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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look: 5.33%
Average: 9.33%
Pretty Bad: 17.33%
Total Crap61.33%

11 reviews, 159 user ratings

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Haunting, The (1999)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Goose-brained remake; bad beyond human comprehension."
1 stars

Some of my brothers and sisters in the movie-reviewer community were perhaps a bit hasty when they crowned 'Wild Wild West' summer '99's worst film. Obviously they had not yet seen 'The Haunting,' a needless remake of a solid (if a bit stiff) chiller from 1963.

Both films are derived from an acknowledged classic of horror fiction -- Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House -- yet the remake deviates so sharply, and so stupidly, from Jackson's simple and elegant story that the end credit mentioning her book is the final insult to her memory.

The premise is butchered right from the start. Liam Neeson, playing a psychologist rechristened "Dr. Peter Marrow," lures three insomniacs to the ornate old Hill House for alleged "sleep research." In fact, he's conducting an experiment in fear on his unsuspecting subjects. In the book and 1963 film, the doctor is actually a ghostbuster who brought three people to live in the reportedly haunted Hill House with him, to see if anything would happen; there was no hidden agenda, and everyone knew pretty much what they might be in for. (Part of the wit of Jackson's story was that none of the visitors took the Hill House legend all that seriously, until supernatural events proved otherwise.) In the remake, the good doctor seems to pick Hill House because it's remote and spooky-looking -- and thus a good laboratory in which to mess with his insomniacs' suggestible minds -- but apparently has no idea that it really is haunted. One wonders, then, what Dr. Marrow had hoped to do to provoke fear in his subjects. Rattle some chains? Put on a sheet and go "Boo"?

The subjects are Eleanor (Lili Taylor), a quietly frazzled young woman who took care of her ailing mother for years and now can't function in the real world; Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a bisexual fashion plate who swoops around Hill House in new boots from Prada; and Luke (Owen Wilson), whose character was the inheritor of Hill House in earlier incarnations of this story but now has little reason to be there except to wander the halls nervously. Then again, nobody else in the movie has much reason to be there, either. They all seem stupid for falling for the sleep-research cover story, anyway -- Dr. Marrow doesn't even bother to bring computers with which to pretend to monitor their sleep patterns. (What do they think he's going to do -- stand over their beds watching them toss and turn?) Marrow also brings two assistants, new to this remake, who exist only so that the movie can have an expendable character who gets supernaturally wounded; the assistants are gone almost as soon as they arrive.

The best treatment of this material is still Shirley Jackson's dreamy, precise prose, told almost entirely from Eleanor's fraying viewpoint. (Put Sylvia Plath in the spooky halls of the Overlook and you'll have an idea.) Robert Wise's 1963 version was slightly starchy but still admirable in its refusal to show anything, its faith in the idea that a movie that leaves terror to your imagination is far scarier than anything a Hollywood special-effects team can cook up. Jan De Bont, the former cinematographer turned director who showed promise just a few years ago (Speed, Twister), has chosen the polar opposite approach, drowning The Haunting in rivers of cheesy-looking computer-generated phantoms. The spirits of dead children writhe and curl behind bedsheets and curtains, looking like Casper the friendly ghost. They also look very much like CG effects. $80 million didn't even buy a convincing Hill House, whose exterior shots all look like models, and whose interiors also, whaddaya know, look very much like CG effects. The house is so vast, so aggressively set-designed, that it's never credible as an actual house occupying actual space.

De Bont's lowest-common-denominator method is nothing compared to that of the new screenwriter, David Self, who feels compelled to give Hill House a banal backstory about a vicious tyrant who built it using child laborers. Self compounds this error by linking Eleanor to the tyrant, invalidating the idea of the real haunting -- Eleanor's guilt over her dead mother -- and rendering the movie pointless. We get many laughable scenes of bug-eyed cherub sculptures coming to life, and evil spirits roaring towards the camera. There is also, near the end, the most unintentionally hilarious shot I've seen since the idiotic Grandma waded through an acidic lake going "Ooh, ahh" in Dante's Peak. Hint: When something lethal happens in the big fireplace, watch for Liam Neeson's reaction shot. Everyone else is screaming in shock, and he's just standing there like "Boy, that's gotta hurt."

