call, pointing her to an advertisement for volunteers for insomnia-research, which pays well. Of course she applies, and gets accepted. Together with a woman called Theo and a guy called Luke, she goes to a castle called Hill House for the research. The experiment is lead by a Dr. Marrows, who secretly uses them to do a study on fear. The castle is a strange place. On one hand, it is enormously big, with doors ten meters high and ceilings like in a church. On the other hand, the place is scattered with gargoyles and heads of little children. Doors squeak, curtains are moving by wind. Then, Dr. Marrows tells them a story about the man who built the place, a king that loved chi
ldren, but apparently never could have them himself, because they all died at birth… (cue scary music..) After that, strange things start to happen, and as the viewer, you are constantly puzzled whether Dr Marrows is behind it all or not. The Casting ~~~ The casting can make or break a movie. In this case, the casting is actually particularly good. Lill Taylor plays a fragile Eleanor, who grows in the movie as the central plot figure. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the luscious and handsome Theo with an attitude. Liam Neeson sets a somewhat distant, but dedicated dr. Marrows. The only one that doesn’t really seems to spark is Owen Wilson as Luke. Together, they set the scene quite nicely, and let you really get into the story. The Effects ~~~ First of all, the most important effect is not a ‘special’ effect at all. The castle itself is awesome. It is huge, with an enormous entrance, bedrooms that could fit my entire house in, long winding hallways and –my favourite- an amazing in-door garden. The effect is similar to Dr. Who’s Tardis: It looks much larger on the inside than it is from the outside. The special effects are also great. All the statues, pictures and gargoyles allow for many ‘spooky’ effects. Ceilings that seem to distort and almost collapse, pictures that keep staring at you from all angles, they’re all here. There is tremendous eye for detail, and creative use of scenery. For instance, two lights, that have been standing there for hours, can suddenly turn into the eyes of some shadowy creature. This movie really pulls all the plugs in the effects area, and it works deliciously. The verdict ~~~ In total, this movie brings new life to the horror genre. It shows that you can make a scary movie, without spilling tons of blood on the screen and kill off all actors in the process. We finally seem to have shaken off the mind-bogglingly dumb ‘ha
ck and slash’ story, and moved on. The new wave of effects and incorporation of quality actors and at least a decent plot lead the way to a new future for the genre. I know this movie is already two years old, but it still stands out from the crowd. Together with “Dracula’ I hope it encourages Hollywood to make more similar movies.
The general opinion among many of Jan de Bot’s ‘The Haunting’ is not very good at all. In fact his name has been associated with quite a few poor films, Speed 2 to name just one. This 1999 film is based on the book by Shirley Jackson and is a remake of the 1963 film of the same name. For many like myself who have never read the book or seen the earlier film this will be of no relevance. Liam Neeson stars as Dr David Marrow who gathers together 3 insomniacs at a mansion called Hill House under the pretence of a sleep study survey. In fact he sets them up to see how they will react to fear and starts the ball rolling by telling them of them a ghostly tale of the Hill House mansion. The three people in question are Eleanor Vance (Lili Taylor), Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson). Let’s first take a look at the actors and the characters they portrayed. Catherine Zeta Jones’s character starts off quite brash and openly bi-sexual but she does change personality as the film progresses so quite why she started off like this I don’t know. Her performance though is ok if nothing spectacular. Neeson is his usual reliable self but his character could have been written slightly better. Owen Wilson meanwhile is awful but I have to admit I’ve never really like him in any of the films he has appeared in and his character is equally annoying. The best out of the whole cast has to be Lili Taylor who does a commendable job and is very suited to the part of Eleanor. A couple of minor roles go to Bruce Dern and Marian Seldes as Mr and Mrs Dudley who are the caretakers of the house and both are rather good despite being on screen for a short time.. Sadly ‘The Haunting’ relies far too much on CGI effects and like ‘The House On Haunted Hill’ suffers as such. It would have been far more effective to use a real child in at least once in one of the scenes involving E
leanor. Had they done this it could have been quite effective and made to be far more creepy than the special effects we eventually ended up with. Also it’s a fairly slow film and an hour passes before things start to get going, this is not always a bad thing but ‘The Haunting’ doesn’t really delivery on the films early promise and it all falls a little flat. One of the films outstanding highlights though has to be the set design of the actual mansion which is utterly superb. We also get some very nice shots of the outside which again are quite fantastic. All this adds some atmosphere to the film and it really does look stunning. I also get the impression that the film would have been son much better had they made it with a higher certificate in mind and I feel that in trying for the 12 certificate (which they got) they lost out in a big way. Overall it’s not really very scary and despite the basic storyline being a good one the film never really delivers the goods. Although this is the best film Jan de Bot has directed (excluding Speed) it’s still not a great one. I know it sounds a cop out but the best I can say about ‘The Haunting’ is that it’s worth a watch and nothing more.
