The Haunting appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect an appealing visual presentation.
Overall sharpness worked fine. With a lot of dimly lit interiors, a few slightly soft shots materialized, but in general, the image felt concise and well-defined.
No issues with jagged edges or edge haloes occurred, and outside of a brief shot of a small curtain, shimmering remained absent. Print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.
With its Gothic setting, the palette favored rustic reds and browns, with some teal and orange in the mix as well. The colors felt well-reproduced and appropriate.
Blacks looked dark and deep, and shadows seemed smooth and clear. This felt like a solid representation of the source.
Even better, the film came with an outstanding Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. On initial review, this mix may seem weaker than those for Speed or Twister, but that's simply because it lacks the "whizbang" factor of both of those. The Haunting doesn't feature thundering tornadoes or crashing cars, so it won't appear as explosive.
That shouldn't be interpreted as a signal that it's not a great mix, though, because that's not the case. Where the audio for The Haunting truly excelled came from its precision and detail.
Sounds became placed firmly in distinct locations, and every little squeak was accounted for in this production. The quality of the effects felt stellar, and that's a factor that really helped make the film work.
The three-dimensional soundstage appeared deep and immersive, so it did an excellent job of placing the viewer within the action. The lack of whizbang action made this track a small notch below the all-time great mixes, but it still turned into a highly effective piece of audio.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 1999? Unfortunately, I no longer can access the DVD, so I can’t make direct comparisons.
That said, there’s a zero percent chance the visuals didn’t improve on those from a 21-year-old DVD. While I thought that release looked great, remember that I watched it on a 27-inch tube TV and also went into it with the expectations for DVD, not Blu-ray. There’s no question this Blu-ray offered a big step up in picture quality.
As for the audio, that became a somewhat less obvious step up, as the DVD also sounded great. Still, the move from lossy to lossless offered a jump that made this track a bit stronger. Fans will mainly want to upgrade for the improved visuals, but the lossless sound adds to the purchase as well.
The Blu-ray combines the DVD’s sparse extras with one new addition: Filmmaker Focus, a nine-minute, 14-second chat with director Jan de Bont. He discusses how he came to the movie, aspects of its development, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, other versions of the tale and related domains.
Overall, de Bont provides a pretty tight summary. While not a deep chat, de Bont brings useful insights.
In addition to two trailers, we find a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. Hosted by actor Catherine Zeta-Jones, this 27-minute, 12-second show includes notes from de Bont, producers Susan Arnold, Colin Wilson and Donna Arkoff Roth, filmmaker Samuel Arkoff, Harlaxton College principal Dr. Robert Stepsis, Angel and Royal Hotel manager Nick Hughes, production designer Eugenio Zanetti, special effects coordinator John Frazier, visual effects supervisors Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and actors Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson and Roy Dotrice.
The featurette looks at the movie’s source and story/characters, cast and performances, sets, locations and production design, a brief look at horror films, various effects, and audio. Though clearly promotional in nature, the program offers good glimpses of the set and enough moviemaking material to merit a look.
While I sort of enjoyed The Haunting, that doesn’t mean I can really recommend it, as the movie just seems silly too much of the time. It offers a pleasant diversion that can entertain but it never becomes an actual good film. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture, excellent audio and a mediocre array of bonus materials.