The Haunting 2009 Movie Scene Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo and Lili Taylor as Nell in the hallways of the house

The Haunting [1999]

Simply and aptly titled The Haunting, this nineties haunted house movie is delightfully crazy. And that’s an understatement, just to be perfectly clear. There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s start with the basics. The movie is actually based on the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. And it is not to be confused with another 1999 haunted house movie, House on Haunted Hill. In case the title of that novel sounds familiar, it’s because Netflix released a pretty solid miniseries The Haunting of Hill House back in 2018. With that out of the way, it’s time to really dig into this guilty pleasure.

The Haunting feels like it’s made for teenagers who also happen to be fans of the haunted house genre. And they simply love cool special effects. Joking aside, this is one of those movies that featured ground-breaking CGI for that period of time. I remember watching it back in the day and being completely consumed by the endless possibilities of terror. Apart from visuals that bravely stood the test of time, one of the biggest reasons why you should watch this haunted house movie is the house itself. Never before nor after have I seen such splendor and opulence.

So, it comes as no surprise that the interiors of this haunted mansion cost $20 million to make. I want you to think about that number for a minute. The interior sets for the movie The Haunting cost $20 million to make while the entire budget was $80 million. And to make things even crazier, this was a highly profitable movie making more than $180 million in its original theatrical run. The cash was there because of the original director, none other than Steven Spielberg! To make things even clearer, the original writer was Stephen King. However, Spielberg went on to direct Minority Report and King Rose Red, an excellent movie I recommend you check out.

This is how we ended with Jan de Bont as director, a man who was behind two great action hits of the nineties Speed and Twister. Why they thought he would make a good horror movie is beyond me. Now the cast of The Haunting did a pretty good job considering the lack of direction and lackluster script. Catherine Zeta-Jones stood out as sexy insomniac Theo along with charismatic and authoritative Liam Neeson playing Dr. David Marrow. Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor were okay, I guess. It’s hard to say anything about their performances considering just how quirky this movie is. 

Dr. David Marrow has a plan. The feeling of fear is his field of study and he just gathered three perfect subjects in an old Victorian mansion. All three of them are insomniacs and have no idea that he wants to study their reactions and emotions. The plan is to keep them there for a few days and then tell them what’s really going on. However, it would appear that something residing in this house has completely other plans for Dr. Marrow and his test subjects.

The Haunting manages to keep a straight face for about thirty minutes before it starts falling apart completely. To be completely honest, the only reason why this movie didn’t end up in the so bad that it’s good section is of sentimental nature. And I still can’t get over the stunning beauty of those huge sets. If you’re wondering who built and designed them, it was Eugenio Zanetti. The fountain is my favorite one with that giant and imposing statue somberly emerging from the water. No wonder Liam and Catherine didn’t want to shoot anything after dark. And yet, at the same time, some of the scenes are just hilariously heavy-handed.

This brings me to the final piece of the puzzle of why this movie ended up here. Only by watching The Haunting first, you will be able to fully enjoy the glory that is Scary Movie 2, a fantastic parody of the movie we’re talking about today. This package is just too juicy to pass up, so I urge you to first check out this movie and then the parody. I’m certain you’re going to have a great time with them.

Director: Jan de Bont

Writers: David Self, Shirley Jackson

Cast: Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes

Fun Facts: The exterior shots were filmed at the Harlaxton Manor, Lincolnshire, England. You can now have a wedding there or rent it out for various other purposes.


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