• The Haunting (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: March 4th, 2019.
    Director: Jan de Bont
    Cast: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes
    Year: 1999
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    The Haunting – Movie Review:

    Directed by Jan de Bont in 1999 for Dreamworks, The Haunting is a remake of the classic 1963 film made by Robert Wise. While that earlier film was a masterpiece in suspense and an excellent example of how the ‘less is more’ mentality can often times make for a better horror picture, this update goes in the opposite direction. While it does manage to recreate some of the atmosphere seen in Wise’s classic, in place of subtlety we get late 90’s CGI work and bombastic, over the top sound design.

    The story begins when with Eleanor "Nell" Vance (Lili Taylor) arguing with her sister. Nell took care of their mother for over a decade before lady passed, and as such, has been left the sister the house. From here, Nell reads of an insomnia study to take place in a massive New England mansion and decides to give it a shot.

    Meanwhile, Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) and his assistant Mary Lambetta (Alix Koromzay) work on gathering volunteers for this same study, which has a lot less to do with insomnia than it does fear.

    Nell arrives at the mansion - Hill House - and meets the caretaker, Dudley (Bruce Dern), and his wife (Marien Seldes). A short time later, Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the two explore a bit before meeting another participant, Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson) as well as Marrow, Mary and a second assistant named Todd Hackett (Todd Fields). They all have dinner together and afterwards, Marrow gives them some information on what they'll be doing here as well as some background on the house itself, including the story of how the wife of the builder, Hugh Crain (Charles Gunning), killed herself in the home.

    Eventually, Luke and Nell figure that Marrow is up to something - and indeed he is - and the more time they spend together in the house and learn about its history, the more they realize that insomnia is the least of their problems.

    De Bont and company do a great job with set design – the exteriors and interiors of Hill House are very nicely done, the place looks huge and genuinely ominous and is, in many ways, the perfect place to stage a story such as this. The score from Jerry Goldsmith is also top notch and the cinematography from Karl Walter Lindenlaub is also hard to knock. As far as the production values go, it’s clear in every frame of the film that this had a pretty substantial budget behind it. The sound design is also very good, with plenty of directional effects used, particularly in the last third of the film when the activity in the film really starts to ramp up, swirling up in the mix behind you.

    As to the acting? No problems here. Lili Taylor is her typically likeable self: down to earth, personable, attractive. We like her from the start. Catherine Zeta-Jones is elegant and beautiful, though her character isn’t as well-developed. Neeson is fine as the doctor in charge and Wilson fine as a volunteer, though neither is exceptional. Supporting work from Bruce Dern and Marien Seldes is decent.

    The problems with the film is, as stated in the opening paragraph, it goes for spectacle over atmosphere and lasting tension. In the original film, you were invested enough in the characters that you were on the edge of your seat during the second half of the film. That doesn’t happen here. Instead we get digital effects that haven’t aged well at all and an A-list Hollywood cast delivering decent work playing mostly flat characters.

    The Haunting – Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment brings The Haunting to Region B Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in the film’s proper aspect ratio of 2.35.1 widescreen with the feature taking up just over 33GBs of space. This would appear to be taken from an older scan and there’s some light DNR here but it isn’t a deal breaker as the majority of the movie looks quite good. Colors are reproduced very well and black levels are strong. The healthy bit rate keeps compression artifacts away and if detail doesn’t quite hit the highs that the format can provide, it is, overall, quite good.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a beast! There’s a lot of very impressive surround activity here to take in and some very strong bass response. At the same time, dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced. The score has excellent depth and range and does nice job of heightening the goofy jump scares. Top notch audio quality here, and the disc makes the most of the film’s aggressive mix. There are no subtitles offered.

    There are no extra features on this Blu-ray.

    The Haunting – The Final Word:

    The Haunting can’t hold a candle to the film that inspired it, but as far as nonsensical, big-budgeted Hollywood blockbusters go, it’s entertaining enough. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release contains no extras, but it does look and sounds quite nice. Fans of this film, and they are out there, will appreciate the upgrade.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Haunting Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Torrente's Avatar
      Torrente -
      Hi, thanks for the review and screenshots! Are there any subtitles on this release?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Hi Torrente, there are no subtitles on this release.
    1. Torrente's Avatar
      Torrente -
      Thanks a lot for your fast reply!