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Part 2 of Moriarty's Look At Future Supernatural Films: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Well, here's the 2nd part of Moriarty's week long look at the future of Hollywood's love affair with the Supernatural Suspense genre that we are getting ready to run into. This time he focuses on DAVID SELF's script of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. As I did yesterday, I would like to make not of the fact that, even though I really love David's script, the word has reached me that there were... rewrites and I have not seen a more recent draft. And my general fear is that DeBont won't spend enough time building up the psychological horror, and instead go for the cheap scare. Now I don't feel that's in the script... but... well one never knows the direction a script will be taken if the director so desires. I'm keeping my fingers crossed due to the very very strong cast this film has... and the strong word of mouth generated from the cool sets. Here's Moriarty...

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

One of the issues that must be addressed when tackling the problem of the hauntings here at the Moriarty Labs is whether the ghost is an internal or an external apparition. In other words, I need to figure out if I'm being haunted or if the building itself is being haunted. If it's something I did, then I'll have to pay the penance and get rid of the ghost that way, but if it's something about the structure itself, this could be more difficult. After all, as the tag line for Jan De Bont's new adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE says, "Some houses are born bad." If that's the case with the labs, I'm going to be pissed, and there's some contractors who owe me an explanation.

Before I discuss David Self's screenplay, I'd like to ask one question of DreamWorks. Why isn't Wes Craven directing this movie? As anyone who knows Wes personally is aware, he's a raving fan of the work of Shirley Jackson, and from what I understand, he's one of the people who rekindled interest in this property, almost setting it up at Miramax. It seems a shame, and it's not as if he's out of the game these days. After all, his SCREAM films are the reason for the new wave of horror films. If anyone in town has earned the right to make an A-list $100 million haunted house movie, it's Craven. Having commented on the movie that might have been, let's move on to the movie that may well be.

Steven Spielberg has a hard-on for haunted house movies. He's been trying to develop one ever since POLTERGEIST. He and Stephen King worked on an outline for years to no avail. One of the things that kept them from making the film was the fact that Robert Wise's classic THE HAUNTING looms large over the genre. It's hard to imagine doing it any better. It looks like Spielberg has finally given up with finding an original idea that works better, and he's gone back to the source material for a remake.

Hiring his new favorite screenwriter in town, David Self, was a pretty good idea. He seems to have been well aware of what kind of film he was setting out to write here. He's created a strong central character with his interpretation of Eleanor, or Nell as everyone calls her, and Lili Taylor is absolutely perfect for the role. It's going to be a kick to see her starring in a big-budget studio FX picture, since she's almost incapable of hitting a false note. One of the things that sells an FX film (or kills it) is how committed the actors are to what's happening onscreen. With Lili in the lead, expect them to sell it for all it's worth. He's etched a memorable group of supporting characters as well. Liam Neeson is perfect for Marrow, the professor who organizes the experiment that brings everyone to Hill House. Theo should provide Catherine Zeta Jones with another meaty role to dig into, while Luke is a perfect fit for Owen Wilson, one of the quirkiest character actors working right now. By using a strong character cast like this, DreamWorks has stacked the deck in the best possible way, making sure that there should be acting fireworks to match the thunder and fury that will be summoned by ILM.

One of the things that made the original THE HAUNTING such a classic was the way Wise suggested everything, using sound and the barest hint of FX to terrify. De Bont has a much more sophisticated toolbox to play with, and one of the fears that film fans have is that all subtlety is going to be thrown out the window for a nonstop FX reel. I have both good news and bad news for those people. The good news is that much more of the film depends on sound and atmosphere than you would think, but the bad news is that the ending really cuts loose in a way that Wise could have never imagined.

That's just bad news for purists, though. I actually liked the way this script built, and I appreciated the final all-hell-breaking-loose act of the film. There's a different narrative thread in this film than in the original, and it makes sense for this film to go where it does. Unlike the original, there's a different backstory for the characters and for Hill House itself. When everything comes together, it feels right for everything to come down.

One of the things that should make this well worth your $7.50 is the use of sound. This is going to be the second film to use the new Dolby 6.1 surround system, and it should be a real treat. The script makes special note of sound, to an extent I've never read in any other screenplay. At one point, we are even treated to the following:


staring out AT US in terror. BANG. BANG. The CONCUSSION hits us with all the force of THX. Nell and Theo's eyes travel over the walls, following whatever it is which now seems to be moving out here in the theater.

The BANGING moves along the wall to the right, reaching its loudest as it crosses the back of the theater, then seems to come down the left side.

For quite a bit of the film, Self keeps the terror offscreen, and it increases our anticipation. He also builds some genuine mystery into the script. It's my understanding that both Walter Parkes and De Bont himself have taken passes at the script during production, but hopefully they haven't done too much too it. Some of the lesbian undertones they tried to paint in the relationship between Theo and Nell don't really work and could easily be jettisoned. If they're still in the film, they need to be tweaked so they really work instead of just feeling thrown into a scene for no reason. Most of the big scares are firmly in place, though, and Self has created a solid ride that will no doubt play well all summer long.

