The Haunting is a 1999 supernatural horror film directed by Jan de Bont (Speed 1/2, Twister, & Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life). It’s a re-imagining of the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson & a very loose remake of the 1963 British psychological horror film adaptation with which it shares its name. It was written by David Self (The Wolfman, Thirteen Days, & Road to Perdition). It was produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff (Pit and the Pendulum, The Amityville Horror, Squirm, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Blacula, & Jungle Holocaust). Steven Spielberg & Stephen King originally had interest working together on a haunted house project like this but they couldn’t get past their creative differences for it. Steven Spielberg was so disappointed in the final film that he removed himself as executive producer. There’s speculation that Spielberg did a little re shoot to this & directed a few scenes himself to fix it up. It won Worst Picture at the 20th Golden Raspberry Awards & Worst Remake at 1999 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Wes Craven was the original choice for the director but he decided to direct Scream instead. In 2018, it was remade into a television show under the title The Haunting of Hill House. The budget was $80 million & it grossed $180.2 million worldwide at the box office!!!!
Eleanor “Nell” Vance (played by: Lili Taylor from Leatherface, Six Feet Under, The Conjuring, & High Fidelity), an insomniac has cared for her invalid mother for 11 years. After her mother dies, her sister Jane (played by: Virginia Madsen from Candyman, Swamp Thing, The Prophecy, & Dune) & Jane’s husband Lou inherit the house. They eject Nell so they can sell it & Nell faces homelessness. Nell receives a phone call about an insomnia study directed by Dr. David Marrow (played by: Liam Neeson from Taken trilogy, Batman Begins/The Dark Knight Rises, Darkman, Schindler’s List, & Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) 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. (played by: Bruce Dern from The Burbs, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, The Peanut Butter Falcon, & The Hateful Eight) & Mrs. Dudley (played by: Marian Seldes from The Visitor, Home Alone 3, Duets, & Affliction), a strange pair of caretakers. Two other participants arrive which are Luke Sanderson (played by: Owen Wilson from Starsky & Hutch, I-Spy, Wedding Crashers, & Meet the Parents/Fockers) & Theodora (played by: Catherine Zeta-Jones from Traffic, Chicago, Intolerable Cruelty, & High Fidelity) with Dr. Marrow & 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 & Crain became a recluse. As the strangers stay in the house, supernatural events begin happening. No one can explain the weird situations that keep happening around them. Is this real or just a trick? Can they escape this doomed house with a questionable past before it’s too late????
The Haunting was considered one of the worst remakes ever made during it’s original release but since years has gone by it’s been appreciated much more especially considering worst remakes that followed this production & the popularity of the recent The Haunting of Hill House television show based on the same source material. Honestly, I never thought it was bad as it’s reputation. It definitely doesn’t come close to the original 1963 film but it’s still solid. It’s always had a great cast & high quality production value. The set designs, location, & special/visual fx are very impressive. The script was odd at times because technically they didn’t have the rights to the original film so they had to do their own loose adaptation based off the book for this. It was decent & the talented group of actors increased it’s quality with their performances. Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, M.C. Gainey, Marian Seldes, & Owen Wilson improved the production. Lili Taylor gives one of her best performances here & she’s the best thing about this feature. The Haunting actually holds up better than expected. I enjoyed it more on this revisit, I am hoping others will give it another chance with this release, RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Paramount Pictures! This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer from a brand new 4K remaster looks amazing for it’s U.S. blu ray debut for home video. It’s the best it’s ever looked! The locations & production design really shine here. It’s a massive upgrade compared to the DVD & VHS releases. It has a few different audio options which includes English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, German: Dolby Digital 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1, & Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1 on here. It’s an improvement from the past & it definitely capitalizes on it’s thrills/scares in this. It’s one of the better audio presentations from the newer Paramount Presents line. The dialogue is crystal clear & the music has a killer boost to it. It also has English, English SDH, French, German, & Japanese subtitles. Paramount knocks it out of the park again when it comes to the technical aspects!!!!
Let’s discuss the special features from Paramount Pictures!!!! “Filmmaker Focus: Director Jan de Bont on The Haunting” is a little over 9 minutes. It’s a brand new & exclusive interview with the director. He chats about Spielberg asking him to do this during the production of Twister. He originally wanted this to be a project for Tom Cruise. He chats about having to fight for Lili Taylor as the lead. The studio made him hire Liam Neeson as the other lead to have a bigger name in it. He goes over the production design for it. It has a variety of behind the scenes footage. He brings up that they added more horror shots after it was done because they felt it was too much of a drama rather than a horror film. “Behind-the-Scenes Featurette” is a little over 27 minutes & it’s hosted by actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. It has interviews with all the main cast, director, & various members of the production. It has lots of behind the scenes footage. They chat about their experience on the movie. They talk about the cast & director. They mention the production design & visual fx. They go over the action, horror, & stunts for The Haunting. They show their appreciation for the horror genre & talk about some of their favorites from it. They discuss locations from the feature. They chat about haunted houses & stories from the past on the subject. It has “Teaser” & “Theatrical” trailers for the film. Paramount Presents releases always have amazing packaging. This has a fold out slipcover with poster, clear case with additional artwork/photos, & a digital code. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!