ⓘ The Haunting (1999 film)


ⓘ The Haunting (1999 film)

The Haunting is a 1999 American supernatural horror film directed by Jan de Bont. The film is a remake of the 1963 British psychological horror film of the same name. Both of them are based on the 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1999.


1. Plot

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 Janes 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 Theo Catherine Zeta-Jones, along with Dr. Marrow and his two research assistants. Unknown to the participants, Dr. Marrows 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 Crains children died during their birth. Crains wife Renee killed herself before the house was finished and Crain became a recluse. When Marrows 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 Nells 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 Crains 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 Nells 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 Crains 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 Crains ghost seals the house, trapping them inside. Luke defaces a portrait of Hugh Crain. Crains 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. Nells declaration weakens Crains ghost, and he is pulled into a decorative bronze door. Crain tries to drag Nell with him, but the childrens 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.


2. Cast

  • Marian Seldes as Mrs. Dudley
  • Todd Field as Todd Hackett
  • Bruce Dern as Mr. Dudley
  • Charles Gunning as Hugh Crain
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo
  • Owen Wilson as Luke Sanderson
  • Liam Neeson as Doctor David Marrow
  • Lili Taylor as Eleanor "Nell" Vance
  • Tom Irwin as Lou
  • Alix Koromzay as Mary Lambetta
  • Virginia Madsen as Jane Vance

3. Production

Wes Craven was at one point developing a remake of The Haunting, but dropped out in favor of Scream.

Steven Spielberg, uncredited executive producer of The Haunting, talked to Stephen King about doing a haunted house movie, and the two agreed that Robert Wises 1963 film "The Haunting" was a benchmark of cinematic house horror, but after they started writing, the two had creative differences. Spielberg agreed with Kings idea to use the real-life Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, California, as a source of inspiration but wanted the characters to be heroic. King wanted the characters to be terrified. King instead wrote the teleplay for Rose Red, a television miniseries that shares many elements with Jacksons source novel, The Haunting of Hill House, and the Winchester Mystery House.

Argentine production designer Eugenio Zanetti Restoration - 1995 and What Dreams May Come - 1998 designed the interiors. Sets were built in just eight weeks, with a team of more than 40 sculptors, 200 scenic painters, and 400 carpenters working in three shifts.

Visual effects were done by Tippett Studio and Industrial Light and Magic.


4. Filming

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


5. Critical reception

The Haunting was panned upon its release, with most critics citing its weak screenplay, its overuse of horror cliches, and its overdone CGI effects. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Rotten" rating of 16%, 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. As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie Awards, but didnt win any of them, but all five went to Wild West. Roger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular.