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Old 06-17-2005, 09:13 PM
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Default Haunted




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: September 5, 2002
Released by: Artisan
Release date: 10/2/2001
MSRP: $14.98
Region 1, NTSC
Full screen 1.33:1



In the light of the success of ghost films like The Sixth Sense and The Others, twist endings, as original as they are, have become quite cliché for the genre. After these two landmark films, it is tough to truly surprise and excite an audience raised on their brilliance. Before these films, there was a picture that inexplicably slipped under the public's radar and failed to create the stir that it should. This film is the 1995 ghost tale, Haunted. Artisan, realizing the possibility of cashing in on the success of recent ghost tales, has wisely released this film on DVD. How does the film hold up to The Others and The Sixth Sense, and is this a lost classic worth revisiting?

The Story

inline Image David Ash (Aidan Quinn) is a popular psychology professor in the roaring 1920's with a troubled past. At the tender age of eleven, his twin sister was drowned in a freak accident. David and his sister Juliet were playing, and David accidentally pushed her too hard, causing her to be knocked unconscious. Lifeless, Juliet sank to the bottom of the river, and David was unable to rescue her, and this tragic event has haunted him ever since. Now though, he works at a University and has a best selling book about the supernatural.

inline Image He is skeptic about ghosts, proving on more than one occasion that they do not exist and that they are merely a fraud. He is asked by one of his readers to come and help her, for she claims to be having problems with ghosts. David obliges, and is brought by train through lush landscapes to the Webb Estate. There he meets the beautiful Christina (Kate Beckinsale), the granddaughter of the troubled Ms. Webb (Anna Massey). He is instantly attracted to Christine, and she to him as well, and together a romance blossoms between the two.

inline Image The lovers are not alone in the house though, since Christina has two brothers, one a joker and one a painter. David tries to help Ms. Webb, but her sightings of Christina's dead mother prevent her from acting sanely. Even the help of the kind doctor (Sir John Gielgud) cannot stop her from these horrid images. Although still skeptic, David begins having images of his own; flashbacks of his drowning sister, fires throughout the estate's halls and a mysterious woman on the docks. What David begins to soon realize is that there is more than what appears on the surface, and that the estate has some dark secrets. Is he really seeing ghosts, or is the tragic death of his sister still lingering within his brain?

inline Image Haunted is a period piece in the same vein as The Others and with a very similar payoff. People who have seen The Others before will have no trouble guessing the contorted finale, but that does not stop Haunted from being a good film. The cinematography is at times very beautiful, and the haziness of the suns rays off of the horizon helps compliment the romantic and idyllic romance of David and Christina. Every part of the production is convincing, creating a very believable and extremely classy 1920's setting.

inline Image The acting is also strong on all levels, which is to be expected from this all-star cast. The always-underrated Aidan Quinn creates a strong character whose vulnerability and regret show through his expressive eyes. Sir John Gielgud is comforting in his near-cameo performance. As the leading lady, Kate Beckinsale also does a fine job, creating a personality with a childlike innocence that parallel's that of David's deceased sister. For a slow moving tale like this, it is imperative that the actors are identifiable and realistic, and thankfully everyone in Haunted is believable and interesting to watch.

inline Image Watching the film with the notion that it preceded both The Sixth Sense and The Others makes its finale and story all the more admirable. Taken in context with its release in 1995, this is a very original and timeless story, but unfortunately, because of recent ghost stories with a twist, the effectiveness of the film's climax is lessened. It is a shame, because the film dramatically provides clues and hints to the film's ending in a manner that is more satisfying than either The Sixth Sense or The Others. Even though the story may seem familiar, the execution is spot on, and watching the secret unfold is still a very rewarding experience.

Haunted, despite its tarnished payoff, is still a well-crafted motion picture with class and depth. Quinn's fractured inner strength coupled with his innocence and disbelief make him a captivating lead, and the rest of the cast is equally as appealing. Unfairly ignored by audiences upon its initial release, this is a film that people hailing The Sixth Sense as groundbreaking cinema need to experience.

Image Quality

inline ImageAlthough it states on the back that the DVD's 1.33:1 full screen ratio is the format in which the film was shot, the transfer looks cramped and much more like a pan and scan blunder than an open matte transfer. Advancing to 1:30:36 pretty much proves that the film is cropped, which is very unfortunate, considering some of the beautiful cinematography in the film. Aspect ratio concerns aside, the transfer is fairly grainy, especially in the night sequences and should look much better. There are also some print blemishes that popup every now and then, and considering the film is only 7 years old, such faults should not be visible. Artisan remains one of the only companies that still releases some of their titles in full screen only versions, and this is a practice that should be stopped.

Sound

Thankfully, the English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is much more rewarding than the video transfer, offing depth and discreteness that few other 2.0 tracks can match. There are several loud effects, from chugging trains to blazing explosions, and all of them sound very sharp and lively in this mix. The dialogue is always nice and clear, making this a very well recorded and mastered transfer.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Unfortunately, there are no supplements on this release, which is a real shame. A lot could have been said about the films twist ending and originality, making this disc a real missed opportunity.

Final Thoughts

Haunted is a classy and involving ghost story with an ending that will satisfy even those people raised on similarly themed films like The Others and The Sixth Sense. Unfortunately, the lack of supplements and botched pan and scan video transfer make this hard to recommend, despite the discs strong audio track. Since Haunted is not in its original aspect ratio I cannot recommend this purchase, but the film is one that should definitely be seen by horror and ghost story fans seeking for refined entertainment.

Rating

Movie - B+
Image Quality - D
Sound - B+
Supplements - N/A

Technical Info.
  • Running time - 1 hour 47 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English stereo
Supplements
  • N/A

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