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The Haunting
Directed by Jan de Bont
Written by Shirley Jackson (novel) and David Self
The Haunting
 
Principal Cast
Liam Neeson -- Dr. David Marrow
Catherine Zeta-Jones -- Theo
Owen Wilson -- Luke Sannerson
Lili Taylor -- Eleanor Vance
Bruce Dern -- Mr. Dudley
Marian Seldes -- Mrs. Dudley
Alix Koromzay -- Mary Lambetta
Todd Field -- Todd Hackett
Virginia Madsen -- Carrie Fredericks
Lisa Loeb -- Olivia Morice
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Don't let the critics scare you away from The Haunting (***). It is a good, old fashioned horror movie. I do advise seeing it at a theatre that has a big screen and a great sound system.

The critics have trashed this movie, usually contrasting it with The Blair Witch Project, an art house horror film with improvised dialogue and no special effects. The Haunting is not art house horror -- it is a Hollywood special effects movie for those of us who love Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. To the critic, less is always more, and I sometimes suspect that, in praising films whose pleasures are too subtle for ordinary folk to enjoy, the critic is saying what an "ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, out-of-the-way young man" he is. My own tastes are not so refined. I enjoy art and I enjoy entertainment and I know the difference between them. In entertainment, sometimes more is more. This is certainly the case with gothic architecture, and with gothic horror, from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto on down to the present day. The Haunting has good acting, splashy special effects, and is a fun way to spend a summer afternoon out of the heat.

To say that Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House, is better than either of the movie versions is hardly serious criticism. The novel is a classic, one of the best horror novels of all time. A movie can still be good without having to be that good.

The horror genre has fallen on hard times in recent years, having become confused with two other genres, the splatter flick and the genre of movies for people who enjoy watching women frightened, tortured, and killed. The former has no appeal for me, and the latter makes me sick to my stomach, so I am happy to say The Haunting is old fashioned "things that go bump in the night," with no taint of excessive gore or misogyny. It also avoids the archness of so many post-modern horror stories. It takes itself seriously. The main character, Eleanor, is intelligent and sympathetic (and well played, by Lili Taylor). Even better, she is given something to do. One of the big problems with the horror genre is that often the only thing the characters have to do is run.

The rest of the cast have good reason (for a change) for not believing that the house is really haunted (until it is too late). As one of them says, if you think for a minute that this house is dangerous, why don't you leave immediately.

Bruce Dern only has a minute or two of screen time, but makes a strong impression. He's an actor I would like to see more of, but his 15 minutes of fame seem to have come and gone.

The CGI effects give an impressive sense of vastness. It is too bad they don't still make movies in 3D. If you enjoyed Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill, you'll love this one. Spacial effects have come a long way since then.

Copyright © 1999 by Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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