The Haunting – Blu-ray Review

The Haunting

Unbeknownst to anyone but Hollywood executives, the 90s were full of remakes. Some were great (1991’s Cape Fear), and some were not so great (1998’s Psycho). Jan de Bont’s Haunting of Hill House remake falls under that not so great territory. Although calling The Haunting “no so great” is being kind because the film is downright awful. 

Jan de Bont’s adaptation has removed Shirley Jackson’s hit gothic novel of subtle horror and character development for the sake of a simple CG-driven ghost story. De Bont and screenwriter David Self fail in creating a dynamic between the main characters and in giving them any meaningful moments. They’re thinly written and don’t develop during the film. Yes, The Haunting is Nell’s story, but de Bont also doesn’t build up any suspense with her narrative either. Instead, he goes for money shots of ghosts creeping around in fabric and a house that literally comes to life. 

Yet the CG scares are as stale as the film itself. The film wholly relies on jump scares and CG ghosts to frighten audiences. Unfortunately, subtlety is not in de Bont’s Haunting playbook. These scares go big, from the giant lion flue to the big and boisterous climax, de Bont doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It’s one of the major reasons why the film isn’t as scary as the trailers led you to believe. Some of the greatest horror films of all-time let the audience’s imagination run wild. De Bont, a former cinematographer, uses a majority of the $80 million budget on the CG scares and the production design. To his credit, the production design is fantastic. The gothic interiors of Hill House evoke an eerie presence that, unfortunately, never gets utilized.

Overall, The Haunting is a film that epitomizes everything that is wrong with big-budget horror remakes. They’re big, fake, soulless, and worst of all, not very scary. On the bright side, at least the film looks nice though. 

Movie Rating: 1/5 atoms

The Haunting - Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Liam Neeson

Video

The Haunting hits Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-AVC with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. As it is with all Paramount Presents Blu-ray releases, this edition of The Haunting is sourced from a 4K remastered scan supervised by Jan de Bont himself. Much like the other Paramount Presents releases, this video transfer looks absolutely phenomenal. The medium contrast gives the picture some depth where the highlights pop off the screen and the shadows are a menacing deep black. Neither the brightness nor the black levels suffer from bloom or crush as well. Color saturation is rich and vibrant with a slightly warm tint. Details are one of the best aspects of this new 4K scan. The clean looking picture offers an impressive amount of detail shown — especially in the details of the elaborate production design. The picture also has a fine film grain that’s consistent throughout. Overall, the Paramount Presents series has given us another fantastic video transfer. Too bad about the film though.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

The Haunting - Lili Taylor

Audio

The Haunting hits Blu-ray with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track. The audio mix of The Haunting is an immersively spooky and boisterous mix. Much like the house itself, the soundstage comes alive when the house does. The sound moves like a wave and rushes over you as the scenes get wilder and wilder. This is where the booming bass overpowers the soundstage too. Not to mention, the echoes in the house envelop you from all over. It’s also when the rear channels seemingly get the most work. The sound placement is pinpoint accurate and adds a great number of jump scares to the experience. Jerry Goldsmith’s score fills the soundstage and sound layered throughout. The dialogue is crystal clear despite the boisterous elements of the audio mix. Overall, this is a great mix for a not-so-great film.

Audio Rating: 5/5 atoms

The Haunting - Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Special Features

The Haunting‘s Blu-ray disc has the following special features on the disc:

  • Filmmaker Focus: Director Jan de Bont on The Haunting
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • Theatrical Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer

In his version of Filmmaker Focus, de Bont breaks down a lot of the production and special effect work done for the film. Yet the most surprising thing about the featurette is how honest he is about what worked (for him) and what didn’t work. Hosted by Catherine Zeta-Jones, the behind-the-scenes featurette is a legacy featurette from the DVD. The featurette does cover a wide array of subjects in a dated but entertaining way. It’s edited in a way that feels like it could’ve aired on television. Unfortunately, that’s all the special features that you get in this release.

Special Features Rating: 1.5/5 atoms


Overall, The Haunting is a perfect example of the downfalls of big-budget, CG-fueled horror films. The video transfer and audio mix are phenomenal, but the special features are a bit lacking.

Overall Rating: 3/5 atoms

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Paramount Home Entertainment.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1613 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.