Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Movie Review: The Haunting(1999)

Here lies one of the worst remakes of the 90's, right beside Diabolique and Pyscho. Now don't get me wrong, this movie had some potential. It had a great cast(which the actors fit the roles perfectly), a great atmosphere, and the house actually looked cool, a perfect setting for a horror movie. So what went wrong? of course, it's the script, then it was the special  effects which looked extremely cartoonish but most of all, the movie was not scary in the least. What made the original so memorable was that it had really tight scares and moments that were skin-crawling. What's missing is the subtly of the suspense. And I know, what remake has any subtly these days? The truth is though, I was contemplating whether I wanted to watch this or not, but since I had a review to do, I said, "Screw It." Bear with me guys, this movie was a chore to get through. I was just waiting and waiting for something to happen and once it did it was right towards the end. RIGHT TOWARDS THE END! ugh.....Anywho, The Haunting is nothing more than your generic PG-13 horror fare.
The Story: After the death of her mother and problems with anosmia, Eleanor Vance, while looking at an ad in the newspaper, decides to volunteer as a test subject for Dr. David Marrow's experiment on sleep deprivation when in actuality it's a paranormal research on the notorious Hill House and his study of fear. Once Eleanor arrives, She meets the carefree Theo and the bumbling Luke as they stay in the mostly secluded house. Just then strange things start to happen and Eleanor sense there is another presence within the walls. Once she figures out the truth, it becomes certain that the house is indeed haunted....

The movie has a great cast and you can tell they at least tried with their performances.

The strongest of the four is Lilli Taylor's portrayal of Eleanor. I'm not going to compare so much on the acting just how the characters are portrayed because I think Julie Harris and Lilli Taylor were good in both movies. To just say this, Lilli Taylor was perfectly casted and did capture the vulnerability of that character. In the novel and the original movie, the house sort of fed on Eleanor's insecurities which dealt with her obvious crush on Dr. Marrow and her admiration of Theo. It's not so much the terror Eleanor is experiencing in the house, It's her psyche, her inner soul that is being haunted.

Though in this version, it loses the deeper meaning it tries to project in the original. It's more about Eleanor trying to save the spirits of the children from their evil caretaker. So Eleanor is sort of a savior, which is not bad but it doesn't develop her character any, we never get inside her head and feel what she feels. It's a missed opportunity that could've been explored here.

Catherine-Zeta Jones as Theo wasn't bad, she alright performance mostly . They made Theo less more haughty and more carefree and since this is the hip 90's, they made her into a full blown bisexual as opposed in the original where it was more ambiguous about her sexuality. It really doesn't add anything to her character than for her to say, "Hey, look at me, I'm a hot bisexual!"

Is it me or is the filmmakers really trying hard to turn up the sexual tension between Theo and Eleanor? In the 1963 film, it was just subtext, though I like that the sisterly bond is still there and at least it seems as though Theo actually cares about Eleanor. But the strong character dynamic between is how Eleanor see herself in Theo's lavish, independent lifestyle and only a catalyst for Eleanor's insecurities which made the relationship interesting to watch in the original film. Other than shoving her sexuality in our faces and making her much more gusto, There's really nothing more to the character.

Dr. Marrow played by the smokin' Liam Nesson was actually pretty good, though I know that Liam Nesson is a good actor in anything he's in, so no problems there. Though what confuses me about the character is how he is skeptic of Eleanor's explanations of the supernatural force within the house, knowing he himself is pretty much open-minded to the paranormal. Surely, it was his IDEA to bring his experiment to the house in the first place. It kind of makes him a jerkass. So the slap in the face Theo gives him, yeah, he deserved that.

But soon enough, he realizes what's going on and seems pretty much perplexed. I seem to question his motives here.

Lastly, you have Luke played by Owen Wilson, who is just there for the most part. I guess he's supposed to be a comic relief, though there wasn't enough focus on him for us to be invested. In the novel and 1963 film, There is a purpose for him to be in the house. He is actually the sole heir of the property but in this version, he's just an everyday guy who happens upon the experiment Dr. Marrow is planning and he gets killed off maybe because the filmmakers didn't know what else to do with the character. By the way, Owen Wilson.....is just playing Owen Wilson. Not that that is a bad thing but there was nothing new or interesting about this character for me to be engaged.
Now I haven't mentioned the director of this movie, he goes by the name Jan De Bont whose best known credits include Speed, Twister, and unfortunately, Speed 2: Cruise Control. The main problem with this director is that he has no experience with horror films and it shows.

He's known for making big budget spectacles, which is why there is so much CGI. And said this once and I'll say it again for all the remakes to come in my next review, CGI is NOT SCARY. For instance, when all the statues come to life attacking the protagonists it's hilarious to watch. The biggest problem is the writing, you can't have too much exposition in a horror film and this movie has a lot of it. To make my point, the house was sort of it's own character and the mystery of whether there were spirits lurking was handled well in the original. And to also mention, there was no, I repeat, there was no outlandish special effects in the 1963 film. Till this day I would love to see a director craft that kind of talent.
Okay, here's for the most important part, The ending:
1963 Version:
So Eleanor, totally consumed by the house is driven to madness and once the house take over her fears, take over her entire being, she runs to the car and drive straight to a tree, killing her. That was the tragedy of the character, having the hill house fully possess her and her unwillingness to have any self-control.

1999 Version:

However, in this version, Eleanor sacrifices herself to protect the ghost children and becomes their surrogate mother. So off she goes with the computer generated ghost children and into the spirit world. Give me a break. You see the 1963 film did it so much better. It wasn't a supernatural entity that killed Eleanor, it was her psyche, that met her end.
There.....There was just no reason for this to be remade. The 1963 Haunting was a perfect movie on it's own. Hell, if the director of this movie know what he was doing, but quite frankly, he didn't know what he was doing. There was even one time where Wes Craven was set to direct this and it would've been much better movie. But sadly we are left with lame scares, a waste of good actors, horrible CGI, and an awful script
The verdict? Just watch the original and avoid this forgettable mess.
My Last Word: To save any precious time you have, skip this.



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