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George At 

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The Haunting

Some houses are born bad.

So are some films.

Remakes of a favorite movie can be amazing.

Today's effects can take you new places that weren't possible decades ago.

Or they can be like 1999's remake, THE HAUNTING, a lazy, complete bastardization of the original 1963 Horror classic.

Robert Wise's sixties black & white version used sound, shadow and subtle music to terrify audiences. The scares still hold up today.

Director Jan de Bont (Speed, Twister) is the opposite of subtle. He buries the film in $80 million worth of special effects, that are beautiful, LOUD, rarely scary and so over the top that your numb by the halfway point.

Liam Neeson is Dr. Marrow, bringing together an eclectic group for a "Sleep study" that turns out to be an investigation of how people react to supernatural legend in a very haunted house.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is gorgeous and fun as Theo, game for anything the house can throw at her, at first.

Lily Taylor is Nell, a sensitive vessel for many of the spirits in the house. They come after her fast and hard. She may as well have a divining rod in her hat. Taylor is in the Amanda Plummer school of actresses for me, always so over the top that they annoy the hell out of me while watching. Not a good thing.

A young Owen Wilson is another participant in the study, bringing his casual surfer vibes to the haunt fest.

Bruce Dern is all but wasted as the home's caretaker. That's a lot of gargoyles to keep polished.

There are no real scares, but occasionally some decent tension, helped by Jerry Goldsmith's usual fine music score, all shrieks and bombast and going toe-to-toe with the sound effects team to burst your eardrums.

Go back and watch the 1963 classic. It's fantastic. I'm excited to see that Netflix is developing a limited series based on Shirley Jackson's novel that inspired both films. (UPDATE: IT WAS FANTASTIC!)

Of course, using the word "inspired" anywhere near this generic, lame imitation is just as big a mistake as renting a room in Hill House.


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