Taglines: Some houses are born bad.
In the 1860’s, industrialist Hugh Crain financed the construction of Hill House, a beautiful but forbidding mansion where Crain hoped to house a wife and children. However, Crain died an unexplained death at Hill House, and ever since tales have circulated that the mansion is haunted by evil spirits. 130 years later, Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), long fascinated by the Hill House legend, brings three people there for what he tells them will be a study in sleep disorders.
Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is outwardly brave, but it soon becomes evident that Hill House’s sinister reputation has her on edge. Luke (Owen Wilson) quickly finds himself wondering: if this is really about studying sleep, why bring everyone to a haunted house? And Nell (Lili Taylor) finds herself inexplicably drawn to the mansion, with a fascination that soon bears terrifying fruit as the true story of Hill House is revealed. The Haunting was directed by Jan de Bont; the screenplay was written by David Self and based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting Of Hill House, which was also the basis for Robert Wise’s 1963 film The Haunting, widely regarded as one of the screen’s finest ghost stories.
The Haunting is a 1999 supernatural horror film directed by Jan de Bont. The film is a remake of the psychological horror film of the same name. Both of them are based on the 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes, Alix Koromzay, Virginia Madsen, Michael Cavanaugh and Charles Gunning. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1999.
Harlaxton Manor, in England, was used as the exterior of Hill House. The billiard room scene was filmed in the Great Hall of the manor, while many of the interior sets were built inside the dome-shaped hangar that once housed The Spruce Goose, near the permanently docked RMS Queen Mary steamship, in Long Beach, California. The kitchen scenes were filmed at Belvoir Castle.
About the Story
Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lili Taylor) has cared for her invalid mother for 11 years. After her mother dies, her sister Jane (Virginia Madsen) and Jane’s boyfriend Lou (Tom Irwin) eject her. Nell receives a phone call about an insomnia study, directed by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) at Hill House, a secluded manor in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and applies for it.
At the house, she meets Mr. and Mrs. Dudley (Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes), a strange pair of caretakers. Two other participants arrive, Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson) and Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones), along with Dr. Marrow and his two research assistants. Unknown to the participants, Dr. Marrow’s true purpose is to study the psychological response to fear, intending to expose his subjects to increasing amounts of terror. Each night, the caretakers chain the gate outside Hill House, preventing anyone from getting in or out until morning.
During their first night, Dr. Marrow relates the story of Hill House. The house was built by Hugh Crain (Charles Gunning)—a 19th-century textile tycoon. Crain built the house for his wife, hoping to populate it with a large family of children; however, all of Crain’s children died during their birth. Crain’s wife Renee killed herself before the house was finished and Crain became a recluse. After the story, Marrow’s assistant’s face is slashed by a snapped clavichord wire.
The freak accident causes Marrow’s research assistants to leave. Nell begins to suspect that it was no accident, as she notices that the wire was unwound by someone or something. Theo and Nell begin to experience unusual happenings within the house, such as a mysterious force trying to open the door, Nell starts seeing ghosts of children in curtains and sheets, Hugh Crain’s wood portrait morphs into a skeletal face and is vandalized with the words “Welcome Home Eleanor” written in blood. Theo and Luke try to establish their innocence, but Nell tells them that they don’t know her.
Nell becomes determined to prove that the house is haunted by ghostly children who are only terrorized and killed by Crain’s cruelty. She learns that Crain kidnapped the children from his cotton mills and slaughtered them, then burned their bodies in the fireplace, trapping their ghosts and forcing them to remain with him, providing him with an ‘eternal family’. She also learns that Crain had a second wife named Carolyn, from whom she is descended.
Dr. Marrow is skeptical of Eleanor’s claims, until he realizes he made a mistake by bringing them to Hill House when a statue tries to drown him in a pool of water in a greenhouse. After several more terrifying events, Nell insists that she cannot leave the ghosts of the kids to suffer for eternity at Crain’s hands. Trying to convince Eleanor to leave the house with them, Theo offers to let Nell move in with her, but Nell reveals her relation to Carolyn and claims she must help the children to “move on” to the afterlife.
The Haunting (1999(
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Starring: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes, Alix Koromzay, Virginia Madsen, Michael Cavanaugh, Charles Gunning
Screenplay by: David Self, Michael Tolkin
Production Design by: Eugenio Zanetti
Cinematography by: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Film Editing by: Michael Kahn
Costume Design by: Ellen Mirojnick, Danny Ned Moore
Set Decoration by: Cindy Carr
Art Direction by: Martin Laing, Jonathan Lee, Troy Sizemore, Tomas Voth
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense horror sequences.
Distributed by: DreamWorks Pictures
Release Date: July 23, 1999