The haunting dvd 1999

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Product:The Haunting: Signature Selection
Company: Dreamworks
Review By:Byron Hinson


Most of you already know that "The Haunting" was panned by most critics when it hit the theatres in the summer of 1999, but not surprisingly, due to the massive amount of special effects and top name stars, the movie did pretty well at the box office both in America and overseas.

I'll get the basic story out of the way first so I can talk about the actual DVD content. The movie is based on the old story "The Haunting Of Hill House" and features the excellent Lili Taylor as Nell, a shy woman who has been looking after her sick mother so long she has started to lose her mind and has trouble sleeping, next up we have Theo played badly by Catherine Zeta-Jones a bisexual woman who is also having trouble sleeping...Finally we have Liam Neeson who takes the part of Dr. Marrow and Owen Wilson who plays another sleep deprived character called Luke.

The story revolves around the dark and foreboding Hill House where Dr. Marrow has decided to setup an experiment about sleep deprivation (Or so he says) with, Nell, Theo and Luke as his test subjects. What Dr. Marrow didn't expect was that Hill House hold a number of secrets that the main character of Nell would hold the key to.

The Haunting 1999

Director Jan De Bont has rightly come to fame for his work on Speed I personally feel that up to now, everything he has done since then has been a waste of time in terms of entertainment (Including Twister). The special effects do tend to over-run the film with De Bont relying on them to do the scaring instead of anything else. The Haunting though does manage to entertain you, it isn't too long and moves along quite fast, it certainly isn't anything special and Lili Taylor is again excellent as the lead.

How It Grades
 Picture Quality: 91%
Sound: 87%
Special Features: 80%
Movie Overall: 80%
DVD Overall: 84%

Now onto the DVD, which is actually not bad at all. The presentation features a number of extras, not a great deal but it does have a few good ones, trailers, behind-the-scenes feature, production notes and cast & filmmaker bios. The DVD does look great and that is the main saving grace for this movie, the colors are deep and there are some great tones on the decor inside Hill House, which show up tremendously well thanks to the DVD. There is also a lack of artifacts showing up which made viewing a pleasure.

Overall quite a good DVD in terms of Video and Sound, it may not have been a critical success but it is quite entertaining to watch in the evening or at the weekend. There are not enough extras on the disc to give it a mark in the 90's in DVD quality but give it a try.

Specs & Package
Overall Score84%
Release DateOut Now
In The Box?1 DVD
1 Inlay Card
Special FeaturesBehind-The-Scenes Feature
2 Theatrical Trailers
Cast & Filmmakers' Bios
Production Notes
The Good PointsExcellent Video
Good Entertainment
Good Special Effects
The Bad PointsNot scary enough
Poor Directing
Dull Dialogue
Memorable Scenes1: 43 Minutes & 10 Seconds
2: 1 Hour, 13 Minutes & 40 Seconds
3: 1 Hour, 35 Minutes & 29 Seconds
Reviewers DVD & PC SetupPentium II 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
128 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
Voodoo 2 - 8mb
DirectX 7a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD Setup: Toshiba SD-1202 DVD-ROM - 32x


 * *


Although it received a critical hammering upon its theatrical release last year, I must admit I kind of liked The Haunting. It's not a classic, but it provides enough thrills to merit a screening.

My more detailed thoughts about the film itself can be found in my original review of the Dolby Digital DVD, but The Haunting provides an unusual case in that more than any other movie I can recall, my enjoyment of the story stemmed largely from the audio.

The DVD:

As such, this DTS DVD provided an even better presentation than did the excellent DD package. The Haunting is about one thing above all else: bass. Never have I heard a film more intensely deep. Low end dominates this production to such a degree that during the rare occasions when the subwoofer channel wasn't active, it startled me; I became so accustomed to the consistently-present rumble that it felt odd not to hear it. The bass is so intense that I expected the police to knock on my door at any minute during the movie; with every new ball-buster, I'd turn down the volume a little, but it still packed a tremendous punch. All that and I don't even have a subwoofer; I can't imagine how intense the experience would under that circumstance.

