Review written by: Alex Sandell
What's the story?
Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson, who, after playing up against so much CGI this summer, has me wondering why he isn't a bit more animated, himself) fools a bunch of insomniacs, who think they're taking sleep disorder tests, into participating in a study of fear. At the same time, Dreamworks SKG (Spielberg, Katzenberg & Geffen), tricks the audience into thinking they're walking into a horror film, when, in reality, they're sitting down to view the year's most inadvertent comedy.
So how is it? (Get to the point, already)
Is Jan De Bont retarded? After directing Speed 2: Cruise Control, and now this, I'm beginning to think so. I mean, really, The Haunting should have been a no-brainer, and only someone with no brain could screw it up. How hard can it be to creep people out with a tale of ghost children, suicidal visions, and a dreary old house that seems to be alive? Obviously too hard for good ol' Jan and company, who do nothing more than succeed in making the audience laugh over all their exorbitant attempts at making us squirm.
To give credit where credit is due, the film does spend its first half hour, or so, creating an eerie premise (thanks, mostly in part, to stealing all the cool stuff from The Haunting of Hill House, the book it was based on). The house was born bad, no one comes there after dark, there are no phones, a wife committed suicide by hanging, maybe there was a second wife who discovered something . . . something evil that her husband was doing with children in the fireplace. Sounds like it could be setting you up for some good scares to come, doesn't it? In reality, all it's setting you up for is a big CGI disappointment, bad dialogue, even worse acting (making me ask, once again, why was Catherine Zeta-Jones ever accepted into the Screen Actor's Guild? She can't act, she shouldn't be on screen, and she weakens each film that she's in.) and a joke of a horror movie that should have went straight to video, where it could die an embarrassing death alongside other haunted house "classics" such as Night of the Demons 3.
I'm sure the people behind the screening I saw this at felt rather embarrassed, themselves, when nearly every scare, (overly) dramatic acting scene, or melodramatic moment, generated stifled "how cheesy" laughs. Dreamworks SKG will stumble over their own crap, with this one. The only way it's going to take off, is if the under 15 set overlook the disgraceful CGI and expository dialogue, and pay to hear the loud, "made ya jump" soundtrack that works as a poor substitute for the lack of movie they're seeing. After watching Twister (also directed by Jan De Bont) hit it big a few years back, I wouldn't put anything past bad taste and expendable cash in America. Still, with The Blair Witch Project, a far scarier movie, opening in 800 theaters the same weekend, and going wide during the next, I think this is one Haunting that will only haunt its fledgling studio and De Bont's career as a director. Scary.
What does it make you feel like eating?
Catherine Zeta-Jones, just so I never have to see her again. (I suppose they'd digitally reconstruct her bones, and have her come back in the made-for-video sequel, just so some guy who ain't getting any can go on about how he wants to "jump" them.)
What are you selling us here???
The far more frightening original Haunting film, which I included in my favorite horror movies of all time list. Just think, a black & white movie made when "CGI" was nothing more than 3 random letters, putting the new one, made with anything they could think of, to shame.
If it won an Oscar, what would it be?
"Lamest movie created since Jan De Bont's last one" - The Haunting
On a scale of 1-10?
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Text ©(Copyright) 1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. If you copy this, without my permission, you'll be stuck, for eternity, in a film as bad as this one.