When you're not yawning at the digital ghosts, you're watching a cast of fine actors dogpaddling in clichés and terrible dialogue; Lili Taylor, in particular, works overtime to make her nonsensical character credible, but even this great young actress has her limits, and if you saw her for the first time here you'd assume she was pretty bad. And since Jan De Bont fills the soundtrack with thundering bass noises meant to terrify us, we can't even enjoy the movie as a retro, cheeseball haunted-house flick -- the tone is too heavy. The difference between the minimalist scares of the 1963 film (well-timed thumps in the night that didn't assault us in Dolby Surround Sound) and the new remake, with its theme-park demons that produce mostly snickers, is further testament to how far Hollywood has fallen.

Anyone with enough money can employ state-of-the-art visual and sound effects; it takes genuine artistry not to need them. The much-buzzed-about 'Blair Witch Project,' for all its fumbling and flaws, comes closer to the spirit of the original 'Haunting' than this overproduced, overblown remake.

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originally posted: 01/10/07 09:18:21
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell crap watch the original its scary this is not 1 stars
5/27/12 Mike Fitzpatrick Skip this and see the 1963 Wise film; no blood nor corpses anywhere, but it's 1000% scarier 2 stars
8/15/09 Pete Its worth watching if you just want to see Catherine Zeta Jones 4 stars
11/09/08 Johnny Not so good 2 stars
10/14/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Film! 5 stars
3/22/08 Matt Possibly the worst movie ever created. Lil Taylor is possibly the worst actress of all time 1 stars
5/11/07 then came bronson didn't care for it, initially. But it grew on me. 4 stars
3/07/07 action movie fan terrible remake-first not that great -this abysmal-stupid and lame 1 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega It's not the classic, but still a neat horror thriller. 3 stars
12/14/06 Browncoat This movie outstrips House on Haunted Hill in every conceivable way!! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist A few visible movie goofs, like Twister, but another great classic from Jan De Bont! 5 stars
8/09/06 Doreen Loved it! 4 stars
7/02/06 Zephyr Even the "children" are CGI! What the---? 1 stars
12/27/05 TheOthersFan just watch "The Others" if you want a film that SUCCEEDS at attempting psychological horror 1 stars
9/02/05 ES Horror movies are supposed to be scary right? 1 stars
7/02/05 Indrid Cold Just barely watchable shouldn't be a compliment, but it is for this movie. 2 stars
6/11/05 Rock-Steady wow, this movie is a piece of shit. 5 stars
5/28/05 tony Why has Jan De Bont gone so down hill? OH YAH it was speed 2 1 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK It's tough to say becuase I lost all use of my brain five minutes into this heap. 1 stars
11/11/04 MSKB you dumasses, this movie had one of the best sets in history, an architectual masterpiece! 4 stars
11/06/04 MB Totally flat, painfully bad script, sadly lacking trash. 1 stars
11/04/04 Josh Standlee Lame! Totally lame! This film reaks of lameness! I hate this damn movie! 1 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G catherine zeta jones should of ate out that one bitch 1 stars
6/14/04 Mahrk Rubbish. Rent the excellent original by Robert Wise 1 stars
4/24/04 star not even crap 1 stars
3/30/04 alan Reinoehl They actually spend money to make something like this?? 1 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge My dogs have puked up scarier things than this. 1 stars
12/30/03 Littlepurch More comical than funny. The main woman can't act and there's only 1 death scene!!! Ok tho. 3 stars
