The production design is awe-inspiring.
Based loosely on Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting, based loosely on Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House, Jan de Bont’s The Haunting has all the necessary ingredients for a great ghost story. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The problem isn’t with the “ghost”, it’s with the “story.” In this case, a story that seems to have been made up as they went along in shooting.
Did I mention the production design?
Being stuck in a big old spooky Victorian mansion is enough. Add spooky ghosts to the equation -- more than adequate. Explaining away everything with neat little character conceits -- no good. Whatever story editor kept asking “why?” every time a character reacted to anything and forced the writers to invent ridiculous half-assed explanations should be fired up to studio exec where retarded arbitrary decisions will hopefully be so far away from the filmmaking process that he or she can never ruin a movie again.
The house is incredible.
Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Jeffrey Marrow, a psychologist, who under the pretenses of investigating sleep disorders, assembles three sleep dysfunction sufferers in a big old spooky Victorian mansion. His real purpose is to suggest spooky scenarios that will scare the bejesus out of the subjects as part of an ongoing study in fear. The hapless victims are Luke (Owen Wilson), Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eleanor (Lili Taylor), who, as it conveniently turns out, is psycho-genetically attached to the house and its ghostly inhabitants. The cast is utterly wasted.
But really, the production design is outstanding.