Spooky Movie Month Day #16 – The Haunting (1999)

October 16th

So, today we started later than I’d expected and no one had any ideas. Being the highly intelligent person I am, I thought – “Hey! Let’s do something ghosty!” So I picked The Haunting, the version released in 1999. 

Now, this story has been made and remade and reimagined many, many times but this one was the first after “CGI” became a thing and they went FULL OUT in every way. 

Originally a novel by Shirley Jackson in 1959, not to be confused with Hell house written by Richard Matheson in 1971, neither to be confused with The Haunting of Hell House, but a sister-retelling of The Haunting of Hill House AND The House on Haunted Hill. Sort of.

Confused yet? Well, let’s just say the classic “haunted house” formula we know and can rely on today can usually find their origins with Jackson’s book and the movies that follow. 

The 90’s release of The Haunting is a classic of its era and completely reflective of the time in which it was made. Full of flash, CGI beauty, it’s in your face giving little room for the imagination because this movie LOVES to give you everything. This movie truly feels like they thought; “we have CGI!! Let’s do ALL THE THINGS!!” …and then they did. 

Directed by Jan de Bont and adapted but David Self, The Haunting featured a star-studded cast full of 90’s “it crowd” members including Owen Wilson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dean, Marian Seldes and Alix Koromazay.  

Some call me crazy for loving this movie so much, but I attribute it to my age and experience with scary movies at the time. I mean, it was 1999! We all thought the world was going to end, chatrooms were how most of us were socializing and people were still using pagers and number codes to communicate messages. I remember going to see it in the theatre. I sat in wonder at all the beauty of that house and marveled at how they were able to make it come alive. To me, it seamlessly bridged the effects with reality in a way I’d never seen before and I was transfixed. Add a sweet ghost story with endearing little dead kids and a gorgeous, heavy soundtrack and man… I was sold hook, line and sinker! I think I saw it at least 3 times in the theater then immediately bought the soundtrack and the DVD as soon as it was released. 

Okay, though, let’s be real; Is it the best movie ever? Absolutely not, but it is a good time and a great story for tweens looking for something spooky with minor moments of terror. A few too many, I discovered…

So, what did the kids think? 

Well, we had to take this one in two parts. Like I said in the beginning, we were running late and everyone was tired before we even turned it on. I knew better, but did it anyway with exactly the result I was expecting. LOL Add nighttime plus late, plus tired and that equals – “mom this movie is too scary, can we stop and watch it later in the daytime”?.

They made it to the scene where Nell finds the bones in the fireplace. 

Dragon’s response was “NOPE. I’m done. I’m going to bed, dead child bones in the fire is as far as I’m wiling to go today.”

Lion responded with “yeah, mom… I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight, can we turn this off and watch the rest maybe in the morning when it’s not dark?”

Honest to my word, we immediately shut it down. That’s the rules with all this – no guilt, no shame – if you want to stop, just say the word and we stop. 

Two days later, we picked it back up again and finished by lunchtime. 

There was about 35 minutes left of the movie and when it was over they both agreed daytime was a way better idea because it didn’t scare them at all, it was just fun. Neither were really bothered by Luke’s death. Lion commented, “that’s nothing compared to Jason’s mom’s death – I still see that when I close my eyes… so this was fine”. 

They both thought it was ultimately a sweet story but they hated that Nell dies at the end. They thought it wasn’t fair at all and she should have been able to live happily in the house as the rightful heiress. Other than that, they loved how she was all sheepish and shy in the beginning but by the end she’d found her courage and was kicking butt saving everyone else. 

Four thumbs up! Success after all!

We crammed in a few others over the last few days that I’ll post about separately, so stay tuned to the Mothership frequency to see what else we’ve been up to as we catch up with our Spooky Movie Month!