Credits: Directed by Jan de Bont and starring Bruce Dern, Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Virginia Madsen, Marian Seldes, M.C. Gainey, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, Alix Koromzay, Todd Field, Michael Cavanaugh, Tom Irwin, Charles Gunning, Saul Priever and Hadley Eure.
Details: (M), 113 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: For over a century, the dark and forbidding Hill House has sat alone and abandoned...or so it seemed. Intrigued by the mansion\'s storied past, Dr. Marrow lures his three subjects - Theo, Nell and Luke - to the site for a seemingly harmless experiment. But, from the moment of their arrival, Nell seems mysteriously drawn to the house...and the attraction is frighteningly mutual. When night descends, the study goes horrifyingly awry as the subjects discover the haunting secrets that live within the walls of Hill House.
Only worth it for the outstanding visual effects and production design.
Scientific researcher Dr. David Marrow, Liam Neeson, gathers together a group of guinea pigs supposedly to examine the causes of their insomnia, but his real agenda, unrevealed to his victims, is to examine the causes of fear, and that`s why he takes them to Hill House, which is famously haunted. The unlucky participants are Nell, Lili Taylor, who has given up her life to care for her recently dead mother and who seems to have a connection to the house, bi-sexual woman of the world Theo, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who seems an unlikely candidate for insomnia but who`s good to have around, and useless Luke, Owen Wilson, who adds little to the proceedings. There`s another couple, but they disappear abruptly early in the proceedings. The real star of The Haunting, however, is the ghostly house itself.
The Haunting is a triumph of production design and special effects, but they all add up to next to nothing because David Self`s screenplay is so very poor. This is the second film based on Shirley Jackson`s book The Haunting Of Hill House, but Robert Wise`s 1963 version of the story is greatly superior and far more subtle. The characters in the new film are uninteresting and flatly played (though Lili Taylor tries), Liam Neeson lazily settles into another Star Wars performance and looks as if he`s bored to death, Catherine Zeta Jones looks great but has a dumb role.
Eugenio Zanetti`s design of the amazing house is fun but in the end a clear case of overkill, and the visual effects are often stunning - but not at all scarey. After the failure of Speed 2, this is, I`m afraid, another fizzer from Jan De Bont. If you want to catch the essence of Shirley Jackson`s spooky fiction, try to see the Hungarian film Long Twilight, based on a Jackson story, which has screened a couple of times on SBS - it has all the chills The Haunting so sadly lacks.
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