12/10/03 Samuel This was supposed to be scary?!? Really?!? Oh my Jan de Bont, I'm so..sorry!! 1 stars
12/07/03 john horror films are about atmosphere and not (rather average) computer effects 1 stars
8/12/03 Double G I liked it. Owen's nose is messed up!!! 5 stars
8/12/03 Matt Thiel Am I being too generous? Probably. 3 stars
8/05/03 sean mcgrath absolute crap, bad acting, bad effects, bad scripting absolutely pathetic. a rotten tomato! 1 stars
3/30/03 Fernando Nunez An horror movie, but not for the genre but for the results... 1 stars
2/08/03 Chris Owen Wilson sucks. His voice is annoying and he looks like a freak. 1 stars
2/03/03 Turtle Sad, sad attempt at a remake. 2 stars
1/30/03 Nevz om my god, this is gay 1 stars
12/30/02 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Jan De Bont, what the fuck happened? This movie sucks!!! 1 stars
10/22/02 Charles Tatum Lousy remake of an overrated film 1 stars
9/14/02 Magnum Craphole Can anybody say: piece of crap? Stupidest effects ever, and story as dull as they come. 1 stars
8/21/02 Gerry Ville Painfully insipid! Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones deserve better. 1 stars
8/13/02 Dave I would watch it for comfort. It is super comfy horror. BAD. 1 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim Hate to agree w/assclowns who vote here but they are right, this time 1 stars
7/10/02 Jerry The only thing in this movie that scares me is that De Bont actually got this shit released 1 stars
6/08/02 hum oh my this is bad 1 stars
5/22/02 Iris Dementia Praecox Tense stylish horror buildup spoiled by mawkish pious new-agish ending. 3 stars
5/14/02 Monster W. Kung A piece of bilge trash that continuously borders unintentional comedy. 1 stars
4/04/02 cat OK for an old plot. Too bad about Owen's head though. Hated the ending! 4 stars
4/03/02 Butterbean The Blair Witch Project thrilled me with only sticks and rocks. How sad is that 2 stars
3/30/02 Zargo it would, but yeah this movie's shit 1 stars
3/25/02 Veronica Foxx aka The Raven-Haired Temptress Even lesbian masturbation scenes with Zeta-Jones couldn't make this watchable. Well maybe. 2 stars
1/27/02 Lin Rainey The original B&W version scared the hell out of me. What a disappointment this one is. 2 stars
11/27/01 sdfr Some one please shoot Jan De Bont. And I don't mean with a camera. 1 stars
10/23/01 Tam Even Liam Neeson has to put his kids through college. FOLKS, DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY! 1 stars
10/05/01 Mike Junk. A waste of time. 1 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk This movie is just fucking horrid...Jan De Bont has proven he's a no-talent ass-clown. 1 stars
8/06/01 badfish The soundtrack alone is worth 4 stars. Overall Not Bad! 4 stars
5/30/01 Thrillhouse I've seen better on Goosebumps 1 stars
5/23/01 Dean On a big screen, the house is beautiful. Everything else sucks big time. 2 stars
5/21/01 tnt interesting up to a a little out there 3 stars
5/07/01 Meridith Not the greatest film I've seen. But hey, it's Owen Wilson, so I don't complain. 2 stars
5/02/01 Monster W. Kung Unwatchable crap 1 stars
3/01/01 John Trent Go see house on haunted hill instead 3 stars
2/11/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi The FX look like they came from a rummage sale. Rent "Poltergeist" instead. 2 stars
1/23/01 scorekeeper ahhhhhh..... welllllllll..... 3 stars
1/14/01 Invader This movie sucked big time,not one fright in it,the whole effort just sad. 1 stars
12/27/00 Turtle Not scary the second time around, but it's always suspenseful. 4 stars
9/14/00 Ground Zero Alexander, your review sucks. This movie deserves a 0-star rating... why not have one 1 stars
8/22/00 Monday Morning They forget the most important element of chiller films: KILLING! 2 stars
