The Haunting (1999) Movie Review
Written By: MMR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Jan de Bont
Producers: Donna Roth, Colin Wilson, Susan Arnold
Writers: David Self, Michael Tolkin
Date Released: July 23, 1999
Liam Neeson as Dr. David Marrow
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo
Lili Taylor as Eleanor “Nell” Vance
Owen Wilson as Luke Sanderson
Rating = 1.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Dr. David Marrow, a psychologist who focuses on the study of sleep orders, specifically insomnia, engaged three subjects whom he subjected to isolation in the mansion of the late Hugh Crain, the Hill House. Eleanor “Nell” Vance who just lost her mother received a call regarding the experiment and willfully subjected herself to the study. Upon reaching the location, Nell was awestruck by the beautiful Hill House. In the house, Nell met the other subjects of the study, Theo, a gorgeous New Yorker who considers her insomnia as a gift giving her the golden time of ideas, and Luke, another insomniac with mannerisms. Dr. Marrow planned to scare them off to investigate how the subjects would react to fear, but the Hill House thought otherwise and gave all of them the scare of their lives.
There are a few scenes with some gore such as when Luke’s head was decapitated at the fireplace and when Nell found the bones in a crypt. But the film itself is not that gory, what’s disturbing is the plot itself. After showing what Hugh Crain did to the children of the mills, it’s is unsettling to think that one would actually prey on children and kill them off like that. Another scare factor of the film is the house itself, with its architecture and the unnerving details such as the cherub carvings, the mirrors on the halls, and the whole garden with the hanging winding staircase.
The Grave Review
Based on the book of Shirley Jackson, the Haunting of Hill House, and a film of the same name in 1963, the Haunting is not as promising in showcasing the adaptation of the book. Even with its star-studded line up, it failed to deliver the scare that the book of Jackson instills. The special effects and some ineffective lines made the film a lackluster. The screenplay underwritten the other characters and overwritten Nell’s and her connection with the Hill House. Theo and Luke weren’t given as much depth when they could have contributed to the story itself, not to mention killing off Luke in an anti-climactic way. It is as if no matter how great the actors were in acting, when the script is that undercooked, not even their superb acting can deliver the film to a being a full-fledged horror movie. The material is there; Jackson’s book is spine-tingling, yet they script went sideways.
The saving grace of the film was the Hill House itself. It is a star of its own. The architecture of the house delivers the creeps. Just by looking at the details of the house, it can give you goosebumps. The exterior of the house sets the tone that one can easily get lost inside and no one may ever realize that they’re inside wandering the halls looking for a way out. The cherubs on the bedside and the paintings in the house give off an unnerving feeling. The garden with the hanging winding staircase is an architectural wonder of its own with a giant in the pond and plants almost dead effecting an unsettling aura throughout the film. The endless hallways are scary enough for one walk alone, not to mention the walls with the mirrors and panels. The grand staircase upon entering the house makes one feel as if it is an abandoned castle. Hidden crypts and doors add to the mystery of the house. And the doors, the humongous carved doors, it effectively delivered the haunt just with its details.
The story had so much potential considering that it was based on a best-selling novel. It could have been great but it just lacked in depth.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Haunting (1999) one and a half graves out of five graves.
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