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The Haunting (1963) vs. The Haunting (1999)


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Robey
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« on: March 08, 2016, 07:28:13 pm »


The Haunting (1963) vs. The Haunting (1999)
By Mike Bunge Published: October 3, 2014, 10:05 am Updated: October 3, 2014, 1:11 pm

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haunting

On October 9th through 18th, the Albert Lea Community Theatre will get an early start on Halloween with a production of The Haunting of Hill House, a stage adaptation of the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson.  I’m not much of a theater buff.  The highpoint of my experience with the footlights was seeing Sweeney Todd, first with Angela Lansbury on Iowa Public Television and then live at the University of Iowa when I was in school.  But, besides a dramaturgical second life, Jackson’s story has been born and reborn on the screen.

1963’s The Haunting may have dispensed with the “of Hill House” but it holds fast to the fearsome intelligence of its literary origins.  1999’s The Haunting is…well, not really deserving of that name.  It is one of the stupider and more poorly made remakes I’ve ever seen and yes, that includes the Tim Burton/Mark Wahlburg Planet of the Apes fiasco.  The bar is set pretty low but this remake limbos so far under it that I can’t even dignify it with the same title as its vastly superior predecessor.  So from this point forward, I will refer to the 1999 movie as The Hauntening.  A dumb, bastardized word for a dumb, bastardized motion picture.
Two guys. Two girls. A haunted house. Could Scooby Doo not get an audition for this thing?
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Robey
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2016, 07:28:53 pm »




Two guys. Two girls. A haunted house. Could Scooby Doo not get an audition for this thing?

Before we delve deeper, a couple of points.  Though it was made in the early to mid 60s, The Haunting is in beautiful black-and-white.  Some people have a problem with that.  Those were the folks Ted Turner was trying to placate when he wanted to “colorize” old films, a process that often made them look like a toddler’s coloring book brought to life.  If you’ve got a problem with black-and-white cinema because you think it looks old or dull, that’s a prejudice to which you are entitled.  I love the look of black-and-white movies.  There’s a clarity and a subtle visual complexity to them that filmmakers were forced to employ because they couldn’t dazzle your optic nerve.  And it perfectly fits The Haunting’s aim to revivify that hoariest of spooky stories, the haunted house.

Also, The Hauntening is rated PG-13 and was made just as the PG-13 horror movie was starting to become a thing.  I will admit there have been some good PG-13 horror, or just plain scary, flicks.  The Hauntening is not one of them.  It’s so terribly written and with such atrocious set design that it would have sucked with an R, but the timidity and toothlessness of its rating leaves it not only bad but boring.  Made 36 years later, The Hauntening is not just less stylish and less smart than The Haunting. It’s less daring, less provocative and just plain old less.  A prejudice against PG-13 horror, which I confess to have, is amply justified by bland refuse like The Hauntening.
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Robey
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2016, 07:29:33 pm »




This was my big chance at stardom. THIS! Now do you understand why so many folks in Hollywood use drugs?

Both of the films are centered on a young and troubled woman.  In The Haunting, she is Eleanor “Nell” Lance (Julie Harris).  In The Hauntening, she’s merely Nell (Lili Taylor).  No Eleanor.  No last name.  Only Nell.  And as there are some good PG-13 horror movies, there are some good films where characters don’t have last names.  Most of the time, however, if the people who made the movie can’t be bothered to give their main character a frickin’ last name, it is a flashing neon sign that reads “We didn’t care about this film.  You shouldn’t either.”  It wasn’t just Luke.  It was Luke SKYWALKER.  It was Michael CORLEONE and Scarlett O’HARA and Clarice STARLING.  Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was Dorothy GALE and even Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti western Man with No Name wasn’t simply The Man.  He was The Man WITH NO NAME.  I’m sure filmmakers always think they have a reason for not giving their main character a last name.  Usually that reason is they are lazy morons doing a half-assed job.
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Robey
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2016, 07:30:12 pm »



They just had a vision from 36 years in the future. I think you know of what.

Hmm.  My computer just told me that halfassed is a misspelling but half-assed is not.  I didn’t realize a hyphen was that grammatically powerful.  Three-quarter-assed.  Two-third-assed. One-sixteenth-assed.  All correctly spelled according to Microsoft.  I wonder how that was decided?  Was there a team or committee assembled and then invested with the mission to determine and the authority to declare that…

    Assed is an actual word.
    The only acceptable modifications of assed must involve a hyphen.