8/21/00 Eric Could have been better, the original film has real chills in it. 2 stars
8/11/00 Terrie Smith A real disappointment. Watch the 1963 film instead; it's well done. 2 stars
7/30/00 Digitalus This sucks on the classic 1 stars
7/13/00 Tom Not even Lili Taylor could save this one. 2 stars
5/22/00 Richard Wright Not a bad film, kept you watching and had eye-catching special effects. But the acting... 3 stars
4/27/00 Pansy cool house, awful movie 1 stars
4/25/00 John Lyons Needed some gratuitus nudity. 2 stars
4/19/00 The Rock The Rock says thats the single worst piece or monkey crap the Rock has ever seen! 1 stars
4/19/00 Lame-Oh Nice FX, suck-tactular movie, WTH was that? 1 stars
4/12/00 Andrew Cool effects, but the movie was shit, plus you didn't get to see Catherine's tits 1 stars
4/09/00 EMagGaRony probably the worst piece of shit movie i have ever seen 1 stars
4/07/00 Gremlin What the fuck was that shit? 2 stars
3/12/00 hum id been told it was bad. didnt think could be THIS BAD 1 stars
3/03/00 Megalishious Watt I want my money back. Rates a zero-why not have one? 1 stars
2/22/00 Mr. Kramitall Imagine I saw Avengers 5 times before being dragged to this slag-heap 1 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Rent "Poltergeist" instead. PLEASE!! 1 stars
1/19/00 victor awful, I laughed all the way through it 1 stars
12/13/99 Kayla Lovell I thought it was alright i thought it would be very scary but it wasn't. 4 stars
12/05/99 bullit17 Nice special effects. But no matter how much you try to dress up shit, it's still shit 1 stars
11/25/99 Mark Film broke with 10 mins left ... I was glad 1 stars
10/31/99 Lame-Oh Awesome house, lame-ass cast and bad remake. Sitck with the classic. 1 stars
10/24/99 Amalia Illgner A waste of special effects 1 stars
10/21/99 Mark Dainty The Silliest, stupidest film I have EVER, EVER SEEN 1 stars
10/12/99 Frank Curigliano So bad it's funny. Neeson surprisingly overacts badly in a few scenes. 2 stars
10/10/99 Sam S Shit movie, cool house 3 stars
10/10/99 Viral Messiah I agree with Movie Freek. One of the worst novies of '99, so far. 1 stars
10/05/99 Joel Harwood Starts good but ends like crap apart from zeta jones this movie sux. 2 stars
10/04/99 Lindsey This was a pretty crappy movie!!! I didn't enjoy it at all!! 1 stars
10/04/99 Suckit retarded movie 1 stars
10/03/99 Joe Schmoe Worse than Wild Wild West 1 stars
9/24/99 Duck In need of a script, plot, good direction...I could go on.... 1 stars
9/20/99 Admiral Crunch That's not Neeson beating off, it's de Bont. Scumbag ruined The Haunting. 1 stars
9/20/99 B.W.B Sucked out loud but nice to see Lili Taylor in anything. 1 stars
9/19/99 Frank it sucked!!!! 1 stars
9/11/99 Timbo I WANT MY TWO HOURS BACK 1 stars
8/26/99 Ami the Wonderbread Too bad I laughed at all the "scary" parts 2 stars
8/23/99 mason 5 beers (imported) & 2 joints (also imported) in the parking lot will help you enjoy this 4 stars
8/22/99 the head of Alfredo Garcia I'm ashamed I saw this 1 stars
8/22/99 Sphincter Boy About as scary as a preschool puppet show. 1 stars
8/21/99 BoB Quit making dissing this movie. It wasn't that bad, it still a fun movie to watch. 4 stars
8/20/99 Sillybugger Give me a f***king break, here, please. What a piecce of dog sh**! 1 stars
8/19/99 Admiral Crunch It wants to be on The X-Files. Hey Alexander, your review sucks! 1 stars
8/19/99 Geoff Sure, the dialogue sucked, but the plot sure was lousy. What a turd. 1 stars
8/18/99 Chuck D. The film equivalent of a heaping pile of shit. -**** stars. 1 stars
8/17/99 Obi Wan Sucks!!! And Datz Da Bottom Line!!! 2 stars
8/13/99 Elizaveta hahahahahahahaHA! Absoulutely Hilarious!! 1 stars
8/10/99 Jeff The movie is not completely useless, my wife and I used the theatre to make out. 1 stars