Last night, 'The Haunting' received its premier on Sky television, and with little better to do with my Easter Saturday evening, I sat down to watch it. I remembered the film receiving a lukewarm response from critics upon its release back in 1999, but was curious to find out just how bad the movie was. I have previously seen the 1963 original movie, upon which the 1999 film was, somewhat loosely, based. To be honest, I wasn't greatly impressed by the original movie, but was interested to find how the story had been altered for a modern audience. The answer is pretty radically – both in terms of the story-telling, and in terms of the plot itself. THE PLOT In the 1999 version of 'The Haunting', we are introduced to psychiatrist Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), who has placed an advertisement in a newspaper seeking research subjects who have "trouble sleeping", ostensibly for a study into insomnia. However, Marrow has a hidden motive, he intends to take the respondents to a haunted house, and investigate the "dynamic of fear" by slowly revealing a fabricated, mysterious ghost story to them. His first test subject for the experiment is Eleanor "Nell" Vance (Lili Taylor), who is to be the main character of the piece, and from the start seems to have some sort of affinity for the supernatural. The next subject that we encounter is Theodora "Theo" (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who seemingly doesn't merit a surname, and is a flighty New York artist, slinking around the house in dark figure-hugging outfits, and pouting. The third, and final, subject, Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson) is an initially a seemingly nervous, anxious character. The house itself is a gargantuan monstrosity of Gothic arches, evil-looking statuary, and sinsister furnishings, with replicas of childrens' heads very prominent among the house's carvings. Inevitably, it's not long before the
characters begin to experience peculiar supernatural occurrences, and Marrow realises that the house might have mysteries beyond those he has invented to study his subjects' fears... COMPARE & CONTRAST It is pretty unreasonable to compare the modern remake of 'The Haunting' with the 1963 original, mainly because the later film is so vastly inferior. The actual plots of the film are pretty different, for a start. In the 1963 movie, supernatural investigator Dr Markway is researching the existence of ghosts, and visits Hill House, a mansion associated with a history of death and insanity. He is accompanied by skeptic Luke, who will inherit the house, clairvoyant Theodora, and nervous Eleanor, who feels a strange affinity for the spirits inhabiting the old house. In both movies, the casts experience supernatural manifestations in the house, however, in the 1963 original these manifestations are vastly subtler than those of the 1999 film. In the original, very few overtly suspicious events occur – at one point, for example, at one point one of the female characters holds the others' hand, only to realise that they are both on opposite sides of the room... so, whose hand is she holding? However, in the 1999 remake, special effects and computer graphics are used throughout the entire movie to produce paranormal phenomena. These are far more clumsy and overt, reducing the sense of suspense and tension that characterised the earlier film, and reducing the story to a modern, shock-driven horror movie. The supernatural manifestations are, for the most part, rationally explained away in the 1963 film, however, in the 1999 remake, the obvious and heavy-handed computer-generated effects cannot be so easily dismissed, especially as the film approaches its clumsy and preposterous conclusion. There is, however, an early scene in the later film where loud banging is blamed on the house's ancient plumbing, which t
he test subjects appear to accept with implausible willingness. Interestingly, some of the main scenes from the original movie have been retained in the remake. A very major scene in the original involving a wrought iron spiral staircase is featured in the later film, but as with the supernatural manifestations, it seems to have been included in a desperate attempt to introduce the tiniest fragment of tension to the remake, and fails abysmally, since it never seems as though the unstable staircase poses a threat to anyone's existence. Apart, that is, from Dr. Marrow's mobile phone. Of course, with the change in plot, the dialogue between the characters has been changed. However, its style has also been updated. The female characters in the remake are far stronger characters, even if they are no more developed, than their counterparts in the original film. The dialogue in the remake has unquestionably been written