Fan Club Of One: A Good Review of The Haunting
Things That Go Bump (Crash, Roar, Slice) In The Night
Welcome back, America, to the weird world of Shirley Jackson's
The Haunting of Hill House. Opening weekend's long lines
were made up of all ages and blood types, who laughed AND screamed
at all the right moments. This is not a shot-for-shot remake using
famous comedians, a la last year's Psycho mis-fire. This
remake follows the book to a point, then goes down its' own dark
hallway. Whereas the original black and white Haunting was
a creepy slice of Gothic Americana. This blood-red remake is pure
grand guignol, richly deserving its' PG-13, but wisely avoiding
an R. Fans of ghost stories have a lot to seek their teeth into.
Pre-release gossip was pretty bitchy. Most critics eulogized the
original, even if they hadn't seen it yet. The point is, kids go
to movies to "see" something, and there's lots to see in this Haunting.
Shirley Jackson was famous for being oblique and macabre, with surreal
family problems ranging from stoning Mommy in "The Lottery" to lacing
a family reunion with arsenic in "We Have Always Lived In This Castle".
The Haunting started off as a smug modern debunking of the
supernatural and degenerated sharply into madness and death. Critics
of the Robert Wise version could never figure out who was being
haunted, and who was doing the haunting. They're still fighting
over this, which accounts for the original's classic status.
The new script brings us up-to-date with an equal blend of humor
and fear, with Jan DeBont's ensemble being just right. The main
twist is Lili Taylor as Nel, who is not the tortured neurotic as
Julie Harris played her, but a true spooky movie heroine. As the
famous lesbian-updated-to-bisexual, Catherine Zeta-Jones is very
yummy. Liam Neeson is surprisingly NOT awful, and Owen Wilson is
Kudos to DeBont for his expert use of sound, which uses Gary Rydstrom's
soundtrack as much as Jerry Goldsmith's music for maximum effect.