8/04/99 GDB WARNING!!! does not live up to the hype. 2 stars
8/04/99 Ricky Urena This movie is SHIT! Don't see it. It's all graphics. Acting-SUCKS, writing-SUCKS. 1 stars
8/04/99 Vassago This was a cinematic abortion. See "Blair Witch Project" instead...or read Shirley Jackson 1 stars
8/03/99 John Teller Computers arn't scary. Good stories with good actors are? The 1963 version has both. See it 2 stars
8/03/99 Jenn (Chuck) This movie was different from the other traditional horror movies. It really scared me! 5 stars
8/03/99 Badi Klem The Blair Witch Project is scarier and they did not spend ten million on special effects. 1 stars
8/02/99 John M How in the hell could anyone like this piece of s***?! 1 stars
8/02/99 Jeff Fucking awesome as a comedy, Sucks all Ass as anything else 1 stars
8/01/99 Matt Good Effects, Good scenery, Bad acting, Not scary 3 stars
8/01/99 Skye I hereby sentence Jan DeBont to death by stoning. 1 stars
8/01/99 Doris Bennett the plot was stupid.. "oh grandfather" I thought he couldn't have kids. what's up with that 1 stars
7/31/99 Roman Mindblowingly Crappy. I've had more fun being constipated 1 stars
7/31/99 Michael Fun (not awesome) set design & creepy (if brief) effects, but otherwise dull 4 stars
7/31/99 hmm it sucked! 1 stars
7/30/99 becca the story was really dumb... "It's all about family" is the silliest and most unfitting quo 2 stars
7/29/99 Will Coleman Incredibly Bad 2 stars
7/29/99 PhilmPhreak Not horrible, not great 3 stars
7/28/99 J-Dogg Worst fucking movie I've ever seen, right in the ballpark of "Godzilla". Shit, shit, SHIT. 1 stars
7/27/99 trend this movie was such a disopontment sucky plot sucky ending 1 stars
7/27/99 kizirk I was expecting a piece o' shit, but the woman madde me go. needless to say it was fun. no, 3 stars
7/27/99 Marshall W. A fun summer movie to go see 5 stars
7/27/99 Jon Gwynne A pale shadow of what could have been a great movie 3 stars
7/27/99 AZ Ummm, where did the other 2 characters go? 2 stars
7/27/99 Kenny Neal Add a great dane, and you've got yourself a fine episode of Scooby Doo... 1 stars
7/27/99 sheila achs great house; bad acting; bad film; julie harris where are you? no resemblance to the orig. 2 stars
7/26/99 Suzanne See the original! 1963, I believe...old = good, new = rots! (why'd you do it, Lili?) 2 stars
7/26/99 Jessica Sparks This is, without a doubt , the worst horror film I've had the misfortune to see. 1 stars
7/26/99 lizzy it was like being on a rollercoaster, that kinda scary 5 stars
7/26/99 F PANUCCI Invents or at least is a major contribution to a new genre - even worser fucky shitbad 1 stars
7/25/99 john quigley i am iam not a movie reread the most hateful reviews and assume they are holding back. 1 stars
7/25/99 Freyja Great movie, if you like campy trashy fun. If not, sucks wooly mammoth cock. 3 stars
7/25/99 Lady Kalana Unbelievable lousy, a miserable disappointment. 1 stars
7/25/99 PurityJustBegs Hands down, the funniest film of the year! It does not get any more abysmal than this... 1 stars
7/25/99 Ah Dooey Bad FX and plot made this movie ridiculous 1 stars
7/25/99 Randall Well, it made me laugh a lot, but i don't think it was a comedy 1 stars
7/25/99 Cage Not a horror by any means, but the awesome environments make it worth a look. 4 stars
7/25/99 buddy WWW, EWS now this, I'm going to start taking pain killers to the movies with me. 1 stars
7/24/99 Christ Monkey I am in fucking PAIN! Kill me! Kill Jan De Bont! Just make it stop. 1 stars
7/24/99 Vampyre9mm Special effects don't make up for a bad script. 3 stars
7/22/99 LAFilmBuff About as scary as a lukewarm bowl of oatmeal, and even less tasty. 1 stars
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  23-Jul-1999 (PG-13)


  23-Sep-1999 (MA)

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