The Haunting (1999)

Directed by Jan de Bont
Written by David Self, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Starring Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, Catherine Zeta-Jones

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Nell (Taylor) has a problem.  After eleven years of taking care of her ailing mother, the mother died, leaving everything to Nell's sister Carrie (Virginia Madsen), who's a bitch essentially.  She finds her salvation in a sleep disorder study led by Dr. Marrow (Neeson) at the very lush and disturbing Hill House, where she meets the very jumpy Luke (Wilson), the very sultry Theo (Zeta-Jones), and voices that welcome her home.

I feared for this film when I saw the first pathetic attempts at trailers.  My fears were well founded, but even they could not prepare me for the travesty and waste of filmstock that is this movie.  The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of Self and De Bont.  The idea that this film is supposedly based on the classic novel by Jackson is an insult to the author.  The words "insinuated by" would be more factual.  Don't get me wrong--I don't mind liberal adaptations of literature--but they need to be good liberal adaptations, if not at least coherent and consistent.  For de Bont's part, he has made no visible attempt to even create a film that has either continuity or believable performances.  I've seen more believable reactions to situations in Looney Tunes cartoons, to put it another way.

It's absolutely painful to watch actors I respect saying dialogue that sounds as if it were written by somebody on too much cough syrup.  It's worse when you consider that as far as casting goes--the four principals are perfect for their roles.  Had they a real movie to act in, it could have been so amazing.  And to add injury to insult, the audience at the screening I attended were laughing through the majority of the film--and rightfully so.  Because it was laughable to watch how forced everything was.  Zeta-Jones screaming "WOW!  I'm BISEXUAL!" every time she walked in a room.  The house itself screaming "WOW!  Look at all these CHERUB HEADS!  I'm SCARY!"  And Jan de Bont screaming "WOW!  I really honestly believe I did a good job with this!  I'm DELUSIONAL!"  This film is an unwatchable piece of garbage that makes Carrie 2 look inspired, and it also makes me wish I allowed myself negative scores.  The worst film of the year thus far by a landslide.

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