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Suffering from the extreme bad luck of being released at the same time as the low-budgetThe Blair Witch Project, this adaptation ofThe Haunting of Hill Houseattempts 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 Hauntingtelegraphs 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 definitelydon'tstay the night.--Mark Englehart
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CastCatherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Dern, Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor
DirectorJan de Bont
Genre:  Horror
Screen WriterDavid Self, Shirley Jackson
DVD Release Date:  November 23, 1999
Runtime:  113 minutes
Studio:  Dreamworks Video
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review by . October 29, 2005
posted in Music Matters
A visual funhouse, "The Haunting" fails to generate any real scares or much of a plot. In other words, Jan de Bont went heavy on the flash and polish and light on any actual story.    The Hill House itself is a wonder to look at. The widescreen version of this film lends well to this. From intricately detailed cherubs and wall patterns to visually fun apparitions, this film has it all. Though much of the ghosts and their work are pretty fake-looking, they do not take away from …
review by . April 01, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
This was a horride movie. It had some creepy sceans, but the story was flater than paper. This proves that a movie doesn't need special effects to be scary. I saw "The Sixth Sense" and that was much better (And more scary) than this movie. Don't waste your money.
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