Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Haunting (1999) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Remakes don't have to be ten times the size. They usually are. And ten times worse. Robert Wise's 1963 version of Shirley Jackson's novel, with Claire Bloom and Richard Johnson, in black-and-white, was genuinely scary. This new one, under the direction of Jan de Bont, the man who made Twister, is laughable.
A psychiatrist (Liam Neeson) collects an assorted group of volunteers (those who answered his ad) to take part in a sleep deprivation trial at a deserted Victorian pile in the middle of the country. It's a trick. He knows the place is haunted and wants to "investigate the dynamics of fear" for his new book.
Nell (Lili Taylor) is a sad lady who has spent the last eight years caring for her bedridden mother. Thea (Catherine Zeta-Jones) swings both ways, wears leather a lot and thinks purgatory is "18 hours from L.A. to Paris and you're stuck in coach." Luke (Owen Wilson) is a campus jock who wanders about with a baseball mitt and complains, "I don't get a strong sleep vibe from this place." Tell us about it!
The house is the thing. The decor is camp gothic, with statues everywhere, huge staircases and long spooky corridors. The guy who built it was a meglomanic industrialist who had a passion for children. He killed them. And their spirits remain as not-so-silent witnesses.
The film is a special effects bonanza. The doc and his group are mere mortals, spending a night in what feels like a fairground ride, as the house takes on a life of its own. The trouble with big budgets is that they bulldoze storylines flat and encourage excess, rather than imagination.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001