The Haunting (VHS, 1999, Spanish Subtitled)

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Small Price To Pay For Such Savage Kicks

Sep 21, 2001 (Updated Sep 21, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:storyline is interesting. Far better than most horror flicks.

Cons:does rely on some old horror ticks

The Bottom Line: A fine example that the worthless 80’s horror film genre is losing steam in Hollywood. An engaging story, good performance, and built up suspense save this movie.


There was a moment of hesitation when I was watching the trailer for The Haunting. I was seeing all these gothic images being narrated by the principal in Kindengarden Cop. Her voice, at least for me, was instantly recognizable, and for a moment I thought she was in this movie. It was there and then, that I decided that it would be hard for me to enjoy a horror movie knowing that this small-framed old woman would give me any amount of fright.

So The Haunting had one strike against it. Then just when I was thinking of trekking down to my local Cineplex, comes yet another Hollywood movie. This one, titled The House On Haunted Hill. Initially I thought they were the same movie! Their premises sounded similar--each dealt with a haunted house. Each was populated with A-List stars that had probably never appeared previously in the horror genre. Each had well scripted taglines detailing that it was a “scare-fest!”, “had me on the edge of my seat”, “a true thriller from start to finish”. Normally I’m not a sucker, so to see two films with similar ideas and praise, only drove me further away. After watching the film my initial expectations were justified at least partially. The house that the characters visit is called “Hill House”. Sound very similar to The House On Haunted Hill.

It was not until my local Blockbuster Video had a previously viewed copy of The Haunting on super-sale, that I decided to shell out the cash, sit down, and hopefully try to enjoy my investment.

I wasn’t completely disappointed. The Haunting is indeed scary. For one, none of the actors seemed to have any jokes or inappropriate comments to say during their time of fright. No one paused to deliver an obvious well planned line just before they met death. It seemed that they were scared and like anyone would want to get the hell out of there. A second piece of the puzzle, is that The Haunting has a story. It’s not simply a story about a killer out on the loose to stab people. The story is more thought out and more well planned.

The Haunting is about a group of individuals who come together to rid themselves of their problem with insomnia or so they believe. They are invited, based on their applications, to spend a week in a dark, stark, and historical mansion to undergo various tests to potentially rid themselves of being unable to sleep. Exactly what their problems are and what they are there to achieve is slowly introduced over the course of the film. Also, at the same time, the mystery of the house which in turn also reveals the true reason for the experiment is revealed. For those of you that have read my other reviews, I try not to give away too much of the film, especially its conclusion. So guess what, yep, I’m not going to reveal what that portion of the story is or what the conclusion was.

What I can say is this. There is a lot of background story that is revealed throughout the course of the movie. So much in fact, that it seems implausible that it would be successful in a horror movie. The reason that the house is haunted and the very reason why certain characters are there is revealed long after the movie had indeed started. If you were expecting your basic plain horror movie where people get put into danger just because this is labeled a horror movie, then you’re bound to be disappointed. If you are like me, one of those individuals who treasures when a movie builds itself up, regardless of its genre, then you are bound to find a bit of excitement and enjoyment in The Haunting.

That’s not to say freely that The Haunting is without the normal safeguards that protect most horror films. There are those times where fright is sprinkled in just to get, if not briefly, our blood rising. A couple of times, door are open only to find a innocent, to-be-introduced character, on the other side. As characters, they are frighten because they were not expecting this person to be there at that time. As audience members, knowing that we bought tickets to see a horror film, there is an added element to our own fright. But, like most horror films we are let down, until the true fight begins. Also, The Haunting stays true to the fact that all unimportant, or secondary characters will be removed from the film early on. They are either killed off, or some sort of injury happens to them that removes them from the context of the film. This occurs in The Haunting using a harpsichord as a set piece. Soon enough we are left with just the main body of characters and actors who will make up the meat of the project. That’s not to say that we can automatically guarantee who will remain through the end of the film.

The Haunting stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor. Two A-List Stars and two-slightly unknown stars. Liam Neeson acts as the dedicated individual who chuckles at appropriate moments, yet remains refrained from life around him. He seems to be dedicated and caring, yet at the same time he is also hiding something. Catherine Zeta-Jones acts as the rich and spoiled character who is most proud about her boots coming from Prada in Milan and not New York…as she so proudly and forcibly conveys. Owen Wilson continues to play his stereotype as the naive yet “trying to be” romantic figure who interacts with the “ladies” but so often fails. He’s cute visually, but lacks the ability to sweep a girl (any girl it would seem from most of his movies) off her feet. Lili Taylor is basically an unknown. At first, in The Haunting, she has no character. What I mean by that, is she has no character in relation to the other characters. She is more mysterious. She doesn’t seem to be dark or have a secret to hide, she just seems to stand out, in the background, from the other characters. This of course, plays an important part in the film. I do want to give credit to the casting crew for The Haunting. Picking Lili Taylor for this role was a good choice indeed.

Overall, The Haunting is an enjoyable and entertaining horror movie. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, there are several elements to it that bring it down and put it into the classification that so many horror movies suffer from…but this one is different. It boils down to the story. It’s an engaging story. It’s built up over the course of the movie. As audience members we are not left to simply see who dies next, we are also left to unravel the mystery.


Recommend this product? Yes

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