THE HAUNTING (1999) Reviews and overview

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The Haunting is a 1999 American horror feature film directed by Jan de Bont (Speed). It is a remake of the 1963 horror film of the same name  Both films are loosely based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, published in 1959. The movie stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor.

Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lili Taylor) has cared for her invalid mother for eleven years. After her mother dies, her sister (Virginia Madsen) evicts her. Nell receives a phone call about an insomnia study, directed by Doctor David Marrow (Liam Neeson) at Hill House, a secluded manor in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and applies for it.

At the house, she meets Mr and Mrs Dudley (Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes), a strange pair of caretakers. Two other participants arrive, Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson), and the bisexual Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones), along with Doctor Marrow and his two research assistants.

Unknown to the participants, Doctor Marrow’s true purpose is to study the psychological response to fear, intending to expose his subjects to increasing amounts of terror. Each night, the caretakers chain the gate outside Hill House, preventing anyone from getting in or out until morning…

“On the sliding scale of botched remakes, The Haunting ranks pretty high. Its cinematic sins are many and varied, but to my mind the greatest of them is that it seems so disrespectful of its source – both the novel and the film. There’s a sense of impatience with the material about this film as if its makers undertook the project in order to show people how this sort of thing should be done.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

“Everything looks eerie, impressive, amusing, and cliched without being the least bit scary, and the ride goes too slow. De Bont’s impressive cast is given little to do other than act all spookity-spoo, a situation that reaches its nadir at the perfunctory climax, a scene stolen from The Devil’s Advocate, for heaven’s sake.” A.V. Club

“It relies heavily on computer special effects which haven’t aged well, but even in 1999 were sometimes weak. The film really should be about atmosphere and style, but instead, it just comes off as a weird mush of action and attempts at scaring.” Basement Rejects


“You may expect a little bit more quality from director Jan de Bont, the maker of Speed and Twister, but the hokey film is always entertaining, keeps firing on enough cylinders and delivers a punchy climax.” Derek Winnert

“The acting was… not good. With the exception of Liam Neeson, this was not a well-seasoned cast. I’ve liked all of these guys in other roles, but their performances in this were about as dynamic as 80’s sitcom actors. I guess, it can be chalked down to lack of experience, but really, who thought it would be a good idea to put this much inexperience in a multi-million dollar movie?” Girl on Book Action

“…after the first hour or so, the well-made aspect was completely lost and the film, including the actors’ dialogue (solely writer David Self’s fault) seem to lose their way, growing mundane and lackluster, slowing to a ridiculous grind, never regaining momentum all the way to the less than stellar and unbelievably unfulfilling ending.” HNN

The Haunting was for me a depressing dull movie which feels like the director saw it as another chance to deliver visual entertainment but ignoring that when it comes to a horror movie it needs more than f/x gimmicks. As such whilst director Jan de Bont might be adept at delivering action movies and bringing the larger than life thrill to the screen he doesn’t have the same skill when it comes to delivering the atmosphere needed for horror.” The Movie Scene

“Filmmaker Jan de Bont’s ongoing (and increasing) reliance on CGI certainly does nothing to alleviate the pervasively tedious atmosphere, as the overuse of shoddy special effects diminishes the impact of the movie’s few overtly unsettling moments (ie there’s nothing scary about any of this, ultimately).” Reel Film Reviews

The Haunting cannot be considered a classically enjoyable bad movie because the strong beginning promises much more than the film ultimately delivers. Yes, it’s possible to derive some enjoyment from the silliness of the climax and conclusion, but it’s mixed with disappointment. One needs to look no further than the 1963 version to understand how the same basic story can be done far more effectively.” Reel Views

” …you wonder why they didn’t try just a little harder to write more dimensional characters and add the edge of almost plausible realism that distinguished Shirley Jackson’s original novel. The movie does not, alas, succeed as a horror film. But it succeeds as a film worth watching anyway, and that is no small achievement.” Roger Ebert


The Haunting (1999) was released on Blu-ray in the USA on October 29, 2020, as part of the Paramount Presents line of Special Edition discs. The film was remastered from a 4K transfer, supervised by director Jan de Bont. Special features:

Filmmaker Focus: Director Jan de Bont on The Haunting
Behind-the-scenes featurette
Theatrical teaser
Theatrical trailer

Cast and characters:
Liam Neeson … Doctor David Marrow
Catherine Zeta-Jones … Theo
Owen Wilson … Luke Sanderson
Lili Taylor … Nell
Bruce Dern … Mr Dudley
Marian Seldes … Mrs Dudley
Alix Koromzay … Mary Lambetta
Todd Field … Todd Hackett
Virginia Madsen … Jane
Michael Cavanaugh … Doctor Malcolm Keogh
Tom Irwin … Lou
Charles Gunning … Hugh Crain
Saul Priever … Ritchie
M.C. Gainey … Large Man
Hadley Eure … Carolyn Crain

Technical details:
113 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1
Audio: Dolby Digital EX | SDDS | DTS-ES

Box office:
Budget: 80 million (estimated)
Worldwide theatrical gross: $177,311,151

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