Film: The Haunting (1999)
is a 1999 remake of Robert Wise's masterpiece
with Liam Neeson
, Lili Taylor
, Owen Wilson, and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Nell, Luke and Theo are invited to Hill House to partake in a sleep study directed by Dr. Marrow. The frightening old house seems to have a life of its own and terrifies the participants with strange happenings in the night.
Provides Examples Of:
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Eleanor shouts, "Who was holding my hand?" in homage to one of the original's creepiest moments. Problem is, the context is completely different and there's absolutely no reason for her to be saying it, although the circumstances could imply it was Hugh Crain doing so.
- Artistic License – Geography: Hill House, in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, is described as being nine miles from its nearest neighbor. There is no location in the Berkshires that is anywhere close to being so isolated. Even one mile would be unrealistic.
- Badass Boast:
Nell: Well, I've come home Grandpa. And you—you can go straight to Hell!
- Bi the Way: In the original, there's a vague sense of Les Yay between the two female leads. The original had good reason to keep it purely subtext, but times change. In the remake, Theo is openly bisexual and polyamorous, casually mentioning as one of her first lines that she has both a boyfriend and a girlfriend. During the rest of the story, she keeps making overt but benevolent and rather chivalrous attempts to seduce Nell. This may have been helped along by the fact that right after first resisting her advances, the first thing Nell does is show her her bedroom...
- Blank Slate: Nell again, and referenced by Theo when she calls her a blank canvas: "I could paint your portrait right on you..."
- Bury Your Gays: Theo is set up as the slut as well as the gay person in a way that make it clear to the Genre Savvy viewer that she'll be one of the first to die. Surprise surprise, it's a trick. She turns out to be the morally upstanding Ethical Slut, and she does survive.
- Captain Obvious: Owen Wilson's entire role. "That staircase won't hold your weight!"
- Chekhov's Gun: The doors and their inscription.
- Closed Circle: The gates are locked every night when the Dudleys leave and, as in both the book and the original movie, they stay in town since "no one will come any closer than that" and "they couldn't even hear" if they needed help. In a concession to the modern setting, Dr. Marrow has a cell phone for emergencies (and he uses it to call the hospital before Todd leaves with Mary), but this is, conveniently enough, broken during Marrow's rescue of fugue-state Nell from the rickety wrought-iron staircase.
- Continuity Nod: The sound effect used for the pounding upon the doors is the same one used in the original movie.
- Creepy Circus Music: As one reviewer put it, "Because no horror movie would be complete without creepy circus music." Justified by Hugh Crain having built the house (supposedly) for children to live and play in, hence a rotating carousel room.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Nell
- Death by Adaptation: Luke. Like in the original, Nell dies too, but in a completely different manner.
- Dem Bones: What Nell discovers in the fireplace.
- Died Happily Ever After: Nell dies confronting the ghost of Hugh Crain, who kept the spirits of the children he killed imprisoned in the house. He is banished to Hell, and her spirit joins those of the children as they all float up to Heaven. What makes this unusual (and a bit disturbing) is that thanks to the earlier scene in the mirror carousel room which implies reincarnation, it isn't clear if it is Nell's spirit or Carolyn's that ascends.
- Dissonant Serenity: Nell, for a good portion of the movie. It's genuinely creepy.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Nell, who is often barefoot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The assault upon Nell in her bedroom by Hugh Crain—his ghost plunges down from the ceiling toward her with a wide, leering mouth (filled with many grasping arms, no less), while the bed is pulled toward him and Nell is held pinned in place by numerous long, thin wooden spikes decorated with barbs. Word of God described the ceiling moving downward and the spikes growing longer as a manifestation of Nell's claustrophobia, but hmmm... See also Heir Club for Men.
- Dull Surprise: The reactions of most of the actors to the CGI, but particularly Dr. Marrow and Luke during the rescue of Nell from the bedroom assault.
- Dysfunctional Family: Nell's.
- Ethical Slut: Theo.
- The Eyes Have It: The stained-glass windows in the scene where Crain assaults Nell in her bedroom, complete with Red Eyes, Take Warning. More subtle examples occur when statues shift their eyes or turn their heads out of view of the characters; an easily missed one occurs with the hooded statue which Theo, Luke, and Marrow pass as they race to find Nell in the nursery.
- Foreshadowing: One of the guests was about to tell the others that there's more to the story of the house, but then a harpsichord wire suddenly broke and cut her eye.
- Gaslighting: Variation - instead of trying to drive the participants of his study mad (though that ends up being the ultimate effect for Nell anyway), Dr. Marrow is attempting to use a fake sleep study as a smokescreen to frighten them and then examine the results. There's plenty of carefully constructed tales to help put the idea of haunting in their heads, the dispensing of some of it to the ladies and some to Luke to encourage mistrust and suspicion, denial of events as having a natural, rational explanation or simply being imagination, and so on. The attitude behind this is exemplified when Marrow tells his supervisor, "You don't tell the rats they're actually in a maze!" and, even after Nell starts descending into madness, still continues making recordings about what's happening.