But I digress.

Both of these films also have a small group of people summoned to a gothic mansion/castle called Hill House.  In the original, the group is brought together by Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson).  Today we’d call Dr. Markway a paranormal researcher or a ghost hunter and he’d probably have a show on cable TV with a lot of night vision where supernatural stuff almost but never quite happens.  He’s called Eleanor and another woman named Theodora (Claire Bloom) because both have a history with psychic phenomena.  Theo has ESP and when Eleanor was a child, stones rained down on her house for three days.

And yes, I know Theodora has only one name.  But…

    She’s not the main character.
    When Dr. Markway is putting together his group, there’s a question mark after Theodora, indicating that her lack of a last name is recognized within the film as unusual.
    Her single moniker fits Theodora’s bohemian and unorthodox personality, especially in contrast to the repressed and desperate-to-fit-in Eleanor. The Hauntening’s Nell could have been Mary, Michelle or Marlene and it would have worked as well.
    Shut up.

See? The movie agrees with me!
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Robey
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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2016, 07:31:20 pm »



See? The movie agrees with me!

Joining Markway and the ladies is Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) , the nephew of Hill House’s current owners.  Luke doesn’t have any background with the supernatural.  It’s not that he doesn’t believe in ghosts or haunted places.  Luke doesn’t care about any of that.  His mercenary focus is exclusively on the money he’ll be able to make selling Hill House when he inherits it.

These four are confronted with the oddities of Hill House and the tragedies of its past.  But when that confrontation escalates to strange sounds, inexplicable occurrences and a constant sense of terror, is it the ghosts of Hill House?  Mass hysteria?  Something beyond either?  I won’t spoil it for you because The Haunting is very good and both it and the Albert Lea production hew close to the original novel.  I’ll leave them their secrets to be enjoyed by audiences who don’t know, and don’t want to know, what’s coming.

The Hauntening deviates a great deal from the novel, the play and the original movie.  Normally, that’s a good thing for a remake.  I mean, if there’s nothing you should or can change about the story, why are you going through the hassle and expense of retelling it?  Why spend $80,000,000 on The Hauntening in 1999 when they could have reissued The Haunting on DVD for a fraction of the cost?
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Robey
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2016, 07:31:52 pm »

And just in case someone is Googling it, The Hauntening did make about $177,000,000 at the box office, classifying it as a commercial success.  That says nothing about and has nothing to do with its aesthetic value and merit.  Michael Bay’s first Transformers flick was awful.  His second was an affront.  His third was so grotesquely sucky that it finally convinced millions of people they didn’t need to see the fourth.  All of them, though, made hundreds of millions of dollars.  As people love eating crappy fast food, they love watching even crappier movies.  That doesn’t make either good or good for them.

The Hauntening’s Nell, like her counterpart Eleanor, is a young woman who spent most of her adult life caring for her invalid and demanding mother.  In The Haunting, that left Eleanor with deep emotional wounds and those left her open to the influence of Hill House.  Nell’s past doesn’t much define her in any way and has absolutely nothing to do with a labored and illogical plot twist which takes an incompetent reproduction of a quality motion picture and drags it down to the level of “Why the bleep am I watching this crap?”
Am I Jewish? Italian? Episcopalian? Seriously, what's my last name!?!?
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Robey
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2016, 07:32:23 pm »




Am I Jewish? Italian? Episcopalian? Seriously, what’s my last name!?!?

Let me boil The Hauntening down for you.  Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) brings a bunch of insomniacs to Hill House under the guise of studying their affliction.  They really are guinea pigs in an experiment designed to test and analyze the nature of fear.  Therefore, it is very clearly implied that Hill House is not haunted and that anything which happens is part of Marrow’s experiment and is meant to scare his subjects.  But then the movie explicitly shows the audience that Hill House is indeed haunted.  Then it tries to make the viewer wonder if it all isn’t just Nell being crazy.  And then the movie essentially says “Sucker!  It really was ghosts all along!  Fooled ya!”  That might not seem so bad, but combine it with some of the most banal dialog you’ll ever hear, direction so inept it can’t even properly time those cliché startle-scenes where something or someone unexpectedly pops into view and the set design, oh the set design!

