The Haunting (1999)

the haunting poster 1999 movie
3.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 6/10

Has a promising start and set-up

Movie really goes down hill especially near the end

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Haunting

Studio: DreamWorks

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  July 23, 1999

MPAA Rating: PG-13

the haunting liam neeson catherine zeta jones owen wilson

Remind me why we are in this move?

Doctor David Morrow (Liam Neeson) has decided to do a study in a fear study under the pretense of a sleep study.  With a group of participants unaware of the truth, they travel to Hill House.  Hill House and its builder Hugh Crane has a long history of horror and death…and Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lili Taylor), Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Luke Sanderson (Luke Wilson) discover that the house holds many secrets…and it could hold on to them forever!

Directed by Jan de Bont, The Haunting is a supernatural horror thriller.  The film adapts the classic 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  It was released to largely negative reviews and received Razzie nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones along with Entrapment), Worst Screen Couple (Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.

I was excited about The Haunting.  It started out as a Wes Craven project (he left to do Scream) and the movie ended up being the monster instead of the story.

the haunting hugh crane ghost ending

You guys are really messing up my house!

The story has it all:  a creepy house, odd characters, and a malevolent spirit.  Unfortunately, the movie really starts to go sideways (especially during the last twenty minutes or so).  The movie initially introduces more characters and quickly dispatches two of the participants (it feels like they realized the horror was creeping initially and they needed some action).  It turns from somewhat atmospheric to a bad special effects laden action movie with a secret relatives twist…it is really beneath the nicely crafted story that Jackson penned.

The cast is surprisingly good which makes it all the more painful.  The movie is oddly scripted around Lili Taylor who I generally like but she isn’t usually big budget lead character.  Liam Neeson comes off as rather flat (and dense) while Catherine Zeta-Jones’s Theo tries desperately to have a sensuality that is left behind by the script.  Owen Wilson plays the typical Owen Wilson character and I possibly feel the worst for him since he pays the biggest price.  The movie also has small roles by Bruce Dern, director Todd Field, and Virginia Madsen.

the haunting lili taylor ending

Wait…seriously? She’s just going to yell at her grandpa?

The film is dark since it largely takes place at night and when it doesn’t, it is in the dimly lit Hill House.  It relies heavily on computer special effect 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.

The Haunting is completely missable, but you shouldn’t let it influence you on the original story or the earlier adaptation of The Haunting in 1963.  The movie also pales in comparison to The Haunting of Hill House from Netflix which borrows aspects from Jackson’s story (it at least is scary).  You can even check out Scary Movie 2 which largely parodied this film…just avoid this movie!  Don’t go in this Hill House and seek out one of the better adaptation if you must face your ghosts.

Related Links:

The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting of Hill House—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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