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Monday, July 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 159

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Haunting features dazzling special effects, but fails to scare


The Haunting

Starring: Lili Taylor, Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 118 minutes

Grade: D -


By Rattaya Nimibutr
Daily Cougar Staff 

The latest trend in Hollywood, a return to scary movies, is in hot water. Some recent films like The Blair Witch Project have succeeded in leaving you mildly intoxicated with fear and disturbance.

The Haunting, the highly anticipated horror film about four individuals staying at a haunted mansion, is the latest film designed to scare you out of your mind. But despite the all-star cast and impressive special effects, the film turns out to be, well, terrible.

The scariest thing about the movie is that it keeps getting worse as it progresses, and seeing the film careers of these four actors and actresses slowly sliding down the drain just makes it harder to watch.

Lili Taylor portrays Eleanor, a woman who sacrificed everything to take care of her mother, now deceased, and desperately needs money to keep an apartment. She gets a phone call to join a study dealing with sleep disorders, for which she will be paid well.

Liam Neeson (The Phantom Menace) plays the doctor who conducts the study. 

Eleanor joins with Theo (Zeta-Jones), an always-on-the-go, materialistic girl, and Luke (Owen Wilson), an all-around comic whose jokes will float right over the audience's heads.


Nell (Lili Taylor) lends a hand to Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) as he nearly falls victim to a malevolent staircase in the supernatural thriller The Haunting.

Frank Masi/Dreamworks Pictures

How can a film that looked so interesting in the trailer turn out to be nothing but a time-waster full of worthless scenes and cheesy lines?

Though the movie is based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House and the 1963 film The Haunting, both considered classics in the horror genre, director Jan De Bont went the wrong way with this update.

The Most Pointless Role Award goes to Zeta-Jones. Her character goes nowhere. She arrives at the house, runs down a couple of hallways, says a couple of lines, and then the credits roll. Her appearance is just another excuse to attract male viewers.

Wilson, who portrays the young, all-American Luke, is comic relief. However, his humor only serves to highlight how boring the rest of the movie really is.

One thumb up for the special effects, though, which seems to be the only thing Hollywood knows how to do these days. Perhaps the movie's slogan should be "Bad acting, bad dialogue, attractive actors, really awesome special effects!"

The Haunting does feature a beautiful and elaborate set, but even that is not a good enough reason to see it. This is a technical movie with genuine effects, but everything else comes off looking blurry and half-done.

If I want to see a pathetic horror movie I can laugh at, this movie will top the list. But it's not a horror movie to be taken seriously.
 

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