- Genius Loci: The house is a particularly frightening one.
- Genre Savvy: Early on, Theo and Nell comment on the beauty of the house. Luke cynically remarks that he thinks it was all PR and that Hugh Crain was really some mean old tycoon who worked kids like slaves in his textile mills. Ironically, he's probably the closest to the truth at that point.
- Halfway Plot Switch: A study on fear (disguised as one on sleep) and the psychological implications of this (and Nell's insane reactions to it) turns into a horror-filled action piece where the characters have to figure out how to end a haunting, or at least escape it alive.
- Heir Club for Men: Crain's reason for wanting Nell to stay at Hill House, first implied by Carolyn/Nell's pregnant reflection in the carousel room, then made graphically explicit in the bedroom assault scene.
- A House Divided: Before the phenomena become undeniably real, much of this occurs—Nell and Theo hear the pounding but Luke and Marrow don't, blaming it on faulty plumbing, Nell is disbelieved when she thinks the flue is something else, and when the message defaces the painting, Luke and Theo turn on each other while Nell blames everyone. This last scene is particularly effective since, as the viewer soon learns the children's ghosts painted the message, when Marrow asks which of them did it he genuinely doesn't know the answer—so as far as he knows, one of them is indeed secretly plotting to raise the fear factor.
Nell: Whoever did it... it's cruel.
- Hypocrite: Much like in the original film, Theo calls out Eleanor for being a possible Attention Whore... which Theo has pretty much been the entire time.
- In Name Only: This site makes a case for this film not being a remake of The Haunting (1963) but of The Legend Of Hell House.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: There's one Nell hums a lot, which turns out to be a song played by the music box in the nursery.
- Jerk Ass: Nell's sister. After their mother dies she evicts Nell because she can't make rent, and offers her the choice of becoming a live-in-nanny or pretty much living on the streets. Then she gives her an old car like it's an act of immense charity. Nell quite satisfyingly tells her to go fuck herself.
- Long-Lost Relative: Nell, to the children, Carolyn, and Hugh Crain, or vice versa.
- Mind Screw: Instead of the book and first movie's questioning of Nell's sanity and whether the haunting is actually real, this version plays with Nell's ancestry and her relation to the house. In two very surreal scenes, Nell has an identity crisis (possibly brought on by her being her great-great-grandmother reincarnated) and can't even recognize her own face in the mirror, then discovers that the locked nursery where Carolyn had her baby looks exactly like her own mother's bedroom back in the city. This last could be explained by the house's Genius Loci mirroring what was obsessing and haunting Nell's own mind, which has rather disturbing implications...
- Missing Trailer Scene: There's a brief scene when Nell and Theo are exploring the house and discover false doors that open up to brick walls.
- Off with His Head!: Poor Owen Wilson.
- Ominous Music Box Tune: In the locked nursery.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Nell's necklace, it turns out.
- Pater Familicide: A particularly disturbing variation: Hugh Crain, the Eccentric Millionaire who built Hill House, not only seems to have killed or driven his wife to her death (and the second one too), but the children from the mills whom he 'adopted' were also slain by him, or else allowed to waste away due to neglect. So even though, presumably, the mitigation of what ruined his life (no offspring) should have made him happy and fulfilled, the industrialist instead destroys the very thing he'd been seeking for so long.
- Psychic Link: Nell seems to have one with the children's ghosts, possibly Carolyn and Hugh Crain as well.
- Psychic Powers: Aside from Nell, both Marrow's snide commentary and her own reactions to the house imply his assistant Mary has these too. Which may be why she was injured and made to flee the house.
- Scenery Porn: The sets of the house itself are intricate and gorgeous.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Nell's quest to free the children from the mills.
- Spooky Painting: Of Hugh Crain; it becomes even worse when the defacing somehow smears/eats away the paint so that his face becomes a skull.
- Tempting Fate: Luke really shouldn't have attacked Hugh Crain's painting...
- Thigh-High Boots: Theo dons a pair from Prada (Milan, not New York!) in her early scenes. As she tells Nell, "They're killing me...Small price to pay for such savage kicks."
- The Voiceless: Only one of the two assistants spoke more than a line or two, not that they're relevant to the story anyway. Lampshaded, perhaps, by the character having the same first name as his actor.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Marrow, for hiding the nature of the study and how he treats his victims. While Luke begins the suspicions of the good doctor's motives, and Nell is justifiably upset, it's Theo who calls him on it, and satisfyingly so.