The Haunting (1999 film)

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The Haunting
The Haunting film.jpg
The Haunting film poster
Directed by Jan de Bont
Produced by Donna Roth
Colin Wilson
Susan Arnold
Screenplay by David Self
Michael Tolkin
Based on The Haunting of Hill House 
by Shirley Jackson
Starring Liam Neeson
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Owen Wilson
Lili Taylor
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Michael Kahn
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • July 23, 1999 (1999-07-23)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $80,000,000
Box office $177,311,151

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 Jane (Virginia Madsen) and Jane's boyfriend Lou (Tom Irwin) evict 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 Renee killed herself 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. Nell begins to suspect that it was no accident, as she notices that the wire was unwound by someone or something. Theo and Nell begin to experience strange phenomena within the house, such as a mysterious force trying to break into their rooms to harm them. 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. Theo and Luke try to establish their innocence, but Nell tells them that they don't know her.

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 cotton 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. Dr. Marrow is skeptical of Eleanor's claims, until he realizes he made a horrible mistake by bringing them to Hill House when a statue tries to drown him in a pool of water in a greenhouse. 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 until 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.



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.

Argentine production designer Eugenio Zanetti (Restoration - 1995 and What Dreams May Come - 1998) oversaw the set designs.

The CGI was done by Tippett Studio and Industrial Light and Magic.


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.

Critical reception[edit]

The Haunting was panned upon its release, 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." As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie Awards.[1] Roger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular.[2]

The film was not a financial success, earning $91.2 million domestically and $85.9 million outside North America.[3] With only half of all box office receipts going back to the studio (the rest is given to theater owners),[4] the film made about $88.5 million. This covered its $80 million budget,[5] allowing the studio to barely break even on the budget,[6] but did not cover its $10 million domestic TV advertising campaign[7] or other costs (such as international advertising, non-TV advertising, percentage payments to actors or crew, or prints). Daily Variety noted that, as of 1999, The Haunting had the "dubious distinction of becoming the film with the biggest opening ever to gross less than $100 million domestically."[8]

Razzie Awards[edit]

Nominee Category Result
Catherine Zeta-Jones Worst Actress Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Nominated
Lili Taylor Nominated
David Self Worst Screenplay Nominated
Jan de Bont Worst Director Nominated
Donna Roth Worst Picture Nominated
Colin Wilson Nominated
Susan Arthur Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Razzie Awards: 2000, Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Roger Ebert. The Haunting, Chicago Sun-Times, July 1, 1999
  3. ^ The Haunting at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "Despite Box Office Bombs, Hollywood Posts a Record Summer for Movies." Associated Press. September 03, 2013.
  5. ^ Harrison, Eric. "Digital Effects Becoming a Monster." Los Angeles Times. November 18, 1999.
  6. ^ Grover, Ronald. "Dreamworks: So Many Deals, So Few Profits." BusinessWeek. October 29, 1999.
  7. ^ Lawson, Terry. "1999 Was the Year Movies Turned Upside Down." Detroit Free Press. December 21, 1999.
  8. ^ Hindes, Andrew. "'Sixth Sense' Spooks 'Witch'." Daily Variety. August 9, 1999.

External links[edit]