When I announced yesterday that I would be doing this film as the second part of the series, I received several e-mails from people working on the film, particularly in the FX department. It sounds like they're under the gun to finish this and get it into theaters for summer, but it also sounds like everyone's doing great work and handling the pressure well. Even De Bont is reported to be confident, in control, and not worried in the least. This should be a nice comeback after the fiasco of SPEED 2, and it should reestablish De Bont as someone who knows how to build an audience pleasing rollercoaster. As long as DreamWorks makes sure they finish the film properly and don't rush it unnecessarily, they look to score big.

Will this make us forget the original? No. Is it the definitive adaptation of Jackson's novel? No. But is it going to be worth the trip to the theater? It sure does look like it. There are other scripts that have more substance that I'll be covering in this series, but their serious looks at heavy theological issues may have more trouble engaging a mainstream audience, making THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE the crowd-pleaser of the bunch.

I'd like to say more, but one of my henchmen just walked in with his head doing complete 360s. This seems to be a bad thing, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to involve the church in this whole mess. Maybe I'll just consult Brian Helgeland and see what he turned up while researching THE SIN EATER, tomorrow's spotlight film. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 2, 1999, 5:45 a.m. CST

    Parkes As Script Doctor

    by mrbeaks

    His hands-on approach didn't exactly help THE PEACEMAKER. He's a fine producer, and a decent writer when it comes to his own work, but the horror genre seems a tad out of his reach. That said, I was talking to a very trusted friend the other day, and they said that, judging from the dailies, DeBont has done some really terrific work. Let's hope he can pull this one off.

  • March 2, 1999, 6:18 a.m. CST

    I don't think Poltergeist will be beat

    by spike lee

    The Speilberg/Hooper film Poltergeist that came out in 1982, is a horror masterpiece. This film is well written, and goes beyond imagination. Your right, they shold let a horror director take the reigns, but i'm glad to see the genre back.

  • March 2, 1999, 6:53 a.m. CST

    'Scream' & the death of horror

    by Uncle Cracky

    'Scream' is responsible for the recent wave of horror films? Then I shudder to think of the future. What a wasteland of invertebrate films to wade through... but then I guess it's always been that way. Only now we've proven to filmakers and executives that no amount of shoddy scriptwriting and reanimated plotlines will keep us from paying to see young actresses in tight shirts/skirts. Oh, leave me, thou fiendish sprite of powder-puff horror. Oh, leave me, to wallow in my own quagmire of dispondant ludicrosity... Anyway, 'The Haunting of Hill House' should be fun, if not entirely sentient. Remember when fun used to be enough? Sigh...

  • March 2, 1999, 7:42 a.m. CST

    Enough with the Scream bashing

    by Evil Dead

    Scream as a film is claiming to not be anything other then a fun film and an homage to a genre full of bad films. Look at the past, every good horror film that has come out has been hailed as the future of horror. It's just a saying. I think that after Scream 3 this sub-genre will fade away to direct to video like the 80's slasher films. Remember the zombie 80's? The werewolf and vampire boom in the mid 80's all just passing fad's that have been hailed as "The Future of Horror." Look at Blade, Vampires and Bride of Chucky. BoC spoofed itself to provide a movie you watch and laugh at with your friends. Blade was an all out action/horror movie. Vampires was Carpenter's western! The only thing that Scream is influencing is other film studios wanting to cash in on it's sucess. I see that the next trend to be hailed as the future of horror is the haunted house sub-genre. Which would only last for another year or so, then another gunre would be hailed as you-know-what.

  • March 2, 1999, 8:15 a.m. CST

    Just To Clarify

    by Moriarty

    Yes, Uncle Cracky, SCREAM is responsible for the current wave of horror films, but I didn't mean that to place the film on a pedastal. All I meant is that horror was effectively dead as far as the studios were concerned before the release of SCREAM, whereas they can't wait to greenlight horror films these days. You can also credit Chris Carter and the success of THE X-FILES to an extent. Personally, I hated SCREAM, but I still think Craven deserved this shot because of his affinity for the source material. "Moriarty" out.

  • March 2, 1999, 8:44 a.m. CST

    hill house.....stop talking about "scream" !!

    by diablo

    Lemmme just say..I am a movie geek of the highest order - I watch horror and kung fu flix the way other people eat, and i have to say - "The Haunting" is one of the most truly terrifying films, that may be a grandiose statement, and people will start posting back going "what about Halloween?"; "What about Nightmare on Elm Street?"; etc etc...just trust me, go and rent this movie...If that Speed hack de Bont thinks he can make a film that even nears as high a quality as the Haunting....well, he's sorely mistaken. Stop going on about bloody Scream the whole time....there's more to movies than the late nineties.!!

  • March 2, 1999, 9:19 a.m. CST


    by Uncapie

    Just remember, Robert Wise did it first. That's why its a classic.

