Directed by Jan de Bont ("Speed").
Written by David Self.
Starring Liam Neeson, Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen
Release Year: 1999
Review Date: 7/25/99
Intrinsically, the only difference between
"The Haunting" and
"The Blair Witch Project" is that the latter is
actually scary. Don't mind the fact that the budgets are about $120
million apart, one has major Hollywood stars and the director of
"Speed" at the helm, and one is only showing on 32 screens while the
other is showing on almost 3,000--the basic fact of the matter is
that "The Haunting" simply is not very frightening.
But of course, they fall into two different
categories of horror. "The Blair Witch Project" is that most scary
of scary: the unseen. Sure, as I've mentioned, there was a girl
sitting next to me during "BWP" that was panting for the last 10
minutes of the movie, but it was because the buildup of the previous
70 minutes of fear was so intense that she couldn't let go of the
armrest. Conversely, "The Haunting" is in the boogeyman category,
and it is very similar to a very funny horror movie called "The
Relic", which itself featured some of the worst acting ever filmed.
This is the type of horror where you are with a date, and every four
minutes or so the movie tries its hardest to scare the hell out of
you with, say, a cat that meows or a creature appears in a doorway
(with SDSS sound effects, for good measure) and makes your date
really squeeze into your arm, to which you say to yourself, "I wish
this trik would stop squeezing my fucking arm" but you smile like
nothing is happening. I usually think that the boogeyman category,
like the Grizzly roller coaster at Kings' Dominion, can really be
fun to get a good, quick scare out of you, and then you can go on
with your regularly scheduled programming.
Unfortunately, "The Haunting" is so bad, so
not scary, and features such a bad ending that none of this is
possible. A doctor (Liam Neeson. LIAM NEESON, for crying out
loud!) invites three insomniacs (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen
Wilson, and Lili Taylor--LILI TAYLOR, formerly known to me as a
well-respected, independent actress until she sold out to this
trash) to the Hill House, a ginormous house in the Hamptons, where
he is really conducting an experiment on fear. Boy, if he only knew
how fucked up this house was before he decided this was the best
place for the study!! The rest of the movie is spent finding out
the mystery behind why the house is still haunted by its past after
all of these years.
The positives here are easy: incredible
special effects. The house comes to life after the four main
inhabitants are stuck in it for a week, and Hollywood went all out
to animate various aspects of the house. This is some cool stuff,
and it is the only reason that this movie did not hit the bottom of
my ratings barrel.
The much-less-than-positives: well, let's
start with the actors.
The aforementioned Neeson is one of my
personal favorites because, remember, he starred in "Darkman" years
ago. But, with "Schindler's List", "Rob Roy", and "Star Wars" under
his belt, what the fuck was he thinking when he signed on to this
one? He is given nothing to do and even though he received top
billing, the three insomniacs all have more screen time than he
does. And then, there's Zeta-Jones: to follow up "Entrapment"
(Hard Vice) with this movie is out-and-out shocking. I'm going to
say this once: she needs to do a sexually-charged, action-packed
extravaganza before everyone forgets who she is. It couldn't hurt
for that movie to feature a lot of nudity. No, I'm not kidding.
And Owen Wilson--well, I don't even know who this guy is, but I'm
pretty sure somebody that looked just like him got beat up every day
that I was in high school because he was a total tool. Taylor is
given the majority of the screen time, and while she is a very good
actress, she has almost zero star power, and I got bored watching
her slowly unravel the mystery of Hill House.
The set-up of the story is good but the
development and the ending of the plot blows, and as I mentioned
earlier, there are almost no real scares throughout the movie. The
filmmakers mistook "loud, groaning sound effects" for "scares" and
hence, the theater was about as quiet as your office at 5:01 on a
If anything else, this review should tell
you what you should already know: if you had time to read this, it
means that you are not currently watching "The Blair Witch Project",
and you should have done that by now. Luckily, the movie will be
selling out this weekend when it moves into more theaters. I know
that I am doing some overhyping of this film, but I am sure now, a
week later, that it is the best horror movie I've ever seen. I
still get chills when I think about the ending...
Rating: Rental ("Kickass" Simon
voted for Hard Vice, but it did have nice special effects)
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard