7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1st half -- interesting, and engaging... 2nd half -- a boring farce,
This review is from: The Haunting (DVD)
This is another one of these stories in which absolutely nothing can compare to the book. Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is the most frightening, penetrating ghost story I've ever read. The only movie that begins to do this story justice is the original black-and-white, "The Haunting", starring Julie Harris (1963).
The newer version, which I'm reviewing here, starts off fairly well, actually. The sets are rich and nicely detailed. Catherine Zeta Jones makes a really electric, alluring Theo. Liam Neeson plays a workable Dr. Marrow (not "Dr. Marquay", as named in the 1963 movie). Owen Wilson plays his usual annoying, irritatingly contemporary persona in an obligatory way as Luke, but I've never been able to take any movie seriously that Wilson's been in, and horror stories must be taken seriously or they're undermined to begin with (he reminds me a lot of Bruce Dern, but at least Dern has a modicum of talent). I don't really remember Lili Taylor as being in much of anything before, and sometimes that works well for a movie, but not this one. The part of Eleanor Vance is that of a very complex, tortured, naive person, and it was played to perfection by Julie Harris (the '63 version), whereas I remember less about the Lili Taylor portrayal of this central character than that of any of the other actors.
For all that, the 1st half of this newer version is not bad, but the 2nd half goes downhill rapidly. And in the last 25% of the movie, the director was intent in pulling out every cliched, hackneyed special effects staple used in every movie about ghosts from "Poltergeist" to "Ghost Busters", complete with all the shape-shifting techniques we enjoyed in "Terminator II", and many episodes of "Deep Space 9". By the year 1999, these effects just weren't enough to carry a movie anymore, and a special effects-weary audience isn't going to "drop their popcorn" over them now. As we all know, good special effects can enhance a movie, but it is rare that it can compensate for a movie that has little else going for it.