  • March 2, 1999, 9:35 a.m. CST

    ILM not on this one

    by King Schnook

    Contrary to the story, ILM is NOT providing the effects for the film. Tippett Studio is providing the fireworks.

  • March 2, 1999, 10:10 a.m. CST

    awww... no more 'Scream'?

    by Uncle Cracky

    Actually, I have seen 'The Haunting' a couple of times already. And I have no reall problem with 'Scream' (I refuse to see it, so how can I have an opinion?). I am merely digusted with all the glory it's getting, and that's not a personal attack Moriarty. It just does get old hearing that film's name mentioned. And I do realize that I'm just prolonging the pain with my posts, but then again I am a glutton for torture(of the cerebral kind, anyway). It's akin to the whole 'Beatles' resurgance that makes me want to vomit. Sure, they were an alright band, but come on! But, I suppose, as I've mentioned before, while the spotlight is centered on a specific film/band/thing, there is more of a chance that other, higher-quality things may slip by unnoticed by the general public, therefore allowing the rest of us to enjoy them all the more. Wes Craven is okay, and I do agree that a horror film director would be better suited to direct this film. But then again, look what Kubrick did with 'The Shining'! Turned a cheesy novel into a grandiose masterpiece. IMHO, the best haunted house film since 'The Haunting.'

  • March 2, 1999, 10:24 a.m. CST

    Craven, and HILL HOUSE rating (please tell me its R)

    by HAL9000

    Total agreement on the contention that Wes Craven seems like he was born to helm a project like this. The only thing that's stopping me from raving like a madman about the project is the fact that Jan DeBont is directing it. He's a decent filmmaker I guess, but I too fear that he'll bog down whatever tension is created with showstopping special effects sequences. If Craven was behind the project, this would be one of the definitive movie geek films of the year. I'm just going to cross my fingers and pray for a cool outcome. Also, what are the chances that this film will earn an R rating? For the film to achieve a morbid level of creativity, and R rating would work the best. A PG-13 rating would pretty much guarantee that the film will be afflicted with cheesy one liners and situations where cats hurl themselves in the air abruptly to give the audience a jolt (that old trick never works on me fortunately). So, Moriarty, or Harry or whoever has the lowdown on the HILL HOUSE rating, I'll thank you in advance if you find the time to supply me with this crucial information. Keep it real in the feel!

  • March 2, 1999, 11:08 a.m. CST

    horror, yeah whatever

    by Laurie

    In the opinion of a burgenoning film maker, this debate over the influence of Scream over horror films is almost ludicrous. Scream was not a horror film, it was a comedy! Seriously though, Scream was a spoof/tribute to the genre that managed to capture the attentions of well-funded young movie goers. It was an entertaining film, and should be given credit for that, but it was most definitly not the "future of horror."

  • March 2, 1999, 11:20 a.m. CST

    The Horror! The Horror!

    by L'Auteur

    What was the "Horror" that Walter E. Kurtz saw? Probably today's explosion of shitty-ass horror flicks (I just saw a commercial last night for Carrie 2... someone get me a gun). The horror genre is dead. Maybe someone can revive it (whoa, kinda like Night of the Living Dead), but until then... its dead. We've been so desenstitized by Freddy and Jason that horror can't really scare us anymore. We can appriciate PSYCHO for being the Citizen Kane of horror films, but we can't feel the terror that audiences felt in 1960, because we've seen a million naked chicks get butchered since (Psycho was the original slasher flick). We can appriciate Spielberg's perfect direction of JAWS, but we can't scream (sincerely) when we see the shark because we've seen enough ALIEN and Jurassic Park movies in which thousands of humans get eaten. We can think THE EXORCIST is a really cool movie, but no one watching it nowdaze is going to rush to church to repent their soul after viewing it, because we've seen all the OMEN movies and the other rip-offs. Horror, like action movies, has always been about pushing the envelope. Well, the envelope has been pushed off the table. I don't think I've ever seen a scary movie since I've grown up (meaning: it's not hard to scare a little kid). I have very high hopes for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but only because this is 1999, the year of high hopes (Episode I, Eyes Wide Shut). Maybe 99 will give me the first truly scary movie of my adult life, but I doubt it. Horror is dead. This brings about an interesting theory of mine. Everyone "knows" that censorship is bad for art, but is it really? Screenplays in the era of the production code had to find clever ways of suggesting taboo things (listen for all the sexual innuendos in a Hitchcock film) but nowadaze, all an actor has to say is "Fuck me, bitch." Some might call that freedom, but I think its just an act of laziness. Likewise for horror... Suggestive films like PSYCHO and JAWS were ledgendary in terms of horror. I know that JAWS was made after the Production Code fell, but still... Halloween hadn't happened yet and two straight hours of chicks screaming and buckets of blood pouring wasn't nessesary to scare people back then. So what do we have? Scream. I Know What You did Last Summer. H20. Pathetic. Anyone who will admit to being scared by these films is a pansy. Some dumb bitch running around while a guy in a mask wants to stab her is supposed to scare me after Ive seen it a million times? That's like saying that a car exploding will excite me after Ive seen it a million times... oops, I forgot who my audience was.