for a contemporary audience, and contains far more overt references to sexuality and profanity than an early Sixties audience would have tolerated. It's also worth mentioning that the films' directors are very different in style, not to say ability. While the 1963 film's director, Robert Wise, has received two Best Director Oscars (for 'The Sound of Music' and 'West Side Story'), and was nominated for another ('I Want To Live!'), the remake's director Jan de Bont, has received no such accolades. De Bont, is however, credited with some of my least favourite movies of all time – 'Speed 2: Cruise Control' and 'Twister' – and has twice been nominated for Worst Director by the unprestigious Razzle Awards (for 'Speed 2: Cruise Control' and 'The Haunting'). COMPUTER GRAPHICS So, given that the only thing really driving the plot of the 1999 remake of 'The Haunting' is its special effects, most of which are computer-generat
ed manifestations. It is, then, a great pity that the special effects are so woefully bad. Faces materialise in computer-generated curtains which wave unrealistically in a computer-generated breeze, faces form in unconvincing frost which appears on windows, and hands grow out of doors. These effects all fall far short of being convincing because they have been so poorly matted onto the background, with a noticeable line around them at points. When the computer effects interact with live actors, the resulting scenes are surprisingly well realised; however, such scenes are relatively rare. Overall, the special effects left me thinking back to the early FMV-heavy PC game 'The 7th Guest', which meant I kept expecting to be presented with ridiculously difficult chess puzzles before I could progress to the next section of the film. CAST & CHARACTERS Liam Neeson plays Dr. David Marrow, and puts in quite the most appallingly wooden performance that I have ever seen him deliver. It's difficult to believe that this is the same actor that gave such dignity to the role of Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's 'Schindler's List'. However, having said that, he had spectacularly little to work with, as David Self's dreadful reworking of the novel upon which the film was based reduced his character to a ridiculous pastiche. Of course, having said that, the woodenness of Neeson's performance is easily eclipsed by the ever-decorous Zeta-Jones, whose performance as the pouting Theodora is among Hollywood's most eminently unmemorable. That is, of course, in the few scenes where she is given any lines to deliver. Lili Taylor as Eleanor Vance should, if film promotion accurately reflected a film's content rather than the saleability of the its less prominent actors, have received higher billing in the film. Her performance is still far from flawless, but puts Neeson and Zeta-Jones's efforts to shame. Va
nce is an implausible character whose motives towards the end of the film become far from clear, and Taylor seems to have been as bemused by this as the film's audience would be. Owen Wilson's Luke Sanderson is also a remarkably odd character, lurching unpredictably from socially stunted awkwardness at the beginning of the film to determined man-of-action as it progresses. Nonetheless, his amiability makes his character reasonably believable despite the implausible shifts in motives and behaviour. There are brief appearances by Bruce Dern and Marian Seldes at the beginning of the film as Mr. & Mrs. Dudley, the old house's caretakers, who dispatch deliberately enigmatic and unhelpful words to the test subjects before leaving the house to go to town.... No-one lives any nearer than town... no-one will come any nearer than that... in the night... in the dark. Talk about painfully tedious foreshadowing! Actually, while I mention foreshadowing, the film is littered with heavy-handed hints as to what will happen as the film's confused and disorganised climax approaches, and each is hammered home as characteristically unsubtly as you would expect from a director of de Bont's skill. CONCLUSIONS If you have nothing, absolutely nothing, better to do with almost two hours of your life, then 'The Haunting' is for you. With its heavy-handed foreshadowing, dreadful characterisation, wooden acting, unconvincing and poorly-realised special effects, and confusingly clumsy climax, 'The Haunting' is among the worst films of all time. By all means seek out Robert Wise's 1963 original, which still gets periodic airings in late-night BBC2 schedules from time-to-time, but don't waste any time on this effort. Really. Oh, if I did have to offer any positive words, I would admit that some of the sets for the haunted house are actually quite impressive. Not impressive enough to make the film worth watchi
ng, you understand, but nicely presented.
