Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson and Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Haunting (1999)

Left Wanting

After the death of her mother and the prospect of being homeless Eleanor (Lili Taylor) receives a call about a doctor doing a sleep study at the Hill House. It is how she ends up there in the company of Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) as well as Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) who in truth is using the experiment to study fear rather than sleep. But it seems that Eleanor has some strange connection to the mansion as strange things start to happen, secrets about the place are revealed and the odds that they will survive the night are getting shorter.

I tell you what else is getting shorter, my ability to suffer movies which seem like they should be good but end up depressingly dull. And yes "The Haunting" was for me a depressing dull movie which feels like the director saw it as another chance to deliver visual entertainment but ignoring that when it comes to a horror movie it needs more than f/x gimmicks. As such whilst director Jan de Bont might be adept at delivering action movies and bringing the larger than life thrill to the screen he doesn't have the same skill when it comes to delivering the atmosphere needed for horror.

That is simply what is wrong with "The Haunting" as we have this classic set up of an old mansion, hidden rooms, spooky goings on and a horrific past let alone mention the duplicitous doctor luring people there under false pretences. But the movie suffers from an utter lack of atmosphere as so much focus has gone on delivering the visual effects especially those of child like figures which appear in sheets and curtains. Yes these effects have some sort of charm to them and one involving a swinging lion's head delivers the movie's best scene but because everything seems to rest on these effects the rest of the movie suffers.

The knock on effect of this is that whilst "The Haunting" has a famous cast they don't seem to have been given much to work with when it comes to their characters. Or maybe that when it comes to the casting of Liam Neeson and Owen Wilson they were kind of wrong for the characters they were playing.

What this all boils down to is that "The Haunting" isn't very good and for me I would say there were several people who were wrong for the movie and I include director Jan de Bont in that group.