  • March 2, 1999, 12:35 p.m. CST


    by cricket

    A perfect horror film is Night of the Living Dead. It is immaculate. But not scary. Thus contradicting itself. But then as has been mentioned here already, there really isn't a truly horrifying film that I've seen since a young age. Can you in fact scare a modern day, adult cinema audience en mass? I don't think you can. Therefore you either have to opt for making a supposedly 'ironic' film like Scream which is allowed to be bad by definition, or a truly great film like Psycho (the original) which is a good film in terms of character study, but not scary. The only possible way I feel you can scare/horrify people is to make a film which makes a sustained attack on your senses. The opening 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan was able to make most people feel dizzy/queasy because of the very un-steady steadicam. So perhaps something which captures the genuinely scary opening to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and then becomes an unrelenting (and unpleasant) attack on someone. It's not a nice thought, but that is after-all the definition of horror.

  • March 2, 1999, 1:12 p.m. CST

    Jan De Bont: Hack?? You don't know the meaning of the word...

    by Corran Fox Horn

    Jan De Bont is a very talented visual director. You can see his background as a Cinematographer in his excellent balencing of all the different shots and angles which helped make both Speed and Twister- - which I've seen multiple times each -- a blast. Lane "blowhard" Myers says Speed was fun in a condescending manner, well damn! What do you want from a summer action movie? Some movies are really well made, some are really fun, some are really touching, some are really cool, it takes all kinds for different people and their different moods. I refuse to see Speed 2, but we all make mistakes (especially with water - witness Hard Rain, and most people hated Waterworld as well). Watch a small section of any recent studio movie (especially actionO, and you'll see about thirty different angles and shots in just a few minutes. Movies have been doing this forever, but in the past they usually didn't need to show as much or cover as much territory. If you watch the extras on the Peacemaker DVD (as an example), it shows you all that goes into shooting just one small sequence. Getting it right takes a lot of work. That's one reason why I think Michael Bay did a really great job with the visual/technical aspects of Armageddon and the Rock. Anyway, I'm loosing track of the subject. The point is Jan De Bont's directing career is just starting (look how long it took Spielberg to start making really good films), and if the script and cast are good, he can deliver a wild and haunting ride.

  • March 2, 1999, 4:02 p.m. CST

    So, what is horror ?

    by RobinP

    Did someone just trash "Scream" as a horror movie ? Did somebody else just say it wasn't a horror, it was comedy ?? Yes, believe it or not, "Scream" IS a horror movie. A superior horror movie at that ! One which HAS put a previously staggering genre of movies back on the map. Yeah, yeah....I've heard all the arguments that it's not the true state of the art, or that it's not hardcore horror, but then again, hardcore horror tends to either be censored to oblivion by overzealous and often self appointed guardians of our morals, or disappear straight on to video. In other words, they don't put asses on cinema seats, to make money for the studios, who will then finance more horror films. Among these further films to be financed, something truly worthy may well show up ! Comedy.......the late great Alfred Hitchcock himself knew only too well the link between humour and horro, and used it to great effect. He maintained that it was always easier to set an audience up for a shock when you've just made them laugh. Scream does just that, in a clever fashion. Clever without being smartassed !! Sermon over ! Okay, so they're remaking some classics......again. I just hope they're not going to touch one of my all time favourites, "Burnt Offerings" the look on Karen Black's face in the closing THAT's horror !!!

  • March 2, 1999, 4:08 p.m. CST

    Haunting of Hill House

    by monteg

    Having viewed the trailer for the film recently, and from reviewing a bootleg copy of the working script firsthand, I can tell you that DeBont's and Self's treatment takes definite liberties with Shirley Jackson's premise...My English discertation in college was on Shirley Jackson's work, in particular Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery, and the tension of the premise, the claustrophobia of the setting, and the palpable intrigue of not knowing what the entity in the house is about is just completely blown. I'm not a literary purist, I know the work on the film is early, and I still look forward to DeBont's work, but this isn't Shirley Jackson...It's Die Hard in a House. As a postscript, will somebody, for the love of God himself, let Harry know that the code holding this site up is complete shit. I have never seen pages hang, lock up browsers or hang O/S's like the code on this site. Cut the duct tape CGI scripts Harry, and build some god damn ASP pages that can dish up actual content as fast their requested. I could hit menopause waiting for the feedback to load....

  • March 2, 1999, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Lane Myers comments regarding Haunted House Films

    by monteg

    Not that I'm ever surprised by the confrontational and mind numbing shit that comes out of Lane Myers in the Talkback area ( I swear to God the guy must live in here...Everytime someone even references his name, his ego pops up to disagree or defecate on whatever or whoever is making point remotely related to film ) but the comment that no further films related to the Haunted House genre should ever be produced again because Poltergeist filled the void is complete drivel. Lane, there's more to cinema than what's come out since 1989. For someone to postulate ( and I'm flattering you with that word ) that all films related to any subject matter ever filmed NOT be attempted again is the equivilant of saying why go into space, we've been there....Well, like space, in cinema we've only touched the frontiers, know jack shit about the entire breadth of it, and have tremendous room to gain from trying again...Cut the crap, stop the inane and flammatory statements, and for Christ's sake, just once, look at what you write in here....You can't be this obtuse.