The Haunting stars Catherine Zeta Jones, Liam Neeson, Owen Nelson and Lili Taylor. At the beginning of the film, we find Elanor, a young woman who has just lost her house, as her Mum died and left the property to her sister. After a huge argument with her sister, Elanor recieves a strange phonecall. It tells her to look at an advert in the paper. '$900 a week insomnia experiment, room included'. With nowhere else to go, Elanor accepts this, and travels to 'Hill House'. But there is a deeper meaning for Her being there, other than money,one that even She doesnt understand. When she arrives, the caretaker takes her to her room, and explains that she leaves after dark, locks the gate, goes to town which is 9 miles away and adds 'We won't be able to hear you scream, no-one will, no-one will come closer than town, not in the dark'. Elanor takes this as a twisted joke, but will soon find out that it is far from it. However, what none of the insomniacs realise is that this experiment has nothing to do with insomnia. Dr.Marrow (Liam Neeson), is conducting an experiment into collective group fear. On the first night, he tells his 3 'lab rats' Theo(Catherine Zeta Jones), Luke (Owen Wilson) and Eleanor(Lili Taylor) the first part of a 'huated house' like story, which he believes is completely made up. Later that night, he tells Luke the second part of the story, and swears him to secrecy, knowing full - well that he will tell the others. But unfortunately, the experiment is doomed to spin out of control. Elanor begins to hear voices, which sound like those of children. The story they were told said that the person that built the house wanted to fill it with the voices of the children he never had. Elanor awakes one morning to find the words 'Welcome home Elanore' scrawled on the walls. Taking it as a sick joke, she goes off on her own. Soon though, the house draws here closer to the truth. She soon finds out that the b
uilder of the house murdered the children from his workhouses, and that his spirit was keeping all their spirits in 'purgatory' a place between the living and the dead. It is poor Elanors job to release the children to heaven, and send him to hell. She continues to find clues about it, and soon discovers where the children want her to go. The other members of the experiment thinks she's crazy, so eventually, Dr. Marrow has to tell them the truth before Elanor has a mental breakdown. But she won't believe him, and soon all 4 people realise that it is true. They try to escape, but the house won't let them. Luke is killed trying to escape, leaving only Elanor, the doc and Theo. In a dramatic, fully special effected scene, Elanor confronts the builder, and he is sent to hell. She has a few moments of life left, as she see's the childrens spirits ascending to heaven, and soon she too joins them. This is where the film ends. Played with all Her heart by Lili Taylor, Nell is intense and sympathetic and painfully at odds with Catherine Zeta Jones whose bi-sexual character over acts to such a degree that She becomes nothing more than cardboard. Zeta Jones detracts from the central character for all the wrong reasons,its a major misjudgement and one that damages the film. De Bont treats ghosts in exactly the same way that He did tornados, He opts for a rollercoaster ride of effects,each more elaborate than the last and, yes these are highly effective computer graphics. Unfortunately, by doing so, De Bont loses so much atmosphere.Things are so much more creepy in the half light,here everything is bright in centre frame in all its glory,but wheras tension and sudden shocks come out of the dark. They are not here because the Director has played His ace card too soon. The film makers used Harlaxton Manor near Grantham Lincolnshire England for its exterior locations. Its a wonderful choice for a haunted hous
e,huge and very very gothic. The interior set design by Eugenio Zanetti is simply wonderful,huge creations,a multitude of colours and styles that make the mansion almost surreal in its appearance. The human characters are physically lost within its scale.Take for example the great hall,fifteen thousand feet of floor space and over forty foot high.The film really needs to be viewed in widescreen to appreciate the work involved here! The plot is quite good, the effects are amazing, the acting on the most part very good, but some of the characters, other than Elanor, should have been worked on more. As a horror film The Haunting is a bit of a failure but it's ground breaking special effects are a hit. Its a shame that the Director didnt choose to combine both great special effects, scarieness, and character depth, into His ghost story,then we might have had a truely memorable film. However, though not truely memorable, it is a very good watch, if only for the effects, and I recommend it.
