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Jan de Bont
Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Writing Credits:
David Self

When Eleanor, Theo, and Luke decide to take part in a sleep study at a huge mansion they get more than they bargained for when Dr. Marrow tells them of the house's ghostly past.

Box Office:
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$33,435,140 on 2808 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.


Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Audio Description
German Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Japanese Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 126 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 10/20/2020

• “Filmmaker Focus” Featurette
• “Behind-the-Scenes” Featurette
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Haunting (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 6, 2020)

Though he first achieved success as a cinematographer, Jan de Bont did well when he moved behind the director’s chair. For his first two efforts in that regard, de Bont led hits: 1994’s Speed and 1996’s Twister.

After that, however, de Bont struggled as director. 1997’s Speed 2: Cruise Control turned into one of the most hated sequels of all time, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life became enough of a commercial disappointment to kneecap that franchise as well.

Between the two hits and the two flops, de Bont created The Haunting, a remake of 1963’s Robert Wise classic of the same name. A big-budget horror flick, de Bont’s Haunting didn’t bomb, but it fell short of expectations and failed to turn a profit.

de Bont never directed another film after 2003, and I can’t find out why. Perhaps three duds in a row crushed his spirit and the then-60-year-old decided to enjoy retirement.

Haunting introduces us to Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), a researcher who stages a study related to sleep disorders – or so he claims. Instead, Dr. Marrow wants to investigate elements related to the psychological aspects of fear.

Under these false pretenses, Dr. Marrow recruits three volunteers: Nell (Lili Taylor), Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson). He lodges them at a creepy mansion called Hill House.

Allegedly bad mojo occurred at Hill House, and Dr. Marrow plans to use these legends to amp up the anxiety in the volunteers. However, it turns out Hill House may come with some supernatural surprises of its own.

i>The Haunting really offers something of an odd piece of work. As a horror film, it never seems terribly scary or chilling, but as a thriller or an action flick, it fails to become particularly exciting or exhilarating.

The storyline offers potential – as seen in the 1963 version - but De Bont's direction doesn't exactly move things along at a great pace, as the plot tends to dally and take its time to get anywhere. The acting generally feels flat and unevocative.

Ultimately, the movie's just kind of… there.

That said, I still kind of liked it. Yes, that turns into as tepid a recommendation as I can muster, but it becomes the reaction The Haunting generates in me.

Although one can easily pick apart Haunting and all of its components seem fairly weak, it still manages to offer a decently interesting experience. Why? I have no idea, but I enjoy watching it.

Probably the movie's greatest flaw stems from De Bont's rather casual direction. He tends to linger over scenes and not really stress the paranoia and claustrophobia that feel crucial to the film. As such, no matter what happens, everything tends to seem fairly calm and polite.

I think the problem comes from the fact that De Bont did his best with wild action sequences such as those seen in Speed and Twister but The Haunting doesn't lend itself to those kinds of scenes.

Oh, some more action-oriented beats appear, but nothing as full-on adrenaline-pumping as what we saw in the other movies. De Bont lacks the subtlety to pull off the scary parts, so these just get lost in the shuffle.

The rather weak acting also keeps the film from distinguishing itself. Both Neeson and Taylor seem flatter than pancakes, like they feel quite embarrassed to be here and appear to want to do anything they can to avoid notice. Given that Taylor essentially plays the lead, that becomes an issue.

Wilson tries to offer some spark but fails. Theo becomes the only character who generates any heat, and that's more out of Zeta-Jones’ sheer sexiness than anything else. Her performance also seems not too great, but she's fiery enough to make her scenes work.

With all those negatives, why do I still say I kinda sorta like Haunting? Much of the impact stems from the film’s sound design, as it makes the flick work.

While De Bont can't depict the action in a creepy, eerie manner, the sound mix creates that effect at times. I'll talk more about the audio when I review that section, but suffice it to say that any jolts we receive during The Haunting come from the terrific sound design rather than from the story or the general production.

Does this make The Haunting a movie you own to show off your home theater more than one you watch to enjoy? Perhaps, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. The Haunting never becomes better than mediocre beyond that awesome sound design.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus C+

The Haunting appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect an appealing visual presentation.

Overall sharpness worked fine. With a lot of dimly lit interiors, a few slightly soft shots materialized, but in general, the image felt concise and well-defined.

No issues with jagged edges or edge haloes occurred, and outside of a brief shot of a small curtain, shimmering remained absent. Print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.

With its Gothic setting, the palette favored rustic reds and browns, with some teal and orange in the mix as well. The colors felt well-reproduced and appropriate.

Blacks looked dark and deep, and shadows seemed smooth and clear. This felt like a solid representation of the source.

Even better, the film came with an outstanding Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. On initial review, this mix may seem weaker than those for Speed or Twister, but that's simply because it lacks the "whizbang" factor of both of those. The Haunting doesn't feature thundering tornadoes or crashing cars, so it won't appear as explosive.

That shouldn't be interpreted as a signal that it's not a great mix, though, because that's not the case. Where the audio for The Haunting truly excelled came from its precision and detail.

Sounds became placed firmly in distinct locations, and every little squeak was accounted for in this production. The quality of the effects felt stellar, and that's a factor that really helped make the film work.

The three-dimensional soundstage appeared deep and immersive, so it did an excellent job of placing the viewer within the action. The lack of whizbang action made this track a small notch below the all-time great mixes, but it still turned into a highly effective piece of audio.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 1999? Unfortunately, I no longer can access the DVD, so I can’t make direct comparisons.

That said, there’s a zero percent chance the visuals didn’t improve on those from a 21-year-old DVD. While I thought that release looked great, remember that I watched it on a 27-inch tube TV and also went into it with the expectations for DVD, not Blu-ray. There’s no question this Blu-ray offered a big step up in picture quality.

As for the audio, that became a somewhat less obvious step up, as the DVD also sounded great. Still, the move from lossy to lossless offered a jump that made this track a bit stronger. Fans will mainly want to upgrade for the improved visuals, but the lossless sound adds to the purchase as well.

The Blu-ray combines the DVD’s sparse extras with one new addition: Filmmaker Focus, a nine-minute, 14-second chat with director Jan de Bont. He discusses how he came to the movie, aspects of its development, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, other versions of the tale and related domains.

Overall, de Bont provides a pretty tight summary. While not a deep chat, de Bont brings useful insights.

In addition to two trailers, we find a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. Hosted by actor Catherine Zeta-Jones, this 27-minute, 12-second show includes notes from de Bont, producers Susan Arnold, Colin Wilson and Donna Arkoff Roth, filmmaker Samuel Arkoff, Harlaxton College principal Dr. Robert Stepsis, Angel and Royal Hotel manager Nick Hughes, production designer Eugenio Zanetti, special effects coordinator John Frazier, visual effects supervisors Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and actors Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson and Roy Dotrice.

The featurette looks at the movie’s source and story/characters, cast and performances, sets, locations and production design, a brief look at horror films, various effects, and audio. Though clearly promotional in nature, the program offers good glimpses of the set and enough moviemaking material to merit a look.

While I sort of enjoyed The Haunting, that doesn’t mean I can really recommend it, as the movie just seems silly too much of the time. It offers a pleasant diversion that can entertain but it never becomes an actual good film. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture, excellent audio and a mediocre array of bonus materials.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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