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The Haunting (DVD)
Member Name: wampyrii
The Haunting (DVD)
Date: 27/01/03, updated on 27/01/03 (70 review reads)
Advantages: Nice set
Disadvantages: The rest
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.