The Haunting (1999)

(In theaters, July 1999) Are horror films basically incompatible with the Hollywood blockbuster mentality? This film offers part of the answer. This big-budget, star-studded Haunted-house offering from Dreamworks manages the rare feat of being a completely ordinary horror film without one good scare in it. Aside from a mild jump-shot or two, The Haunting fails at eliciting anything approaching dread from the audience, with disastrous results. In many ways, this is a movie from another time, where you could afford to build up the suspense for an hour before letting it all flow. This approach could have been applauded if The Haunting has done anything worthwhile… but this build-up only elicits impatience rather than tension. The below-average script doesn’t help things, with some particularly bad dialogue (mirroring almost everything the characters feel despite the fact that it’s blindingly obvious to the audience.) and a lack of any sympathy for the characters. Jan de Bont’s direction is far from being as dynamic as I would have expected from his work on Speed and Twister. Catherine Zeta-Jones is as lovely as ever, but she has to fight against the House itself in the looks department. The bad ending finally seals The Haunting‘s rating to, at best, barely average.

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