When you're remaking a movie, as Jeremiah Figgs-Nottle is very prone to say, you've got to make something new or dave27 will give you a right slagging off. Like Madonna's very dubious recreation of Don McLean's classic 'American Pie' single, this remake of a black and white cult horror classic from the 1960's adds nothing to the original other than a few modern techno bits and a lot of blipping noises. Directed by Jan de Bont (Mrs dave27: "Who he?"), this updated and much glossier flick adds nothing to the tension and fierce melodrama of the original which starred Claire Bloom and was extremely scary as I recall. Emanating from Stephen Spielberg's Dreamworks organisation in 1999, it stars Catherine Zeta Jones, Liam Neeson and newcomer Lili Taylor, with an ancient looking Bruce Dern in a minor cameo role. Bet he wishes he hadn't bothered... It's intended to be shocking and is jam packed with the latest computer generated technical stuff which is easy on the eye but doesn't help the tensionometer (OK, Mrs dave27, I know there's no such things, it's just for dramatic effect.) THIS FILM CREATES NO TENSION OR SUSPENSE. It's described as "a supernatural tale of terror about a disturbing homestead, Hill House". Yeah, well, who says? The film opens with a family somewhere in America bickering about an inheritance. Taylor plays Eleanor (Nell) the slightly not right daughter of a sick mother whom she nursed until her recent death. The mother left the house to her and her relatives are not best pleased. Nell receives a telephone call drawing her attention to an advert in a newspaper which seeks research assistants who have a problem sleeping, offering $900 a week for their assistance. Neeson plays Dr Merrill who is carrying out an experiment into the psychology of fear, although he fronts that up under the guise of his inevsti
gation being part of a five year study into insomnia with the goal of helping insomniacs. He's actually drawing people into an experience where they will truly experience terror so that he can study their reactions. Nell pulls up in her car at the gates of Hill House, and its cue eerie music and a panoramic shot of the weird old mansion - it's the stuff of your stereotypical horror nightmare. The gates are chained but your friendly neighbourhood knowing caretaker (Dern) lets her in. She clearly has a feeleing about the house and its past and atmosphere as soon as she lays her eyes upon it, as if she was always meant to be there. Huge doors creak spookily open and we're left to ponder, where's the housekeeper, cuddly Mrs Dudley? Nowhere to be seen, just an apparently deserted great house full of weird clicks and footsteps and horrific sculptures. Then a door opens in classic style and the housekeeper is there with a carving knife to greet her. But she's quite normal and shows Nell, the first of Merrill's group, to her room. They come across an old painting of a scary old gent - Hugh Crane, the former owner of the house. Mrs Dudley shows her to the red room - and tells here she is the first visitor Hill House has had since Mr Crane died. She also intones the classic warning: "I don't stay after dinner, after it gets dark. We live in the village, nine miles away, so no one will hear for you if you call for help." "Why would I need help?" Eerie and stereotypical pause. (Now Mrs dave27 could teach her a few sharp lessons in the art of chill making - you want to come home late to her after a night down the pub for a chill up the spine) Zeta Jones is next arrival, as Theo, a hip and beautiful wise cracking bit of top totty with kinky boots who swings both ways. Cue Mrs Dudley's pat scary speech once more. Getting to know each other, the two women come across a carved depict
