The Haunting (1999 film)

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The Haunting
The Haunting film.jpg
The Haunting film poster
Directed byJan de Bont
Produced byDonna Roth
Colin Wilson
Susan Arnold
Screenplay byDavid Self
Michael Tolkin
Based onThe Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byMichael Kahn
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
  • July 23, 1999 (1999-07-23)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million
Box office$180.2 million

The Haunting is a 1999 American supernatural horror film directed by Jan de Bont. The film is an actionized reimagining of the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and its 1963 British psychological horror film adaptation with which it shares its name. The Haunting stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor. It was released in North America on July 23, 1999.


Eleanor "Nell" Vance (Lili Taylor), an insomniac, has cared for her invalid mother for 11 years. After her mother dies, her sister Jane (Virginia Madsen) and Jane's husband Lou (Tom Irwin) inherit the house. They eject Nell so they can sell it, and Nell faces homelessness. 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. She agrees to enter the clinical study. 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 (or "Theo" for short) (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 — 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 their birth. Crain's wife Renee killed herself before the house was finished and Crain became a recluse. When Marrow's assistant declares that she feels there is more to the story, she is severely wounded in a freak accident, and both research assistants leave for the hospital. As the four people stay in the house, supernatural events begin happening. A mysterious force tries to open the door to Theo and Nell's bedroom, there are banging noises against the walls, and there are temperature drops in rooms and hallways. Nell starts seeing the ghosts of children in curtains and sheets, and a large portrait of Hugh Crain morphs into a skeletal face and is vandalized with the words "Welcome Home Eleanor" written in blood. During a heated argument, Theo and Luke deny any involvement in these events. They accuse Nell of being an attention seeker, but she denies it.

Nell becomes determined to prove that the house is haunted. She finds Crain's hidden office and learns that Crain used extensive child labor in his cotton mills. He took several orphans into his home, tortured and killed them, and then burned their bodies in the fireplace. Their ghosts are trapped in the house, providing Crain with an "eternal family". Nell also learns that Crain had a second wife named Carolyn, from whom she is descended. Dr. Marrow is skeptical of Nell's claims, and soon reveals his true psychological fear study to the group. After a statue tries to drown him in a pool of water in a greenhouse, Marrow realizes Hill House is haunted after all and a danger to everyone. After several more terrifying events, Nell insists that she cannot leave the ghosts to suffer for eternity at Crain's hands. Theo offers to let Nell move in with her, but Nell reveals that she is related to Carolyn Crain and claims she must help the children to "move on" to the afterlife.

Dr. Marrow demands that everyone leave Hill House, but as they attempt to flee, Hugh Crain's ghost seals the house, trapping them inside. Luke defaces a portrait of Hugh Crain. Crain's enraged spirit drags Luke to the fireplace where he is decapitated. Dr. Marrow and Theo flee the house while Nell distracts Crain. Realizing that Crain thrived on the fear he created in children, Nell declares she is not afraid of Crain any longer. Nell's declaration weakens Crain's ghost, and he is pulled into a decorative bronze door. Crain tries to drag Nell with him, but the children's spirits help her to fight him off. As Nell dies, an image of her, posing as a motherly figure, is left in the bronze door, surrounded by many happy children.

The Dudleys approach at dawn. Dr. Marrow and Theo silently walk away from Hill House.



Steven Spielberg talked to Stephen King about doing a haunted house movie, and the two agreed that Robert Wise's 1963 film "The Haunting" was a benchmark of cinematic house horror, but after they started writing, the two had creative differences. Spielberg agreed with King's idea to use the real-life Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, California, as a source of inspiration.[1]

Argentine production designer Eugenio Zanetti (Restoration - 1995 and What Dreams May Come - 1998) designed the interiors.[2]


Principal photography began on November 30, 1998, and ended April 9, 1999. 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,[3] while many of the interior sets were built inside the dome-shaped hangar that once housed Hughes H-4 Hercules, near the permanently docked RMS Queen Mary steamship, in Long Beach, California. The kitchen scenes were filmed at Belvoir Castle.[4]

The film was burdened by reshoots, in part because cinematographer Caleb Deschanel left over creative differences one week into filming.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

The Haunting was critically 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 15% from 97 reviews, with the critical consensus stating "Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[6] As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie Awards, but didn't win any of them, all five of which went to Wild Wild West.[7] Roger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Donna Roth, Colin Wilson and Susan Arthur Nominated
Worst Director Jan de Bont Nominated
Worst Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones (also for Entrapment) Nominated
Worst Screenplay David Self Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards[9] Worst Picture (Dishonourable Mentions) The Haunting Won
Worst Sense of Direction Jan de Bont Nominated
Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing Over $100M Worldwide Using Hollywood Math David Self and Michael Tolkin Nominated
Worst Remake The Haunting Won
The Remake, Sequel, or Prequel Nobody Was Clamoring For Nominated
Least "Special" Special Effects Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murphy, Kim (27 January 2002). "House Master". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  2. ^ Roger Ebert
  3. ^ The Haunting, filming & Production, Internet Movie Database
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The Secrets of The Haunting", Entertainment Weekly
  6. ^ "CinemaScore".
  7. ^ Razzie Awards: 2000, Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Roger Ebert. The Haunting, Chicago Sun-Times, July 1, 1999
  9. ^ "Press Release - Stinkers 1999 Winners". February 17, 2002. Archived from the original on February 17, 2002.

External links[edit]