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The Haunting is a 1999 remake of the 1963 horror film of the same name. Both films are based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, published in 1959. The Haunting was directed by Jan de Bont and stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1999.

  • Directed by: Jan de Bont
  • Produced by: Donna Roth, Colin Wilson, Susan Arnold
  • Written by: David Self, Michael Tolkin
  • Story by: Shirley Jackson
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson
  • Cinematography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
  • Edited by: Michael Kahn
  • Country: U.S.A., U.K.
  • Language: English
  • Running time: 114 minutes
  • Budget: $80 million
  • Box Office: $177 million
  • Release date: July 23, 1999
  • Distributed by: DreamWorks Pictures

    The Haunting - Trailer


Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lili Taylor) has cared for her invalid mother alone for 11 years. After her mother dies, her sister, Jane, (Virgina Madsen) and Jane's boyfriend, Lou (Tom Irwin) evict her from their mother's house in bad manners. 

Before leaving her house, Nell receives a phone call about an insomnia study, directed by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), and she applies for it.


Nell feels attracted by Theo

Dr. Marrow wants to investigate whether sleep problems and reactions to fear are related, but this is unknown to the participants. So he chooses for his study a secluded manor in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, named Hill House.

The patients who will be experiencing the treatment arrive at the mansion. At first Nell arrives, and a strange caretaker (Marian Seldes) shows her to her room. Soon after, another participant arrives, Theodora, a cheerful and outgoing (but also somehow egocentric) artist who immediately befriends Nell. Nell is also attracted by her, and even more when Theo insinuates to her that she's bisexual.

The two inspect and investigate the house, amazed by the bizarre atmosphere and dècor of the manor, before the last participant arrives: Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson).

Dr. Marrow and his two research assistants arrive at the manor. That night, the group has dinner in the main dining room. There, the participants explain their feelings about their sleeping disorders. Theo says that she actually likes having insomnia since when she is waiting to fall asleep at night is when she gets her best ideas. Luke says he can't stand to have insomnia and that he gets really nervous. Nell says that she has insomnia because her mother was ill ever since Nell was little and that her mother was always complaining at night, which always kept her awake. Even now, she suffers insomnia due to habit.

Wanting to expose his subjects to increasing amounts of terror, Dr. Marrow first relates after dinner the story of Hill House. The house was built by Hugh Crain —a 19th-century textile tycoon. Crain built the house for his wife, hoping to populate it with a large family of children; however, all of Crain’s children died during birth. Crain’s wife, Renee, killed herself before the house was finished and Crain became a recluse. After the story, Marrow's assistant’s face is slashed by a snapped clavichord wire. The freak accident causes Marrow’s research assistants to leave the manor in search for a doctor.

Afterward, the group retire to bed. While trying to sleep, Theo and Nell begin to experience strange phenomena within the house, such as a mysterious force trying to break into their rooms to harm them. 

Both of them tell this to Dr. Marrow and to Luke that night. But after their fears are seemingly assuaged, they all return to their rooms.

That night, Nell sees apparitions in her room, but she doesn't tell anyone the next morning. That morning, Nell continues to hear and see strange things, but the others don't believe her. Hugh Crain's wood portrait morphs into a skeletal face and is vandalized with the words "Welcome Home Eleanor" written in blood. Theo and Luke establish their innocence, but Theo accuses Nell of wanting to be the center of attention. This angers Nell, and she flees. Soon thereafter, Dr. Marrow finds Nell and attempts to talk with her.

The next night, Nell finds bloody footprints on the floor of her room and hears a voice calling her. So she follows the footprints unto the library of the manor. There she finds a secret study that belonged to Mr. Crain. Mr. Crain has old ledgers there and Nell discovers that Crain took children from his textile mills and murdered them, then burned the bodies in the fireplace, trapping their spirits and forcing them to remain with him, providing him with an 'eternal family'.

Nell tries to show Crain's ledger to Theo, but when she tries to explain how she found out about the existence of the children, Theo doesn't believe her.

But Nell becomes determined to prove that the house is haunted by the souls of people victimized by Crain's cruelty. So the next morning she continues to investigate. She finds a photo album of the Crains and learns that Crain had a second wife named Carolyn, from whom she is descended.


After having another attack, Nell is calmed down by Theo and Dr. Marrow

Nell continues to experience the apparitions of Crane's spirit and the murdered children. After being led to the fireplace where she finds the bones of the children, Nell spills her discoveries to the others. However, Dr. Marrow is skeptical of Eleanor's claims, and he finally confesses to his subjects that he wanted to see their reaction to fear from telling them the creepy story of the house. Both Theo and Luke confront Dr. Marrow for this, as they think that this may be why Nell is in shock.

The next day, Dr. Marrow realizes he made a horrible mistake by bringing them to Hill House when a statue tries to drown him in a pool of water in the greenhouse.

After Nell suffers a serious attack by Crain's spirit at night and is rescued by the others, they try to escape from the house.

Trying to convince the obviously mentally unbalanced Eleanor to leave the house with them, Theo offers to let Nell move in with her, but Nell reveals her relation to Carolyn (her great grandmother) and claims she must help the children "pass on". Hugh Crain's spirit seals up the house, trapping them all inside.

A frustrated Luke defaces a portrait of Hugh Crain. Crain's enraged spirit drags Luke to the fireplace where he is decapitated.

Nell is able to lead Crain's spirit towards an iron door. Avenging spirits pull Crain into the door, dragging him to Hell. Nell is pulled with him, inflicting fatal trauma to her body, but the spirits gently release her on the ground. Her soul rises up to Heaven, accompanied by the ghosts of Crain's victims.

After Nell's death, Theo and Dr. Marrow wait by the gate outside until the Dudleys come in the morning. The Dudleys approach as the sun rises. Mr. Dudley asks Dr. Marrow if he found what he wanted to know, but the traumatized psychiatrist does not give an answer, and neither does Theo. When the gate opens, the two silently walk out and down the road, leaving Hill House behind them.



- Liam Neeson - Doctor Marrow


- Lili Taylor - Eleanor "Nell" Vance


- Catherine Zeta-Jones - Theodora "Theo"


- Owen Wilson - Luke Sanderson

- Marian Seldes - Mrs. Dudley

- Bruce Dern - Mr. Dudley

- Virgina Madsen - Jane Vance

- Tom Irwin - Lou


1. The Carousel
2. Terror in Bed
3. A Place for Everything
4. The Curtains
5. Curly Hair
6. The Picture Album
7. Return to the Carousel
8. Finally Home
9. Home Safe 


Harlaxton Manor, in England, was used as the exterior of Hill House. The billiard room scene was filmed in the Great Hall of the manor, while many of the interior sets were built inside the dome-shaped hangar that once housed The Spruce Goose, near the permanently docked RMS Queen Mary steamship, in Long Beach, California. The kitchen scenes were filmed at Belvoir Castle.

Critical reception[]

The Haunting was panned upon its release, with most critics citing its weak screenplay, its overuse of horror clichés, and its overdone CGI effects. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Rotten" rating of 17%, with the critical consensus stating "Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script." As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie AwardsRoger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular.

The film was not a financial success, earning $91.2 million domestically and $85.9 million outside North America. With only half of all box office receipts going back to the studio (the rest is given to theater owners), the film made about $88.5 million. This covered its $80 million budget, allowing the studio to barely break even on the budget, but did not cover its $10 million domestic TV advertising campaign or other costs (such as international advertising, non-TV advertising, percentage payments to actors or crew, or prints). Daily Variety noted that, as of 1999, The Haunting had the "dubious distinction of becoming the film with the biggest opening ever to gross less than $100 million domestically."