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Haunted Movie Review:
The Haunting (1999)

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Jan de Bont


David Self (screenplay)
Shirley Jackson (novel)


Liam Neeson … Dr. David Marrow
Catherine Zeta-Jones … Theo
Owen Wilson … Luke Sanderson
Lili Taylor … Nell
Bruce Dern … Mr. Dudley
Marian Seldes … Mrs. Dudley
Alix Koromzay … Mary Lambetta
Todd Field … Todd Hackett
Virginia Madsen … Jane

Plot Summary

A group of volunteer research subjects travel to a massive old mansion to undergo testing for what they believe to be a study on insomnia. What they don’t know is that the professor in charge of the study is actually conducting an experiment on human fear. As the days and nights pass in the mansion, the group begins to learn the terrifying secret behind its former owner. They also realize that the house is the physical embodiment of pure evil, which they must do battle with if they are to escape with their lives.

Thoughts from the team

“The Haunting”, though cheesy at times, redeems itself through its psychological aspects and its magnificently detailed set and sound effects. Though the acting isn’t top-notch, the cast did a credible job portraying their characters and their ability to connect onscreen was visually evident. The set, a fantastically overwhelming combination of gothic, Victorian, neoclassic, baroque, and even Moroccan and Indian styles, creates an unbelievably majestic yet gloomily oppressive atmosphere that accurately reflects and determines the tone for the film. Moreover, 7 time Academy Winner and sound producer Garry Rydstrom gets detailed and meticulous with his ability to toy with an interminable variety of sounds and audible effects that further reinforce the terrifying suspense of the film and its psychologically horrifying tone. All in all, the house appears evil because it looks and sounds evil. Moreover, Jan de Bont went so far as to actually film the exterior shots of the house in England, where the Harlaxton Manor (the actual building used for Hill House), is allegedly reported to be haunted itself. Rumor has it that the owner’s wife used to conduct seances, summoning her dead husband’s spirit, which to this day haunts the Manor turned College where students have reported seeing his spirit on multiple occasions.

Main Characters

Liam Neeson is Dr. David Marrow, a scientists conducting studies on the dynamics of human fear and its dependence on group stimulation, who gathers three ‘study subjects’ under false pretense and brings them to Hill House for the scare of their lives.

Lili Taylor is Eleanor ‘Nell’ Vance, the unknown distant relation to former house inhabitant Carolyn, and whose sensitive past, emotionality, and genetic code make her the primary candidate for helping unleash the horror of the house.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Theo, the wild woman with no boundaries and a need to push the envelope, be it in how she acts, how she dresses, or who she sees.

Owen Wilson is Luke Sanderson, the comic relief convention and grad student whose frequent participation in paid experimental surveys renders him a cynical doubter of the house and its horrid powers.


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