The Haunting

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

An experiment on fear is being conducted in a haunted house. Well…why in the world would people go to a haunted house? False pretenses of course! Three insomniacs are lured into the creepy, massive Hill House to stay for a while and told they will be having their sleeping habits observed. Of course, they’re really just there to be observed for another reason, to see how the group handles a small tidbit of information on the former of the house, and some strange occurances and noises. They are of course, scared and confused, especially when things go very wrong and people end up being hurt or when the “ghosts” start harassing people on a very personal level. After admitting to his subjects that the experiment was really on group fear, the organizer of the experiment (Liam Neeson) realizes that not everything going on is part of the act. Things start to get very scary, and it looks as if the house does not want it’s new inhabitants to leave. Ever. But is it all just part of the experiment after all, or does the house really have a score to settle with this group?

The Haunting is not a widely loved movie, mainly because the material allows for a well delevoped storyline and characters, but this film gives us CGI effects instead. The scares are mostly cheap ones, with things popping out and what not, whereas they could have been psychologial scares, but the movie is still entertaining. The cast is better than average with Liam Neeson (Episode One) playing the experiment’s leader, and Lili Taylor (Ransom, Pecker), Catherine Zeta Jones (Entrapment, Mask of of Zorro), and Owen Wilson (Anaconda, Armageddon) playing the insomniacs. Bruce Dern (The ‘Burbs) and Marian Seldes (Home Alone 3, Truman) also have smaller roles that help flesh out the film. The cast is nice, but the overrated Zeta-Jones drags the film at times, and could have easily been replaced by any other no talent T&A actress. Lili Taylor shines however, really stealing the show in The Haunting. It’s nice to see her in a starring role for a change. Owen Wilson’s acting is an aquired taste, but he is decent at times. Directing The Haunting is Jan De Bont, who also directed the Speed movies and Twister. Not much behind the ears on The Haunting, but a nice cast, decent effects, and the house…oh yeah…the house.

Hill House is breathtaking, to say the least. This disc is worth buying just to look at all the nuance and splendor of these sets. Deep in detail and lush in trimmings, these sets are the best I have seen in a film yet. The house comes alive, really, through it’s fixtures and what not, and the visual impact of the sets is stunning. While it’s criticized heavily, The Haunting is a fun movie to watch, if for no other reason, the tremendous visuals and the sometimes awesome effects. The end sequence in particular is very cool, as is a nifty spiral stair-case segment. While this is not a scary movie, it does have some interesting moments, and a decent share of suspense. This movie could have been a lot better, but the sets more than make up for it. I know it might be hard to believe, but Hill House is the true star of this film, and the acting it does sets the perfect mood for a movie of this type. Too bad the director couldn’t take better advantage of it and make a thrilling movie.

Video: How does it look?

A pristine trasnfer from the good folks over at Dreamworks. This is a dual-layered 16:9 version that positively shines. No hint of artifacting at all (or at least that I saw), colors were bright and vivid and the edges were sharp as razors. Other studios take note–this is how it’s done!

Audio: How does it sound?

Never, except in Saving Private Ryan, have I heard so many LFE (that’s Low Frequency Effects to you newbies). Every scene activated my sub. It might seem like an overstatement that would get old, but it adds to the overall effect of the movie. And it actually made me scared in some scenes (it was late, too). All other channels were used very well, especially any scene involving the carousel. Grade A sound!

Supplements: What are the extras?

Dreamworks standard issuing here, but it’s a lot more than what other studios are doing. Heck, Disney is treating titles like this as Special Editions and charging $40 for them! A very interesting making of featurette, 2 trailers production notes and very in depth cast bios. A commentary by Jan de Bont would have been nice, but we probably couldn’t have understood him anyway. Overall, a great disc!

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