  • March 2, 1999, 4:27 p.m. CST

    I'll let you guys in on secret

    by Eisenstein

    LaneMyers is a plagarist and a phoney, taking ideas he reads in articles and reviews and trys to pass them off as his own. If your gonna keep writing those tedious and vacuous essays, please use footnotes.

  • March 2, 1999, 4:53 p.m. CST

    Future of Horror

    by TomTomb

    I am one of those that think that "The Haunting" cannot be topped, and I do worry about De Bont directing it (even though he is a countryman of mine). The only movie coming close to "The haunting" is the one that obviously was very influenced by it "The legend of Hell House" by John Hough, which is great. Horror in my opinion is not dead, but needs to be redefined, because since Hellraiser II which to me was the last decent one and maybe "Nightbreed", but all of these movies were never able to give me the thrills and chills that beforementioned movies "The Haunting" and "The legend of Hell House" did (though I'm a big fan of Barker's books). I mean, what brilliance as in The Haunting to make a terrifying movie without a single violent scene or drop of blood spilled. Just pure sound and image. I also loved the music of that movie, very contemporary at times for those days. And don't mention Scream; what kind of mindless crap that was and boooooooooring!! Even as a parody it was so obvious and infantile. Not that I am squeemish about a bit of blood and guts, but there should be at least a rudimentary skill of story telling present. I still keep track of Lynch and Cronenberg, but they aren't exactly pure horror filmers (anymore), though I think that "Lost Highway" is an absolute masterpiece. Where will horror go in the future. I dunno, but I think we've had all the blood and guts in the past to keep us entertained. I think the terror should be more internalized, more subtle, because limbs flying around all over the place might be fun for a while but it's just gruesome, not terrifying. We need to redefine terror and horror, because I think we need new ways to scare the shit of an audience, since what is shown these days has been done so many times, it's simply boring and unimaginative. I haven't seen Carpenter's latest yet, but I'll probably enjoy it like most his movies even though they are of very varying quality. Maybe Barker will come up with something and I am a big fan of Fincher, but he's more a suspense filmer like Hitchcock than a horror filmer (which is not exactly a bad thing), though Seven could be viewed as a horror film. I also liked some of the stuff Argento did and I'm looking forward to his latest remake of "The phantom of the opera" though I can't imagine anybody breathing life into that old corpse, but who knows. And Poltergeist? Come on, that's so mainstream Hollywood, I mean as enjoyable and entertaining as it was, was anybody at any time terrified by this movie? Then I suggest, stick to watching Bambie.

  • March 2, 1999, 5:32 p.m. CST

    re: Corran Fox Horn

    by L'Auteur

    I must agree with LaneMyers here (alert the presses!): Jan DeBont is in fact a hack. I woulda said it myself in my first post but i didnt want a Tony Scott repeat. Anyway, DeBont is not, as you say a "very talented visual director". He is a very talented eye-candy maker. There is a huuuuuuuuuge difference. Alfred Hitchcock was a very talented visual director because he could convey ideas and messages through visuals alone. It's clear, when watching one of his films, that he got his start in the silent era, when dialogue could not be depended on to tell a story. Kubrick is another very talented visual director. He knows how to make an image last for decades without the cheap help of explosions (I'll take that close-up of Alex's face over an exploding bus any day of the week). Now don't tell me that not everyone can be Hitchcock or Kubrick. I'm just saying that there is a huuge difference between a visual director and an eye-cany maker. Jan DeBont, like Michael Bay and Joel Schumacher, is an eye-candy maker. Their images dont mean anything; theyre just there to please. While this might make them excellent technicians (notice how I say might because I'm still not impressed with their idea of eye-candy; I'll take Spielberg instead because he invented modern-day eye-candy), it does not make them artists. Any director who is not an artist is a HACK. And as for your thing about Spielberg, exactly how many movies did it take for him to get good? I recall him being good from the start... Duel, one of the best directorial debuts ever. Sugarland Express, another very fine film. Jaws, his third film and the rest is history.

  • March 2, 1999, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Horror movies vs. Scary Movies

    by Bundren

    Yes, oftentimes these can be assumed to both be the same, but my feeling is that most people (or at least most studio execs, producers, etc.) simply have "scary movie" in mind when they think "horror". They think that if you just have something jump out occasionally with screeching music, it's a horror flick. Wrong. I think the poster above had a good point when he/she (sorry, can't remember) said that Night of the Living Dead is a great horror film, but it's not scary. I think he's right; to inspire horror, you don't necessarily need to go BOO!!, but instead you must provoke unease and dread in the audience. Many filmmakers seem to forget this these days, opting for fake CGI or hip humor. Hey, I enjoyed Scream, and it gave me some scares, but as soon as it was over, it was out of my head. Meanwhile, I'm left longing for the grand old days of NOTLD, Rosemary's Baby, Jaws, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween. These movies had some honest scares also, but they had something more that stuck with you for a long time -- a true sense of horror, dread, and unease. Here's hoping The Blair Witch Project provides a renaissance for these kinds of films.

