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when the haunting arrived in theaters , all i kept hearing about was the overdone special effects and the fact that very often the unseen bumps in the night in a horror film are far scarier than those that you can put a face to courtesy of special effects .
while i agree that this remake of the haunting goes a bit overboard in the visual effects department , i don't think that they are completely to blame for this movie's failure .
it appears that some people have failed to take into account that the original haunting had the " unseen " terrors , and it was about as scary as a dust bunny .
so special effects or not , if the story isn't the least bit scary , you aren't going to end up with a very frightening movie .
the thing that interested me most about this movie was the caretaker of this building played by bruce dern .
dern is always great , and even though he may have had only about 3 minutes of screen time he was still the most interesting element of the movie .
as i sat through the seemingly endless , albeit fairly impressive , special effects , i kept wishing that this movie was about dern's caretaker and not the one dimensional characters that populated the cast .
never a good sign when a bit player is the best part of the movie .
liam neeson plays a scientist who is conducting experiments on fear .
he decides the best way to get results is to trick a group of fairly unstable individuals to spend a few days in a haunted mansion .
he tricks them into participating by letting on that he is conducting an experiment on insomnia .
and he also fails to mention that the mansion has a reputation for strange goings-on .
catherine zeta-jones , lili taylor and owen wilson play his subjects .
like the original , taylor's character is the star of the movie .
but since she doesn't quite have the marquee power of liam neeson and ms . zeta-jones , their parts did seem to be a big larger than in the original .
and let's face it , probably half the people who see this movie will do so because of zeta-jones .
i'll admit that i would have never seen this thing if she weren't in it .
but the real stars here is the special effects combined with the fairly overdone sets .
they take over the movie as the supernatural elements of the house start to interact with our hapless insomnia patients .
there really isn't much of a story here .
just endless setups so director jan de bont can showcase all the nifty special effects that he got to play with .
and the special effects are great .
in many cases they are as good as you are likely to see anywhere .
in other cases they are overdone and obviously thrown in just for the sake of hitting the " cool shots " quota .
at no point in the movie do any of these things ever come close to being scary -- funny , maybe .
but not scary .
then we have the set .
when i first saw the house , i was very impressed with the very cool gothic look about it .
but it only took a short tour by the characters around the place to see that the set designers obviously had as much money to burn as the visual effects people did , and decided to take the idiotically overdone route .
this included a flooded hallway with books as stepping stones and a mirrored circular room that revolves .
what part did these rooms play in the story ?
absolutely none .
they were just there to take our minds off the fact that there was neither a descent story nor a single scare in the entire movie .
then we have the actors .
lili taylor has never been one of my favorites .
and when the fact that her character is mousy and pathetic is factored in , she comes in around the average or slightly below mark .
i have no idea why liam neeson took this role .
he basically reminded me of the ringmaster at an out of control circus .
his character was in charge of this farce but it quickly got away from him .
i have no doubt that liam will want to lock all prints of this movie in a very secure vault along with all copies of darkman .
zeta-jones was cast because she is too hot for words .
the fact that her character is bi-sexual is just icing on the cake .
all catherine has to do in this movie is look good .
fortunately that is something she does very well .
while she does have a fairly good size part , it is obvious that her only purpose in the movie was as eye-candy .
it's too bad someone of her talents wasted them here .
any random supermodel pulled out of a fashion show could have easily filled her role .
the haunting is the antithesis of another of 1999's horror movies , the blair witch project .
the haunting had a seemingly limitless effects budget , while blair witch relies on piles of rocks for its scares .
both prove quite nicely that special effects are irrelevant to a horror film .
if the story sucks , it's all downhill from there .
my advice ?
if you are looking for special effects , go rent star wars .
if it's scares you want , rent halloween .
either way , it's probably in your best interests to skip the haunting .
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