Remember “The Machine” from The Princess Bride that could takes years off your life? That is the mechanical equivalent to watching The Haunting. Although not even two hours long I felt as if five years had passed when it was over.
I knew this film was going to be unbearable when Catherine Zeta-Jones arrived at the house. As you may have noticed, I developed a good sense of animosity towards her in Entrapment. I compared her to Denise Richards then, but I must give her some credit. Unlike Richards, Jones acting impediment is only apparent after she opens her mouth. How fitting that in The Haunting she was cast as someone who never stops talking. As the film progressed I wondered why she couldn’t have been cast as the doctor’s assistant that doesn’t say a word until her face is sliced open by a possessed harpsichord (and then it’s mostly just screaming and crying). I would have even been willing to operate the harpsichord.
The pacing and tension in this film were well planned out in the same sense that Ed Wood would make an excellent continuity advisor. Many movies get me to the point of saying “When will this end?” during the last half hour. This movie had me saying that during the first half hour. Perhaps it was because one or two (hundred) movies have already been made about hauntings or groups of characters being slowly whittled down, or both. There is only so much you can do with the premise of this film, and Shirley Jackson [writer] and Jan de Bont [director] couldn’t even do that.
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