As I note in my original review, The Haunting is a deeply mediocre film that tells its story in a drab, slow-paced manner. Nonetheless, I felt pretty involved in it and affected by it due to the sound. The mix so powerfully grabbed me that I was tense and edgy throughout much of the movie. Lots of films try to use sound to startle the viewer, but this one really took the cake, as it caught me off guard more times than I care to admit.

The soundfield lacks the whiz-bang nature of more active affairs but it surrounds the viewer exceedingly well. Early in the film we see a sign that reads "a place for everything and everything in its place", and I think the sound designers took that sentiment to heart, as all of the audio seems very precisely located within the various channels. Every creak and rumble we hear comes from distinct locations, and the realism this offers greatly adds to the movie's effect.

Quality seems equally strong. Though some of the dialogue betrays a little stiffness, and a few lines came across as mildly edgy, most of the speech sounds natural and warm, with no problems related to intelligibility. The music displayed strong presence and brightness; though it could get a little lost under the bass, the score still seemed bold and crisp. Of course, the effects are the stars of the show, as they appeared clean and smooth with terrific definition. No matter how loud the effects became, I discerned no signs of distortion, though I occasionally worried the bass would blow some of my speakers.

Regular readers should know that unlike some reviewers, I don't hand out "A+" ratings lightly. In regard to soundtracks, I've given precisely two of them for movies: both Saving Private Ryan and Twister earned the coveted award, but no other film has also gotten such recognition from me. (Roy Orbison: A Black and White Night got an "A+", but that wasn't a movie.)

Throughout my screening of the DTS edition of The Haunting, I argued with myself whether or not it deserved to join the ranks of the "A+" club. Part of me felt it didn't because - unlike the other two members - the use of the five channels isn't a stunning show of discrete audio. Yes, the film uses each speaker nicely and appropriately, but the creaks and roars don't quite compare with the brute force of the battle scenes in SPR or the hurtling destruction of Twister; those are so powerful that they actually give me goosebumps to hear.

Also, I wasn't totally sure that the DTS version of The Haunting outdid the DD edition enough to warrant the higher grade. After all, that track displayed some serious bass as well, and it showed very similar qualities. Whatever differences occurred may not have been significant enough to deserve an increased grade.

So why did I ultimately give the DTS track of The Haunting an "A+"? Because many times during the film, I thought to myself, "I'm running this sucker next time I want to show off my system." As shallow as it may sound, that was the deciding factor: the demonstration-worthy aspect of the track. I loved the audio for the DD edition, but I never felt as though it deserved to be showcased. The DTS track made me feel differently; the slight increase in bass and spatial positioning took it from "simply excellent" to "you gotta hear this!"

One final note about the audio: The Haunting actually features the first DTS ES soundtrack on DVD. As with DD EX, this provides 6.1 channels of sound, but unlike DD EX, apparently they're discrete channels, whereas the sixth channel of the Dolby equivalent is matrixed. According to the DTS website, the first DTS ES-enabled received will ship this month (August 2000). Did this encoding make any difference through my plain-old DTS 5.1 receiver? Not that I could notice; sure, it sounded great, but I couldn't discern any advantage offered by the extra track for those of us without the newest equipment. Still, it'll be interesting to discover if these 6.1 mixes ever have much of an impact upon home theater environments.

The Haunting appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture appears to duplicate the outstanding image found on the prior DVD.

Throughout the film, the picture seems very crisp and well-defined, with virtually no instances of softness on display. I witnessed no moir� effects or jagged edges, though I found more artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV than usual. (For the record, I don't take off points from my ratings of DVDs due to downconversion issues since they are more dependent on the player than they are the transfer itself; problems I encounter through my player may be absent or more intense on someone else's, and of course they should vanish completely on a 16X9 TV, so I note them here to let you know what you may expect, but my comments about artifacts should not be regarded as absolute.)

