How am I the first moron to have sat through this idiotic piece of A-list garbage? Oh, forget it, I know how.
Saturday morning, I woke up at like 5:30am for some reason with insomnia. After putzing around for a while, planning to read some more of Justin Cronin's The Twelve (sequel to The Passage, which I've recommended to some of you before), I turned on the tv and this was just starting at 6:10am on Showtime. I figured it would probably be lame, but an easy way to start the day out by knocking off another thon entry. Jesus was I wrong. On the plus side, insomnia cured!
I got about 44 minutes in before I nodded off, but as it quickly dawned on me how terrible and boring it was, I knew I wasn't going to make it. However, the thon forced my hand to hit the "Record" button so I could finish it later properly caffeinated. So that happened.
So what's it all about? A doctor is doing an experiment on fear under the pretense that he's studying sleeping disorders. He gets 3 subjects to spend the night in a massive baroque mansion, and then prods them with hints that the place has an unsavory history. Of course, the place does turn out to be haunted, so his experiment goes to shit and Owen Wilson gets decapitated.
Oh, did I mention the crappy cast? I don't hate any of these actors in most of their other stuff, but man they were all so miscast and annoying as a group. Maybe it was just the shitty paint-by-numbers script that seemed like some undergrad workshopped drivel, but they all give what I think are career worse performances. When Owen gets decapitated, Liam's face is fucking priceless. He's sort of wincing, but can't seem able to even muster real terror, and I swear it seems like he's just wincing at A) how stupid that death just looked,and B) how craptastic this movie he's making is turning out. Like he's thinking, "God this is embarrassing."
The looks on their faces here totally capture how crappy this movie is.
Lili Taylor is doing her annoying breathy earth mother routine here, and Zeta Jones is hamming up her typical Type-A hottie narcissist. Both strike totally offkey tones, just as Wilson's predictable goofy charm is way wrong for the movie. Ugh, but that's not even the worst thing here.
The worst is certainly that this attempt at making a scary haunted house movie, indeed remaking THE haunted house movie-prototype is almost completely void of scares. And I don't think any blame can be put on the PG-13 rating. Maybe the witless director was saddled with that as a demand, given the A-list cast, but damn Poltergeist was hella scary. This is just silly.
I think one problem is that this was made at the dawn of the bigtime CGI era, and clearly they seem to have thought they were onto something big. There's lots of CGI ghosts (mostly kids faces), but the problem is that the technology just wasn't where it needed to be yet. Or maybe their CGI guys were just the worst in the business. Actually, it looks like they just hired the guys from the Keebler commercials, as I kept thinking the ghosts were chocolate elves. So yeah, it was television commercial level special effects.
All that said, I do have to say one thing I liked--they chose a really cool looking building to film in. The exterior shots in particular are amazing, and caused me to look the place up. It's called Harlaxton Manor, in England.
What's really cool is that Evansville now owns it as the home of their study abroad in England program. How rad is that? You sign up for a semester abroad, and you get a room and take all your classes in this crazy old ornate castle? Totally envious of those kids.
Check out this write up from wiki
"Presently, Harlaxton Manor is known as "The British Campus of the University of Evansville." It is an American owned and operated college which is home to students and professors seeking a global education each academic semester. During the summer the site is often used for various meetings, social gatherings, international conferences and private functions such as weddings. Begun by Stanford University before the University of Evansville took control in 1971, it is one of the oldest international educational programmes.
While teaching classes or studying abroad for a semester, or longer, visiting instructors and students live in either the manor house or its accompanying carriage house. Classes are held, and offices sited, in many of Harlaxton's baroque or rococo ornate gilded rooms, former bedrooms, and the dining room."