Sometimes you need to revisit things that you might have enjoyed when you were 14 years younger. Sometimes you need to watch PG-13 horror to guarantee that you won’t see too many boobs or gore. Sometimes you need to remember a time where Lili Taylor would be the star of a big budget haunted house movie directed by Jan de Bont. SOMETIMES ALL THESE THINGS HAPPEN AT ONCE! Things were really confusing in 1999 for a variety of reasons, but one reason was that both The Haunting was released, which was a remake of the 1963 film of the same name, and a remake of 1959 film The House on Haunted Hill was also released. WHAT THE HELL, GUYS?! They’re both remakes and they both have “haunt” in the name?! How am I supposed to keep these two straight! Well, with one being rated R and one being PG-13, it made it a little easier to know which one I was going to see in theaters. The joke is that I wasn’t 17 yet, get it? Maybe it was because I was a chicken shit person who wasn’t 17 yeat, but I remember being mildly creeped out when I saw this movie in theaters, despite ALL of the scares coming from CGI. I guess it’s time to see if something that entertained me when I was 14 can entertain me today!
Now THOSE are some fucking outfits from the 1990’s right there.
After her mother passes away, Eleanor (Lili Taylor) is offered an opportunity to participate in a sleep study in a giant mansion. She accepts and meets Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) who also agree to participate in Dr. David Marrow’s (Liam Neeson) experiment, even if it means being chained in at the mansion. The subjects aren’t told about the ghost stories of the supposed haunted house, but that doesn’t prevent them for experiencing strange things. When the subjects of the research start exploring the house, they find out that the guy who owned the house tried to have a large family but his wife couldn’t pop them out successfully, so he remarried and just killed kids who worked in a factory and buried their bones in his fireplace. He had spirit children all around him! Eleanor also learns that she is a descendant of this jerk’s second wife and that it was a spirit that got her involved in the sleep study! Whoa! Crazy! The spooky shit intensifies and Luke gets his head chopped off by a giant metal lion and I guess Lily gets the spirit of the previous home owner to come after her, but she leads him to a spirit door? Or something? And he gets sucked into it to go down to Hell? Eleanor dies in the process but then we see the ghosts of the little kids bringing her up to Heaven! Good job! Theo and Dr. Marrow then wait for the gates to be unchained so they can walk towards other movies that get better reviews and make them superstars.
Don’t worry, I’m sure NOTHING weird or creepy could happen in a room like this!
I’m sure plenty of people have memories of this movie being terrible, but come on guys, it’s not THAT bad. Okay, well, it is BAD, but I’ve seen plenty worse. The plot isn’t all that bad, which might be why we’ve seen similar plots in horror movies for decades upon decades. The characters were at least mildly watered-down from other similar, more cartoonish stereotypes we see in movies like these, and the entire cast are generally pretty decent actors. I think the biggest complaint, which is a valid one, was that there isn’t really any tension being built in the film that isn’t completely reliant on CGI. I really don’t remember a single special effect that was achieved practically, and in 1999, people were really excited about what computers could do so Jan de Bont went WAY overboard with showing what computers could do instead of what computers should do. If this movie was made a few decades prior, the effects would have been kind of cheesy and silly, but it would’ve given a little bit of heart to a movie like that. Instead, all of these characters just run around reacting to things that clearly weren’t there while the audience doesn’t connect with any of the imagery that’s intended to be “scary” and everything feels just really shallow and sterile. There’s a reason why gimmicky movies like this or Thirteen Ghosts don’t really work that well as remakes, because you’re completely removing the thing that made the originals entertaining. Yes, it’s a classic ghost story which we’ve seen reinvented and tweaked time and time again over the decades, so it’s not absolutely terrible, but unless you have a thing for a somewhat bisexual Catherine Zeta-Jones, this movie’s not worth a second viewing. Although, I guess saying “bisexual Catherine Zeta-Jones” will interest you, but you also have Owen Wilson attacking a painting with a candlestick.
Wolfman Moon Scale