  • March 2, 1999, 6:01 p.m. CST

    Scream gave rebirth and resurrection, Hollywood is just cashing

    by palegreenstar

    I used to hate horror movies. Not because I thought they were stupid or beneath me, but because I was too young and had too active of an imagination to tolerate them. Seeing one "scary" film would give me nightmares for weeks. So, trying do avoid psychosis and sleep deprivation, I stayed away from them. That is, until Demon Knight came out. I was dragged by a bunch of friends into a darkened movie theater to see this film. I was horrified that this film would have the same mental ramifications as the several scary movies I had seen so many years ago. But, by some twist of God, it didn't. As a matter of fact, I LOVED it. When Billy Zane puts his fist through the Sheriif's head? Perfect!! I discovered that - *gasp* - I LOVED being scared. But, at that time, there was somewhat of a lack of horror films ebing released. That is, until, SCREAM. Now, I'm not saying that Scream is the best movie ever made, because it's not. But it DID resurrect the horror genre. Because of it, a generation of people like myself who were too young to see the horror classics when they first came out felt compelled to rent them and find out what the big deal was. I mean, I would NEVER have seen Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, (any of their sequels - I KNOW most are crap, but fun crap), or a host of other great movies. Hey, shit on Scream all you want. But be clear on something. Yes, it made Hollywood make a bunch of scary movies, but they missed the boat. We want more movies as good as Scream. They want to give us fucked up retreads of the old formulas that Scream poked fun at or carbon copies of Scream itself. I mean, come on. I Know What You Did Last Summer, I STILL Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Disturbing Behavoir, Carrie 2, Idle Hands, etc. etc. What did we do to deserve this kind of treatment??? So don't blame Scream, please. Blame the all purpose center of blame - Hollywood.

  • March 2, 1999, 6:08 p.m. CST

    What is horror...

    by The Marmalute

    Well, according to Stephen King it is number two on the terror totem pole. First comes terror, mind numbing, thought freezing, check under your bed for the next year terror. Next comes horror, spine tingling, God am I glad I made it through that, check under your bed for the next six months horror. Finally the lowest man on the pole is the gross out, which is self explanatory. how any of these is achieved is irrelevant. It seems that a lot of you don't find anything frightening about horror films anymore. If that really is true I feel very sorry for you. You're missing one of the greatest film experiences available. But if you truly are no longer scared by horror film, I have a couple experiments for you to try (trust me they are a lot of fun). NUMBER ONE: go to a showing of The Haunting of Hill House on either the friday or saturday that it opens. Sit in an area where there are a lot of young teeny bopper type people (at the risk of sounding sexist, sitting by girls is the best, not because they are more easily scared but they express it in such a wonderfully public way, the scream) and just enjoy the ride. NUMBER TWO: rent Night of the Living Dead go home and watch it in a room where there is NO VISIBLE LIGHT other than the tv set. And then go sit for a while in the local run down shack. (this can also work with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a walk through a forest preserve or park, or maybe Evil Dead and a similar walk at night of course) Finally, if you don't enjoy the experience of going to a horror film, why do you bother? Enjoy them for what they are, Scream, Bride of Chucky, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, Alien, Psycho (either version) Nightmare on Elm Street, New Nightmare, Halloween, Nosferatu (both versions) and many others too numerous to list are all a hell of a fun ride. Yes, there will be clunkers, and yes, that is a matter of opinion but this is not a genre that will die easily and nor should it. On another completely unrelated note, why is it that there seems to a prevalent feeling of "it's popular so therefore it's crap"? If it is popular then didn't it do what it was supposed to? In order for anyone to make money on these films they have to get us in the theaters and in order to do that they have to reach us and give us something we want. Unfortunately that will on occasion cause a film like Speed 2 or Friday the 13th part 9 but they're worth wading through if you truly love film. And as far as never making another film on any subject cause somebody did a good job once is ridiculous. Film is a very young art form. Painting has been around since the dawn of mankind, so does anyone else think that no one should have done a portrait after the Mona Lisa was done? If so why deprive the world of the work that was done by the imitators who went on to have their own powerful visions brought to life on the canvas. That is the way of art. Surpressing ideas presented in art leads to resentment, resentment leads to anger, and anger leads to... well, you get the idea.

  • March 2, 1999, 8:11 p.m. CST

    Before Things Get Too Lofty Here.....

    by mrbeaks

    L'Auteur, your statement that directors are either hacks or artists is a terrible generalization. Jan DeBont is a highly skilled filmmaker who has given us more images to savor than you may realize (go to the imdb and check out the films where he was DP.) I'll admit that his ego is probably a size larger than it should be, but that doesn't change this fact: he is a skilled craftsman; ergo, an artist, and just because he likes to entertain doesn't make him any less of a filmmaker. If you're having trouble with that thought, then rent SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS immediately and get back to me later.

