The Haunting (1999)

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Released 24-Jan-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer-2
Featurette-Behind-The-Scenes
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 108:03 (Case: 107)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jan De Bont
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Liam Neeson
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Owen Wilson
Lili Taylor
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Dr David Marrow (Liam Neeson) is studying the effects of fear and has arranged to spend a couple of days and nights with a small group of test subjects, or 'lab rats' as he calls them, in a old mansion. David has lured his test subjects to the mansion under the guise of studying insomnia. His test subjects are Nell (Lili Taylor), Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson).

    Everything seems to be going according to Dr David Marrow's plan with the subjects seeing and hearing strange noises in the night. Of course, he believes it is just their imaginations, but we the audience know that there is really something haunting the mansion.

    Visually, the mansion is wonderful to look at and it really adds to the atmosphere of the movie. I was a little disappointed with this movie when I saw it theatrically, but I must say that I enjoyed it this time round.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is magnificent and is easily reference quality. I have mentioned some really trivial and inconsequential artefacts that I saw, but no transfer will ever be absolutely perfect.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture sharpness and detail is absolutely magnificent. There is also an amazing amount of subtle detail contained within the shadows. To see all this detail you will have to watch this movie in a room with tightly controlled lighting (i.e. curtains drawn, lights out). No low-level noise, edge enhancement or edge bleeding was seen.

    The colour was exemplary - deeply saturated, rich and vibrant. It is without a doubt one of the best transfers I have seen in this respect.

    Apart from one minor instance of grain in the sky at the start of the movie (at 0:40 - 0:48) this DVD is totally grain and pixelization free.

    Because of the superb detail there are four really trivial instances of aliasing (at 1:23, 34:14 - 34:16, 54:24 and 57:55 - 57:58), but they are extremely trivial and they all disappear when a Progressive Scan DVD player is used. At 61:18 an extremely fast horizontal pan occurs and the picture becomes a blur, but this is more an observation than a criticism.

    I counted eight film artefacts for the entire film. All were tiny and unobtrusive.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 69:03 in Chapter 16, on a scene change. It is only just detectable because the soft background music stops momentarily. This is a superbly placed layer change that does not disrupt the flow of the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This DVD has an absolutely superb soundtrack with only one tiny flaw, which unfortunately stops it from receiving a reference quality rating, which is a real shame. I lightly cursed when I heard the flaw, as I really wanted to give the audio on this DVD a reference quality rating, too. The most amazing thing about the soundtrack is the bass and subwoofer use. I have never heard any soundtrack that even comes close to this one in this department.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) soundtrack. I listened to the default English soundtrack. Again I would like to commend Dreamworks for choosing to use 448Kb/s audio streams instead of the lesser and slightly inferior 384Kb/s audio stream. If anyone needs convincing about the benefits of 448Kb/s audio bit-streams, just have a listen to this DVD.

    The dialogue was extremely clear and easy to understand throughout the entire movie. No audio sync problems were noticed.

    The one tiny fault that I previously referred to in passing is a small but noticeable click in the rear right channel at 78:35. I played this section several times just to make sure it wasn't a power surge or spike. The click is not present in the German soundtrack.

    Jerry Goldsmith's musical score is excellent, but is overshadowed by the superb effects.

    The surround channels were very aggressively used for ambience, music and lots of special effects, as well as subtle background detail and effects which are present throughout the entire film. Directional effects and precise sound placement within the sound field are the norm rather than the exception, putting you right in the midst of the movie at all times, not just during the action sequences. The sound placement across the front sound stage is superb.

    The subwoofer is continually being used to add bass to most scenes, and is extremely active during the dramatic sequences, and I do mean extremely active. My windows were rattling and the floor was shaking, but the best thing is that it actually doesn't sound overdone. This movie has the best bass and subwoofer use I have ever heard, bar none. Subwoofer highlights are at 0:14 - 1:02, 13:05, 34:54, 38:05 (awesome) and 82:32.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are pretty limited.

Menu

    On start-up, the excellent-quality Dreamworks logo plays and then the disc prompts you for your preferred language.

    The Main Menu selections are; Play, Scene Selection (24), Bonus Material, Audio Languages and Subtitle Languages. The one thing that I missed was the inclusion of a Scene Selection Index, which would have helped speed up selecting the latter chapters.

Featurette-Behind-The-Scenes (27:11 minutes)

    This is a very welcome extra. Unfortunately, the picture quality is quite average, as it suffers from strong pixelization, grain, aliasing, interlacing, judder and other MPEG artefacts. Overall, though, it is still quite watchable. The featurette is the usual extended promotional piece for the movie, in this case narrated by Catherine Zeta-Jones. There are interviews with the cast and crew and some behind-the-scenes details. It is presented in 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer 1 (1:18 minutes)

    This trailer is of great quality. It is presented in 1.33:1, with a 448Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer 2 (1:59 minutes)

    This trailer is also of excellent quality and is presented in the 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 2.40:1, with a 448Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Dreamworks must have read my Deep Impact Theatrical Trailer review!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     I have not heard the R1 DTS-ES version, but by all rights it should sound even better, so it will all come down to whether you want the better sound quality of DTS-ES or the better picture quality of PAL.

Summary

    This is only the second time I have seen The Haunting and I enjoyed it much more than the first.

    The video transfer is magnificent and is of reference quality.

    The DVD is blessed with an absolutely superb soundtrack with only one tiny flaw, which unfortunately stops it from receiving a reference quality rating.

    The extras are pretty limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Thursday, December 21, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

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