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The Haunting

493 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor. A supposedly haunted mansion lives up to its reputation when a scientist and three of his subjects elect to spend the night there. A terrifying remake of the 1963 classic. 1999/color/113 min/PG-13/widescreen.

Suffering from the extreme bad luck of being released at the same time as the low-budget The Blair Witch Project, this adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House attempts to update Shirley Jackson's psychologically terrifying ghost story to the era of big-budget, computerized special effects. Does it work? Well, let's just say that showing isn't exactly the same as telling. A prime example of bloated studio filmmaking, The Haunting telegraphs all its frights so blatantly that it forsakes any of Jackson's subtle horrors for the remedial scares of a clunky carnival ride. The story remains basically the same, with four people called to an old mansion for experiments in the supernatural, but instead of getting inside the heads of its main characters (as the 1963 adaptation by Robert Wise did so well), Jan DeBont's film deserts character development for the huge, glorious set design provided by Eugenio Zanetti (Restoration). Thus, instead of a well-drawn story you get... a well-drawn house, one that four very talented and underutilized actors--Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liam Neeson, and Owen Wilson--wander around in endlessly (as Zeta-Jones puts it, the house is "sort of Charles Foster Kane meets the Munsters"). Taylor, as the hypersensitive Nell, is the unknowing lynchpin in the battle between good and bad ghosts and gets saddled with most of the expository dialogue of the mansion's gothic backstory. Zeta-Jones (showing some spark) and Neeson (showing none) are sadly reduced to providing reactionary shots of the film's disastrous climax, which mixes hapless new-age affirmations with computer-generated effects of ghosts and exploding windows, walls, doors, etc. For this haunted-house story, take a quick tour of the breathtaking rooms, but definitely don't stay the night. --Mark Englehart

Special Features

  • Behind-the-Scenes featurette
  • 2 Theatrical Trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern
  • Directors: Jan de Bont
  • Writers: David Self, Shirley Jackson
  • Producers: Jan de Bont, Colin Wilson, Donna Roth, Marty P. Ewing, Samuel Z. Arkoff
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Dreamworks Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (493 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783237413
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,995 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Haunting" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Everett on January 17, 2005
Format: DVD
Either way you're having a good time watching this movie. I was more entertained than haunted watching this movie, which is hard to do either way. Two simple facts that know you're making a right choice for this movie. #1: the acting is good, and in this movie, it has highly underrated stars such as Lili Taylor, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. #2: The plot makes sense, and entertains. It may seem like a bad choice at first, but once you watch it a second time, it really kicks in on your entertainment ratings.

Nell Vance (Lili Taylor) is a fairly simple woman neglected by her family, after her mother dies. When she has no where to go, she takes a roll in an experiment that Dr. Marrow (Liam Neeson) is doing for people with Insomnia, but it pays really good money. Taking a job where all you have to do is don't sleep; sounds pretty simple right? Something seems strange, yet interesting about the location where the experiment is being held, at the Hill House. Though it's strange that someone would abandon such a neat place, weird things seem to go on as the occupants get used to it. Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Nell hear rigorous banging sounds in their rooms through the night. Things get cold with an explanation, and out of no where, the Harpsichord tightens a string by itself, and snaps nearly cutting Dr. Marrows assisstants eye. What's even worse is that something is coming after Nell. She can hear voices in her room, but what are they trying to tell her? Maybe she got more of a job then she bargained for.

The acting in this movie was great, epecially by Lili Taylor. She was just great. She gives a kind of uneasy feeling about the house the way she potrayed her part as Nell. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo too.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lieder on January 13, 2006
Format: DVD
One review says that this book had the misfortune of being released in the same year as The Blair Witch Project. That's a misnomer since a successful horror movie usually means more income for the rest of the horror movies in the theaters. A movie that stars Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Lily Taylor has no excuse for repelling audiences. No, this movie had the misfortune of Jan De Bont in the director's chair.

I normally don't compare movies to books. It's a gut wrenching experience and despite common wisdom, sometimes the movie is just as good and even better than the book (The Godfather is a prime example of the latter). Even if a movie has very little respect for the source material it can still stand on it's own merits (Starship Troopers.) However, this movie has committed a crime so heinous as to warrent the direst condemnation.

It shows the ghosts.

That might seem like a minor point, but under the guise of "updating" the source material Jan De Bont completely ignored what made the source material so compelling in the first place. Shirley Jackson lets the tension build and build because she never intended to resolve it with some easy explanation. By the end of the book, you still don't know if the house is really haunted but it doesn't matter because her protagonist is scary enough (in her own passive aggressive spiteful way). Jan De Bont, seen in the featurette patting himself on the back for "updating the movie", turns the house into a Disneyland ride. It's like if someone took Superman and went "ok this is good but instead of flying and having powers, let's make him not fly or possess super strength and why don't we have him trying to make it as a Broadway star instead of as a superhero".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Waldman on January 4, 2000
Format: DVD
The beginning was pretty decent, more or less following the story of Shirley Jackson's novel, although the attempt at updating the character's motives for being in the house was ludicrous. Gone from this film was the subtlety of the original. When reading the book or watching the original movie, the audience (or reader) is left wondering whether the story is about a woman going insane or a haunted house claiming a soul. This movie, with admittedly great effects by Phil Tippett, leaves no doubt. There are ghosts in that place, as loud & obvious as the ghosts in the far superior Poltergeist. The house was no longer built with the angles ever so slightly off, but instead merely slapped togather haphazardly. Gone also is the rivalry between the two female leads, and the creepiest part in the book and the original movie is reduced to a single absurd line in this film ("who was holding my hand?"). There is one genuinely scary part of the movie-- when, during some mysterious banging, Lilli Taylor wakes up and addresses her dead mother (who, while ill, would call to Lilli by banging on the wall.) It was the one moment which stuck in the imagination. Jan deBont should stick to movies with big guns, that is if he is ever allowed to make another movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones was great to look at & did a whole lot with very, very little. Liam Neeson had no need to care about his performance; he was in Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace. Lili Taylor, always impressive in independant movies, still proves herself capable & deserving of better material than this (although considering the literary source, she was well-cast.) Owen Wilson was likewise competent. But unfortuneately, this movie proves that good acting & good special effects can't make up for a shoddy script, and a director who just can't do subtlety.
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