The Haunting Of Hill House Overview

Neeson stars in The Haunting, a horror flick that takes the spookiness of Poltergeist and adds cutting-edge special effects technology to create a new kind of ghost story.

Prof. David Marrow (Neeson) is intrigued by a 130-year-old mansion with a history of tragedy and death. So he brings three people to the house for what he tells them is a "sleep disorder" study, but what is actually an investigation into the paranormal.

The international cast includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, (The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment) who hails from Swansea, Wales, while Neeson's roots are in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. The Yankees include Austin, Texas-born Owen Wilson, who has tackled on-screen enemies before in Armageddon and Anaconda and Lili Taylor who's from Chicago.

But the true star of The Haunting is the house itself. The "character" was created by author Shirley Jackson, whose novel, The Haunting of Hill House, is the basis for the film (as it was for the 1963 thriller The Haunted). Jackson was inspired to write the story after driving by a burning building. She later learned that the house had a horrific history and wondered if it even had a mean streak.

For the 1999 version, it's director Jan De Bont (Speed, Twister) who's bringing the house's sinister personality to life.

"I really treat the house as a character," says De Bont. "I treat it as a lead, a very expensive lead. I like to animate inanimate objects."

"The Shining on the set of Citizen Kane," is how Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Zanetti refers to the house whose exteriors were filmed in England while the interiors were built on a California sound stage.

The house's sinister personality is brought to life using the latest computer technology to morph the eerie, stately mansion into a living, breathing creature.

But despite having all the most revolutionary tools at their disposal, the filmmakers haven't forgotten that the best scares happen before the bomb goes off. Or, in this case, before the lights go down because, as Zeta-Jones says, "I'd never be caught dead on this set after dark."