The print utilized seemed perfect, as one would expect from a recent, big-budget film; I never noticed any grain, scratches, or spots of any kind. Colors aren't emphasized in this semi-moody offering, but what we see looks quite accurate and tight; the velvety reds strewn through the mansion appear especially lush. Black levels are deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed very appropriate, with no loss of information. All in all, it's a fine transfer.

Now on to the supplements, in a section I'll call "Bait and Switch, Part Two:" prior to the November 1999 release of the original Haunting DVD, listings indicated it would include an audio commentary from director Jan DeBont and production designer Eugenio Zanetti, plus some deleted scenes and other features. The latter made it, but no sign of the commentary or the cut segments appeared, much to my disappointment.

When the DTS DVD was announced, once again we heard that all of these features would arrive on it. Once again they do not: the DTS DVD exactly duplicates the supplements found on the original DVD.

What exactly is going on here?! I'm fairly stunned that this mix-up happened twice. It was somewhat understandable the first time, but this second occurrence is really annoying, especially since I'll bet a lot of people ordered this disc based on the alleged inclusion of the extra materials.

To be frank, I'm not sure from where the confusion originated. Although many usually-accurate sites list the commentary and the deleted scenes - such as Amazon, Image Entertainment, and DVD Planet (formerly Ken Crane's) - I've never seen an official document from DreamWorks that touts these extras. As such, I don't know for a fact that the blame lies with them, but I honestly expect that it must; I can't imagine that all these different sources just assumed certain features would appear without some official reason why.

Add to that the fact a sticker on the case touts "never before seen footage!" and I'm even more irked. I felt that statement implied that this DVD included material not found on the prior one, but that certainly does not appear to be the case.

Anyway, that's the annoying story of what's missing. So what do we actually get? Not too much. The most significant supplement is a 27-minute "behind the scenes" feature hosted by the ever-luscious Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's a fairly basic but informative program that offers brief but interesting snippets on most aspects of the film's creation. It includes interview snippets with all the main actors and the chief production crew and it also shows some on set shots that demonstrate how parts of the movie were made. I've seen better and I've seen worse; overall, however, it's a short but pretty good documentary.

Other than that, all we get are some of the old DVD staples. Two trailers - one teaser, one theatrical - are included; both feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, something we don't commonly see but I always appreciate. The DVD also features some perfunctory cast (six actors) and crew (eight members) biographies plus some brief but decent production notes; the latter text is also duplicated within the DVD's booklet.

While I sort of enjoyed The Haunting, it's not a DVD that I can strongly recommend; the movie's just too silly too much of the time. It offers a pleasant diversion that can be entertaining, but it's really not much of a movie. The DVD provides absolutely stellar picture and sound, however, and though the supplemental section was slight, it includes a couple of nice pieces; I remain aggravated by the lack of advertised features, however. Ultimately, I think the movie's worth a rental; despite all the negatives you may have heard about it, the film presented a mildly pleasant surprise.

As far as whether you should purchase the DTS DVD of The Haunting, that depends on your level of audio geekiness. For anyone who has to have the absolute best with which to show off their system, go for it; you'll be very pleased, whether or not you already own the original Dolby Digital edition. I don't recommend it for anyone else who already has the DD version; the sound improvement is noticeable but not that extreme, and despite what you may have heard, it includes no supplements not found on the first DVD. If you don't own that one but have DTS capabilities and want a nice showpiece, this DVD will make a nice addition to your collection.

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There were two major haunted-house films released in 1999. One is a fun, campy and gory thrill ride: House on Haunted Hill. The other is Jan de Bont's The Haunting, a remake of the 1963 film of the same name that is so bad Steven Spielberg trashed his producer credit and any association he had with the production. The cast includes Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor, which should have been promising, but de Bont recently shooting Speed 2: Cruise Control may have been a bad omen. The production was apparently plagued with rewrites, reshoots and crew shifts, and The Haunting that reached theaters in 1999 is both embarrassingly bad and unexpectedly boring.

