Bette Davis was only 54 when she starred as the titular character in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Joan Crawford was 58. Two middle-aged women helped kick off a sub-genre of horror ostensibly about “old” women who are either themselves imperiled, or are the source of the peril, or both. The genre’s most commonly known as “psycho-biddy,” but is alternatively known as “hagsploitation” or “Grand Dame Guignol.” I prefer the latter, being a fan of the word ‘grand,’ the Grand Guignol, and pronouncing the word “dame” as “dahm.”
We’re one year short of the 20th anniversary of one of the most misguided movie remakes in history. 1999’s The Haunting had a decent cast in front of the camera, and behind it, the director of Speed (doesn’t suit the material, but hey, great movie!), Twister, (okay, lesser effort, but still… Speed was great, right?) and Speed 2: Cruise Control (farewell, good will, we hardly knew ye). It also had an $80 million budget, which is 27% more than fellow ’99 release The Matrix needed to make people dodge bullets and high-jump across highways and kung-fu fight computer simulations and shit. And you know what, kudos to Hollywood having the faith to give a horror flick–often treated as the unwanted stepchild of genre fiction–a blockbuster budget for once. But–and this is a doozy of a “but”–maybe you shouldn’t reserve the “massive special effects” budget for an adaptation of the quintessential psychological ghost story. There aren’t many tales of supernatural horror that demand expensive CGI less than Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting. Jan de Bont had money to blow on this one, however, so he fed audiences computer generated bronze cherubs, blood-vomiting statues, and a climactic showdown with a video-game villain that looks better suited to the ending of The Mummy Returns.