ion of the gates of hell and purgatory. All very friendly and welcoming stuff, I don't think. Now they meet the wacky student Luke Sanderson, Dr Merrill, another guest, Todd, and Merrill's assistant and our little weekend party is complete. It seems that Hugh Crane married the village beauty Rene, but they never had children and he drove her to suicide. Merrill tells Luke the story and tells him to keep quiet in the full knowledge that he will share it with the women. (Chicks, eh? Love their little cotton socks and big pants a la Bridget Jones) Merril's assistant is nearly blinded in an accident and Todd drives her off for help. As they go, the house tells Nell to leave. Okay scene setting stage over and down to the business with the first dark night. From then on, the action gets darker and more menacing (ho hum) and we're quickly taken through the evolving history of what happened in the house and what it's all about. I won't give away any more of the plot because there's precious little of it. Neeson has performed in some wonderful films over the years, but this is not one of them. Jones has featured in some turkeys and this is about 50% of the way towards being another, but it just about manages to stay this side of crap. It's a fairly enjoyable way of passing 90 minutes if you have nothing better to do. Jones is all sexy, siren like, kinky, easy on the eye cinematic wallpaper, Neeson is earnest and statesmanlike, but it's Taylor who actually scoops most of the plaudits here. The original, with its lack of computer technology, and more reliance on dark and shadowy scenes and sideways monologues, probably made for a more chilling work. This version relies heavily on special effects and computer generated eeriness. It gets a bit much at times and means that the effects sometimes become more important than the story or the stars, but director de Bont
just about manages to keep things well enough under control to let the story come through. Now if you want SCARY, tell Mrs dave27 that you don't want to go to Tesco because the footie is on...
Certain to remain one of the greatest haunted-house movies ever made, Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) is antithetical to all the gory horror films of subsequent decades, because its considerable frights remain implicitly rooted in the viewer's sensitivity to abject fear. A classic spook-fest based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House (which also inspired the 1999 remake directed by Jan de Bont), the film begins with a prologue that concisely establishes the dark history of Hill House, a massive New England mansion (actually filmed in England) that will play host to four daring guests determined to investigate--and hopefully debunk--the legacy of death and ghostly possession that has given the mansion its terrifying reputation. Consumed by guilt and grief over her mother's recent death and driven to adventure by her belief in the supernatural, Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris) is the most unstable--and therefore the most vulnerable--visitor to Hill House. She's invited there by anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), along with the bohemian lesbian Theodora (Claire Bloom), who has acute extra-sensory abilities, and glib playboy Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn, from Wise's West Side Story), who will gladly inherit Hill House if it proves to be hospitable. Of course, the shadowy mansion is anything but welcoming to its unwanted intruders. Strange noises, from muffled wails to deafening pounding, set the stage for even scarier occurrences, including a door that appears to breathe (with a slowly turning doorknob that's almost unbearably suspenseful), unexplained writing on walls, and a delicate spiral staircase that seems to have a life of its own. The genius of The Haunting lies in the restraint of Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding, who elicit almost all of the film's mounting terror from the psychology of its characters--particularly Eleanor, whose grip on sanity grows increasingly tenuous. The presence of lurking spirits relies heavily on the power of suggestion (likewise the cautious handling of Theodora's attraction to Eleanor) and the film's use of sound is more terrifying than anything Wise could have shown with his camera. Like Jack Clayton's 1961 chiller, The Innocents, The Haunting knows the value of planting the seeds of terror in the mind, as opposed to letting them blossom graphically on the screen. What you don't see is infinitely more frightening than what you do, and with nary a severed head or bloody corpse in sight, The Haunting is guaranteed to chill you to the bone. --Jeff Shannon