Taylor plays one of the most annoying characters in recent horror history: Eleanor "Nell" Vance, an insomniac fresh from a decade of caring for her elderly mother. Facing eviction from her apartment, Nell agrees to take part in a sleep study led by Dr. David Marrow (Neeson). She is not used to social interaction, frequently speaks in an extended whisper, and is so ea est I wanted to throw up. The study is really an exercise to determine the participants' response to psychological terror, but Nell and fellow guinea pigs Theodora (Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Wilson) do not know that. The study takes place at Hill House, a sprawling manor in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, complete with its own weird caretakers who refuse to stay after dark. Marrow unspools a phony story about tragedies that took place at the house and Luke spills the beans to the two women. When Marrow's assistant is injured at the house, Nell begins to realize there is an unfriendly presence at Hill House that will not let the group leave voluntarily.

This update of the Shirley Jackson source material and 1963 production is dismal. It is as if screenwriters David Self and Michael Tolkin were determined to make this story as uninteresting as possible. First, Nell is absolutely annoying throughout, wandering about the house and doing nonsensical things. The movie commits the cardinal sin of telling, rather than showing, so Nell expounds endlessly about the dark details of the house she uncovers. Those include stories of former owner Hugh Crain, a textile tycoon, his wife and their children, and the dark past that surrounds the manor. This is certainly a ghost story, but The Haunting never gives us an antagonist to fear; instead painting Crain as a silly, animated atrocity. Nell becomes obsessed with the souls of the children trapped at the house, an unexciting reveal, and becomes vulnerable to its traps. Marrow, Theo and Luke do their best to keep her in the land of the living.

If the rumored Spielberg/Tom Cruise pairing for this project had happened, we might have been treated to a solid suspense film. Instead, The Haunting arrives as bland a PG-13 horror film as you could ask for. The film shows brief, early promise as the cast explores the house, which includes some decent practical sets. Things get silly quickly, and the nonexistent suspense is frequently interrupted with silly CGI ghosts, moving statues and breaking glass. The screenplay is likely largely to blame, but the cast plays down to this lousy affair. Taylor's character is awful, and her performance is hardly better; Wilson sleepwalks through the role; Zeta-Jones is wooden overkill; and Neeson makes zero impression. By the time the ridiculous climax arrived, I had nary a conce for the safety of any character. I remember seeing this in theaters during the summer of 1999 and being disappointed. Twelve-year-old me was right, The Haunting is a lousy horror film with no scares to share.



The film makes its U.S. Blu-ray debut here and, if nothing else, the 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is impressive. Paramount continues to erase memories of its awful catalogue releases in the 2000s with filmic, highly detailed transfers that forego edge enhancement and noise reduction. This film looks great in motion, offers exceptional fine-object detail and texture, and benefits from nicely saturated colors and inky blacks. The transfer reveals details of several impressive set pieces, and the giant hallways and vaulted rooms offer exceptional detail and texture. Skin tones are natural, shadow detail is pleasing, and I noticed no obvious technical issues.


The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix does its best to drum up suspense, and the mix features frequent sound pans, spooky surround effects and LFE thump. Dialogue is clean and never crowded, and all elements are layered appropriately with Jerry Goldsmith's score. German, French, and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs are included, as are corresponding subtitle options.


This single-disc release is packaged in a standard Blu-ray case that is wrapped in a slipcover with flap that opens to reveal artwork from the film. A digital copy code is included. Included is a new featurette, Filmmaker Focus: Jan de Bont on The Haunting (9:14/HD) is a short interview with the director that details the production but not its problems. You also get a vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (27:12/SD), with cast and crew interviews and on-set footage, and two Trailers (3:39 total/HD).


Paramount gives 1999 remake The Haunting a kind Blu-ray debut with solid picture and sound and a couple of supplements. It is too bad this horror film squanders a talented cast on lousy CGI ghosts, a dull story, and suspenseless exposition. Skip It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.


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Haunting 1999 the dvd

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The Haunting (1999) – Nostalgia Critic

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