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The Haunting (1999)

Directed by Jan de Bont Screenplay by David Self

It wasn’t so much that this film didn’t suffice for a remake. Or that it even failed to entertain when such was not the case. Though I did find it funny that rarely if ever did they comment of making a remake. Something certainly rare when checking out the pre-production on a lot of these reboots. Because it’s not something one can hide, so why not compare or comment on how theirs played out in comparison. Perhaps they were too afraid to do such.

Naturally for the remake the apartment Eleanor (Lili Taylor) would be presently living in was located as though from some neighborhood in Candy Man or something. So only appropriate that Virginia Madsen would make a cameo as her sister. The taunting appearing worse as ever with her nephew becoming involved, followed with an offer emerging for Nell to take their mother’s 20 year old car. An exchange for they would soon be taking over the apartment in which she currently resided. Sealing the deal with a proposal of staying with them to cook and clean for the household; gotta love family.

Receiving a phone call, randomly, and referred to the paper in which an ad stated needing subjects for a Psychology study. Finding herself on the way to Hill House manor amid a larger than life place in which Bruce Dern was the gatekeeper for. How random. Upon entering the house is met with his lovely wife’s warm welcome as Nell’s shown to her room, soon interrupted by the next guest arriving. Theo (Catherine), who makes it immediately known that she was here, queer, and without a fear. She completely took away from the deceptive nature of the character all together. Discovering a carousel within the house and displaying the manor in ways so elaborate and in detail, that it certainly consumed the film for the remainder of time. Using over 300 carpenters, 40 sculptors and 25 painters in order to create such an aesthetically appeasing house with more detail then the actual script could vouch for. We slowly get to know the other characters as they arrive, familiarizing themselves with each other a bit around the fire later that night. Luke, a graduate student that had been used to doing these studies for money, was an untrustworthy light sleeper who crushed on Theo. Might as well have made him the gambling trust fund baby. Lead by ever noble Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson). Whose liability of leading them under false pretenses was enough to force a whole blame onto himself over the house. At least in the original they were aware of what their attendance in Hill House manor was for. Granted, they were still unknowing of the history attached to the house, but that was completely reworked and didn’t end up mattering one way or another in this version.

Hearing the history of Hugh Crain having built the house a hundred and thirty years ago. Wanting nothing more than to fill the place with the big family he had always wanted. Owning textile mills and yet, everyone dying around him with claims of ghosts still looming about the mansion in the form of children’s voices. Converting into ghost stories that assisted in present accusations against the other of who could be behind certain events unfolding around the house. Pointing out a very astute ledger in which showed how Crain had actually been a monster unheard of by any legend. A slow unraveling of an enhanced history mixed with the characters ability to discover and thwart a next possible move, to fight against said ghosts. Interchanged with gimmicks displaying all the elaborate details needed in order to press in the history that much more. Forcing Dr. Marrow to come clean of the fear study he was actually performing as they are chased around by Hughs entity which almost no end in sight. Or perhaps the film just felt as though it would never end. Because in that case, why not choose more than 3 people for something of that nature? At least in the original they explain that the Doc had fully intended on having more participants but only two had arrived. Not so much of an ambiguous nature about the film as it even gives the last laugh to the Dudley’s.

As far as comparing the two groups of Actors, there was a clear preference in how they went about making their selections. Claire Bloom also played the character without any barriers, but she didn’t have to be so outlandish that she ran over the others personalities in order to do so. Which was what happened with Catherine Zeta Jones. There was so much going on with her and the house as the film progresses that the focus became deterred on who it should have actually been focusing on. Because while the character of Eleanor was meant to display a certain, offbeat characteristic, Lili Taylor far exceeded in that department. There’s always been something a little off about her, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed mostly everything she’s been in, but it’s her very own vibe that comes off in that particular way. After finding out that Crain had been Nell’s great, great grandfather she’s turned into a mini warrior. Demanding that they leave and in the midst of helping Theo and the Doc escape, able to save the children he had locked up and joining them, finally able to all rest in peace. But not before having her make some feeble speech on how family was the only thing that mattered and blah blah. Oh, just give me a break with all that randomly placed moral lesson. Though we would discover that Dr. Marrow hadn’t made any call to begin with, that would mean that not only were the ghosts able to put in an application for Nell but that they could also make phone calls and disguise their voice as the living. It was just all so much added in order to suffice for something that originally had a good guideline to begin with.