  • March 2, 1999, 8:49 p.m. CST


    by JetAlone

    Someone mentioned ROSEMARY'S BABY; I say amen to that. When I think about horror movies I think of Roman Polanski. THE TENANT and REPULSION are two of the most superb horror movies I've ever seen, and two of a very, very few movies that scared the shit out of me.

  • March 2, 1999, 10:30 p.m. CST


    by Uncapie

    Hmmm, that's funny when I think of Roman Polanski, I think of Peter Loree in "M".

  • March 3, 1999, 7:13 a.m. CST

    Suggestion for Lane Meyers

    by Well Hung Ewok

    It seems like you are getting a little angry. I suggest you use your "Snuffporn" talkback name or another one of your names like "LukeandLeia69" so you can use a lot cuss words. In the meantime when you're not being a lazy good for nothing hangin around your computer 24/7, you should see a shrink about your multiple personality disorder. By the way, Jan De Bont's only bad movie was "Speed 2". Sorry but "Speed" and "Twister" made money because they are great action movies. That's a fact you'll just have to live with. Let me give a shout out to my homies: Jasmine Guy, Ned & Stacey, Golden boy Oscar De La Hoya, and Witness to the execution Vincent. Kill whites, and peace out.

  • March 3, 1999, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Once again...

    by Rocqueja

    ...what could have been an intelligent discussion of a potentially great film (or a potentially putrid one with DeBont at the helm) as degenerated into a name calling session that I haven't seen since the likes of Grade Three. Someone mentioned that all a scriptwriter has to do nowadays is write "Fuck you, Bitch!" and they have a cool movie when in fact they are lazy. Lane Meyers would be well advised to think hard on that same sentence!

  • March 3, 1999, 9:32 a.m. CST

    The Taunting of Hill House

    by hastur

    I think both Wes Craven and Jan de Bont lack the subtle touch that is necessary to make "Hill House" come alive onscreen (the way Shirley Jackson intended it--you know, one reason Wise's adaptation is _so_ good is that it stuck pretty closely to the subject matter). Instead of mood, atmosphere and suggestion, it'll be BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! HILL HOUSE IN YOUR FACE, DUDE! There are some sequences from the book (which is still good reading, btw) that Wise suggested rather than filmed which would be interesting to actually see (Hill House goes dancing, for instance), but by and large, as a fan of both the book and the Wise adaptation, I have grave (ahem) doubts about this film. That said, I'll probably see the accursed thing because I love a train wreck as much as the next guy. And after this, I will still be excitedly looking forward to Michael Bay's remake of "Citizen Kane." No, really.

  • March 3, 1999, 10:19 a.m. CST

    L'Auteur's theory of why eye-candy director's are HACKS

    by L'Auteur

    mrbreaks, No I havent seen Sullivan's Travels, so explain the relevence (is that a Preston Sturges flick?). But I already admited that DeBont was an excellent technician so you needn't tell me he is a "skilled craftsman." What my point is is that being a skilled craftsman (i.e. a great D.P. or a great second-unit director) does NOT make one a great artist. DeBont's visuals are eye-pleasing, BUT I have a theory that you are free to dispute: ANYONE can make eye-pleasing visuals with a $140 million budget!! Give ME (or you for that matter) that much cash and we'd deliver and even more entertaining picture! All that special FX, ILM's CG, pretty movie stars, and great cinematography is easy to come by with $140 million, which is how much Speed 2 costed. If only Hollywood gave me that much money, then America would find out what real eye-candy is. If you disagree with that theory, think of it this way... What $100+ million budget movie can you think of that is NOT eye-candy? True, you might hate Batman and Robin but enough people found the eye-candy of it good enough (don't tell me that the patrons of that film went for the engrossing story and/or characters) to make it break even at the box office. Likewise with Twister (another terrible movie with a monster budget). OK, I admit every once in a while, a film like Speed 2 or The Avengers will come out and will bomb so therefore, they are undefendable. BUT, most of these huge budget eye-candy movies at least break even (even GODZILLA made a profit). This is proof that there are many people out there who liked these movies (How else could they have made money?). This is proof that these movies are widely entertaining (Why else would 25 million people spend 8 bucks to see ARMAGEDDON?). Now, follow closely, if such a large percentage of these $100+ million budget eye-candy movies make a profit, and are therefore "entertaing", don't you stop to question WHY such a large percentage of these movies are successful? Only rarely do these movies bomb. Yet risky movies, that are directors' visions, often bomb. Have you seen the connection yet? It's OK if you havent because this is hard to explain... My point is, It isn't the directors of eye-candy films (Joel, Micheal, Tony, Jan) that make these films entertaining, it is the FX. ILM is the real star of, say, GODZILLA, not Rolland Emmerich. In other words, ANYONE could have directed GODZILLA to the same effect. OK, you all hated GODZILLA. But the theory aplies as well to Twister, Speed, Batman Forever, The Rock, etc etc etc... Don't take my word for it... think of yourselves... If Warner Bros. gave YOU $110 million and gave you connections to ILM, tons of ammunition, explosives, movie stars, and a kick-ass soundtrack, dont you think YOU could make a pretty damn entertaining movie? We all could! It's not the directors who deserve the credit for these monster extravaganzas, its the FX houses. In some cases, its different. Spielberg, for one, is the king of eye-candy. THE PROFESSIONAL, my favorite action film of the decade, is another example of true quality, because the budget was reletively low so director Luc Bresson had to make eye-candy with his own talent, not ILM. In closing, i will put out my theory in as few words as possible: Since ANYONE can make entertaining eye-candy with those kinds of budgets, then there is nothing special about those directors. Since there is nothing about those directors, they are HACKS. I would love to hear everyone's opinion of this, as it is a very important issue in today's film world. Therefore, those whom I anger to the point of spouting out obscenities as their only relpy need NOT relpy.

