The Haunting (1999 film)
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The Haunting film poster
|Directed by||Jan de Bont|
|Produced by||Donna Roth
|Screenplay by||David Self
|Based on||The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Editing by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Running time||113 minutes|
The Haunting is a 1999 remake of the 1963 horror film of the same name. Both films are based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, published in 1959. The Haunting was directed by Jan de Bont and stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1999.
Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lili Taylor) has cared for her invalid mother for 11 years. After her mother dies, her sister (Virginia Madsen) evicts her. Nell receives a phone call about an insomnia study, directed by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) at Hill House, a secluded manor in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and applies for it. At the house, she meets Mr. and Mrs. Dudley (Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes), a strange pair of caretakers. Two other participants arrive, Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson), and Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones), along with Dr. Marrow and his two research assistants.
Unknown to the participants, Dr. Marrow’s true purpose is to study the psychological response to fear, intending to expose his subjects to increasing amounts of terror. Each night, the caretakers chain the gate outside Hill House, preventing anyone from getting in or out until morning. During their first night, Dr. Marrow relates the story of Hill House. The house was built by Hugh Crain (Charles Gunning) — a 19th century textile tycoon. Crain built the house for his wife, hoping to populate it with a large family of children; however, all of Crain’s children died during birth. Crain’s wife died before the house was finished, and Crain became a recluse. After the story, Marrow's assistant’s face is slashed by a snapped clavichord wire. The freak accident causes Marrow’s research assistants to leave.
Theo and Nell begin to experience strange phenomena within the house. Nell sees apparitions, but the others don't believe her. Hugh Crain's wood portrait morphs into a skeletal face and is vandalized with the words "Welcome Home Eleanor" written in blood. Nell becomes determined to prove that the house is haunted by the souls of people victimized by Crain's cruelty. She learns that Crain took children from his mills and murdered them, then burned the bodies in the fireplace, trapping their spirits and forcing them to remain with him, providing him with an 'eternal family'. She also learns that Crain had a second wife named Carolyn, from whom she is descended.
After several more terrifying events, Nell insists that she cannot leave the souls of the children to suffer for eternity at Crain's hands. Trying to convince the obviously mentally-unbalanced Eleanor to leave the house with them, Theo offers to let Nell move in with her, but Nell reveals her relation to Carolyn and claims she must help the children "pass on". Hugh Crain's spirit seals up the house, trapping them all inside. A frustrated Luke defaces a portrait of Hugh Crain. Crain's enraged spirit drags Luke to the fireplace where he is decapitated. Nell is able to lead Crain's spirit towards an iron door. Avenging spirits pull Crain into the door, dragging him down to Hell. Nell is pulled with him, inflicting fatal trauma on her body, but the spirits gently release her on the ground. Her soul rises up to Heaven, accompanied by the ghosts of Crain's victims. After Nell's death, Theo and Dr. Marrow wait by the gate outside till the Dudleys come in the morning.
The Dudleys approach as the sun rises. Mr. Dudley asks Dr. Marrow if he found what he wanted to know, but the traumatized psychiatrist does not give an answer, and neither does Theo. When the gate opens, the two silently walk out and down the road, leaving Hill House behind them.
- Lili Taylor as Eleanor "Nell" Vance
- Liam Neeson as Doctor David Marrow
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theodora "Theo"
- Owen Wilson as Luke Sanderson
- Marian Seldes as Mrs. Dudley
- Bruce Dern as Mr. Dudley
- Alix Koromzay as Mary Lambetta
- Todd Field as Todd Hackett
- Virginia Madsen as Jane Vance
- Charles Gunning as Hugh Crain
Wes Craven was at one point developing a remake of The Haunting, but dropped out in favor of Scream. Under DreamWorks, the film was originally to have been a collaboration between Steven Spielberg (mainly, as director) and Stephen King (as screenwriter), but the two had creative differences. King instead wrote the teleplay for Rose Red, a television miniseries that shares many elements with Jackson's source novel, The Haunting of Hill House, and the character of the real-life edifice Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, California.
Harlaxton Manor, in England, was used as the exterior of Hill House. The billiard room scene was filmed in the Great Hall of the manor, while many of the interior sets were built inside the dome-shaped hangar that once housed The Spruce Goose, near the permanently docked RMS Queen Mary steamship, in Long Beach, California. The kitchen scenes were filmed at Belvoir Castle.
The Haunting had a negative reception, with most critics citing its weak screenplay, its overuse of horror clichés, and its overdone CGI effects. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Rotten" rating of 17%, with the critical consensus stating "Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script." Roger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular. As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie Awards. However, the film was a financial success, earning $91.2 million domestically and $177.3 million worldwide, with a budget of $80 million.
|Catherine Zeta-Jones||Worst Actress||Nominated|
|Worst Screen Couple||Nominated|
|David Self||Worst Screenplay||Nominated|
|Jan de Bont||Worst Director||Nominated|
|Donna Roth||Worst Picture||Nominated|
- Roger Ebert. The Haunting, Chicago Sun-Times, July 1, 1999
- Razzie Awards: 2000, Internet Movie Database
- The Haunting at Box Office Mojo
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