I’ve seen films with bad lighting, bad sound, bad camera work, bad actors and bad about everything else but The Hauntening is the first time I’ve ever been forced to consider such disastrous set design.  Hill House in The Haunting is big and old and gothic and creepy.  It’s more like a castle than a mansion and is decorated in early Addams Family, but it looks like a real place that real people might have built and where real people may have lived.  Real weird people, to be sure, but still recognizable as human beings.
Is this a scene from the Hauntening or the Jedi Temple on Coruscant?
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Robey
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2016, 07:33:22 pm »



Is this a scene from the Hauntening or the Jedi Temple on Coruscant?

Hill House in The Hauntening looks like a theme part designed by a defective computer program that someone forgot to turn off.  It is hilariously huge, more like a college campus than anyone’s home.  The main entry hall is so ginormous that NASA could have used it to build the Saturn V rocket.  The bedrooms deserve their own area codes.  The doors look like they were made to keep King Kong out.  No one, not even the richest person who ever lived, has built, would build or even dream of building a home so laughably disproportionate.  And there isn’t a single unadorned square inch in the entire place.  Every wall and every ceiling and every corner of every room or hall or chamber is smothered in statues or carvings or engravings or mirrors or paintings.  Forget about suspending disbelief for the ghosts.  An unfortunate viewer of the Hauntening suspends all their disbelief on the interior decoration.  It screams FAKE.  PRETEND.  PHONY.  And let me be clear, the movie doesn’t cleverly exploit or play off that in the story.  Hill House doesn’t look ridiculous to set the audience up to expect one thing and then surprise them with something completely different.  The Hauntening looks ridiculous because the set designers must have been an army of ADHD hamsters coming off a six week meth bender.  I mean, there’s a flooded hallway with books as stepping stones.  Why is it flooded?  Why are there books?  What is the point?  ADHD meth hamsters, that’s the point.
I don't know why everyone is so scared? I like being around creepy, old, decaying things that smell like death.
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Robey
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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2016, 07:34:22 pm »




I don’t know why everyone is so scared? I like being around creepy, old, decaying things that smell like death.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Theo and Owen Wilson is Luke Sanderson in the remake and they, along with Neeson, demonstrate what it looks like when good actors are trapped in a bad script.  Lili Taylor, on the other hand, is clearly phoning it in.  I can’t say I blame her.  She’s the star and this was going to be her big break but not since Janeane Garofalo in The Matchmaker has a young actress seen her chance at fame and fortune go down in flames like this.  I hope she was well paid, because cashing a check is about all she’s doing in most of her scenes.

What can we learn from comparing The Haunting and The Hauntening?  We’re all getting stupider, that’s what.  The people who made The Hauntening were stupider and the people who watched it, like me, were either stupider or made stupider by watching it.  I lack the ability to fully convey to you how much more sharply and cleverly written The Haunting is than its pitiful descendent.  Let me attempt it by contrasting Drs. Markway and Marrow.  Every time John Markway speaks, he sounds smart.  He expresses himself in a more erudite manner than the other characters and his words reveal a depth of knowledge they don’t possess.  When David Marrow speaks, he sounds like he could be a professor or he could be a gas station attendant.  There’s nothing unique to his words.  In The Haunting, Markway speaks differently than Luke, who speaks differently than Theo, who speaks differently than Eleanor.  In The Hauntening, 95% of the dialog could be spoken by any character and it would make as much sense.

The Haunting is a scary good time.  I suspect The Haunting of Hill House may be as well.  The Hauntening is…well, Liam Neeson had another film come out in 1999.  It was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

The Hauntening makes Jar Jar Binks look good.

 
I have a particular set of skills. Picking good movies in 1999 is not one of them.
I have a particular set of skills. Picking good movies in 1999 was not one of them.

The Haunting (1963)

Written by Nelson Gidding.

Directed by Robert Wise.

Starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell, Valentine Dyall, Diane Clare and Ronald Adam.

 

The Haunting (1999)

Written by David Self.

Directed by Jan de Bont.

Starring Lili Taylor, Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Owen Wilson’s nose, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes, Alix Koromzay, Todd Field, Virginia Madsen, Michael Cavanaugh and Tom Irwin.
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Robey
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« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2016, 07:35:01 pm »



I have a particular set of skills. Picking good movies in 1999 was not one of them.
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Robey
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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2016, 07:35:13 pm »

http://kimt.com/2014/10/03/the-haunting-1963-vs-the-haunting-1999/
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