  • March 3, 1999, 10:24 a.m. CST

    damn my incorrect punctuation in my last subject header

    by L'Auteur

    to those who will argue that DeBont is NOT a hack, i pose a question: Can you, in any way shape or form, describe DeBont's "distinct visual style"?

  • March 3, 1999, 11:10 a.m. CST

    DeBont's Style

    by mrbeaks

    It's actually more of an aesthetic issue, but he does have a definite style. I haven't seen SPEED, or TWISTER in a while, but I'm sure I could come up with something. Give me time. On another issue, if SPEED is a piece of garbage, it must be one of the most well-paced, tightly scripted hack films ever made (my one caveat; the somewhat drawn-out conclusion.) I know I'm not the only one with that opinion. L'Auteur: not to get snippy with you, but my point with the SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS reference lies in the message of the film. See it whenever you get a chance. Anyway..... what I'm trying to say in regards to DeBont is that he makes popcorn movies, and he, thus far, has never aspired to anything more. Also, do you know how much of a nightmare a $140 million film would be? Imagine the pressure to perform, and having the producers looking over you shoulder every chance they get. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I get the feeling there are a lot of film students in here. I say that because I used to post with the same kind of bravado when I was in school (you would've found me over at rec.arts.movies at that time and under another monniker.) My plea here, though, is to cut these guys a little slack. I know TWISTER and SPEED 2 were major busts (well, at least the latter was. I didn't *hate* TWISTER. I guess you could say I "tolerated" it.) The blame, though, should not be assigned solely to DeBont, but shared with people like Crichton and the cadre of writers who toiled so futilely on SPEED 2, as well as the producers who let such damaged goods go forward without a workable script. The fact remains: DeBont is capable (I think SPEED, and a great deal of TWISTER, is sufficient enough proof to back up that statement.) If the script for THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is as good as I've heard it is, I believe I will be vindicated this summer when DeBont delivers another great ride.

  • March 3, 1999, 11:29 a.m. CST

    And now for something completely subtle

    by hastur

    If you liked Robert Wise's version of "The Haunting of Hill House" and are craving some more subtle ghostly filmmaking, I have a couple of suggestions: "The Innocents" (based on "Turn of the Screw" and starring Deborah Kerr) and "The Changeling" with George C. Scott. See 'em now, before some adrenalin-churning action director gets his meat hooks into them.

  • March 3, 1999, 11:36 p.m. CST

    You want examples?

    by Corran Fox Horn

    Here's a couple example of Jan De Bont camera one. #1 - Speed - Jack and Daniel's character's squad car comes sailing over a hill and pulls up at the office tower building. They get out, get their equipment from the trunk, and run up to the building. This entire shot is showed real-time as the camera tracks a 360

  • June 9, 1999, 4:46 p.m. CST

    why didn't dreamworks get wes craven to direct Hill House?

    by ROCKET

    Well, that's easy. Hill House is classic fiction at its finest and I'm quite certain that Spielberg has every intention of avoiding that "teen slasher" genre that Craven is so incredibly notorious for. There is a quote in the book when Dr. Montague is explaining the history of Hill House, where he professes: "Some houses are born bad"...hence the tag line promoting the film. I had the pleasure of actually attending a party on the set which is unlike anything I have ever witnessed before....incredibly gothic, frighteningly captivating and maticulously detailed (I hung out in the actual "fireplace" with 3 others and we still had room to do the macarena with the remaining members of the Spice Girls if the opportunity presented itself...which it didn't of course)...As a die hard fan of the novel, I am thrilled at the prospect of Lili Taylor playing the character of Eleanor and have a feeling, this film is going to be spectacular. Fret not that Craven didn't direct it, 'tis a blessing that he wasn't given the opportunity to destroy this masterpiece of horror.

  • July 8, 2006, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Hill House just had a termite problem.

    by Wolfpack