The House on Haunted Hill (1999) vs The Haunting (1999)

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Scary Movies and Series

Comparing The House on Haunted Hill and The Haunting Movies

The House on Haunted Hill (1999) is a chilling tale that will keep anyone up at night.  The Haunting (1999) is a heart-pounding story of fear providing a number of suspenseful screams. Both of these movies feature strikingly similar themes, settings, propaganda and even cast.  Sincerely capitalizing on the “haunted house” genre, these two films released a matter of months apart! Although each film has its own loyal fan base, there are clear similarities and differences which cannot be ignored.  Here are some of the biggest comparison notes between the two haunted house movies.

Similarities Between The House on Haunted Hill and The Haunting

Many horror fans have asked, “How is The House on Haunted Hill the same as The Haunting?” And the truth is, there are obviously many similarities between the two hit blockbusters.  Here are some of the most obvious, as well as some of the more interesting similarities Horror Enthusiast found when comparing the two movies…

Haunted Houses

Obviously it is impossible to list similarities without mentioning that both movies are about a haunted house.  Both titles even share a variation of the word “Haunt.”  This was not a coincidence, however, a tip of the hat to the 1950s novel by Shirley Jackson, turned film, The Haunting of Hill House (1959).  Both movies are loosely about a haunted mansion, a behemoth-style house.

Victims Were Invited

In The House on Haunted Hill, the guests are invited to attend a party thrown at the mansion by famous, wealthy entrepreneur Steven Price.  Although the house actually changed the celebrity-invites to seemingly ‘no name’ people, they were invited nonetheless! 

In The Haunting, the guests are invited to take part of an insomnia study hosted at the mansion by Dr. David Marrow.  Although the guests all believe they are there to help resolve insomnia, Dr. Marrow’s true intensions are to observe the participants’ response to fear. And in a truly terrifying mansion, there is plenty of fear to go around!

Two Survivors

The House on Haunted Hill allows for two survivors, Sara Wolfe and Eddie Baker (a female and a male survivor).

The Haunting allows for two survivors as well, Theo and also Doctor David Marrow (again a female and a male survive).

House Seals Itself

Both haunted mansion thrillers feature a house that is able to seal itself, leaving the survivors trapped inside to face the doom and evil with seemingly no way to escape.

A Supreme Evil & Tortured Ghosts

ghosts in horror movies

In The House on Haunted Hill, the merciless Dr Richard Benjamin Vannacutt is responsible for the torture and sadistic experiments on his psychiatric patients, who in turn haunt the mansion and its medical catacombs. The psychiatric patients are victims in themselves, although they haunt the house and all its guests.

In The Haunting, an ominous ghost and original mansion owner Hugh Crane terrorizes and kills children, trapping them in the house for all of eternity.  And although Crane is the true evil, the enslaved children also haunt the guests of Hill House.

Locked In Overnight

Despite the house’s ability in each movie to fully lock-down and secure the victims within the premises on its own…the guests all willfully sign up for a night’s stay. In fact, all guests in both movies understand the gates are to be locked overnight.  The survivors are forced to make it all night until the gates are re-opened by a gatekeeper or otherwise the next morning at sunrise.

Male Organizer

Both horror films feature a strong male lead role who orchestrates the entire experience. In The House on Haunted Hill, Steven Price arranges a birthday bash for his wife, inviting the guests to partake in the fun.  While The Haunting is about Dr Marrow’s invites his guests to aide his investigation into fear.

Differences Between the House on Haunted Hill and the Haunting

A true haunted house movie fan would ask “How is the House on Haunted Hill different from the Haunting?” as these two movies are creepily similar (as noted above).  Fear not, however, Horror Enthusiast has identified a number of differences when comparing the two haunted house movies! Here are some of the easiest, as well as more elusive differences…

Successful Entrepreneur vs Experimental Doctor

It is true that both lead male roles, also responsible for the accommodations to begin with, are successful, powerful individuals who are able to rent the entire haunted mansion themselves.  However, there is an obvious difference in that Steven Price is renting the house on haunted hill for entertainment-based puposes, while Dr Marrow is renting his haunted house for a psychological experiment.

Sympathetic Help From The Other Side

scary haunted hallway painting from the movie house on haunted hill

Both movies have groups of horrifying ghosts lurking within the walls of the mansions.  One big difference, however, is that many of the ghosts in The Haunting (the children namely), turn out to help the protagonists survive. The ghosts that haunt The House on Haunted Hill are all just as threatening and scary as Dr Vannacutt himself.

Human Threats

The House on Haunted Hill is a complex movie, cascading story lines upon one another to create an interwoven, truly scary tale.  In this movie, there are a number of suspected threats that are human based, making the hauntings of the house that much scarier…as no one knows what is real! The Haunting is purely a supernatural fear, though, still arguably just as scary to some!

CGI vs Psychological Thriller

Sure, both movies have their fair amount of CGI, but it’s obvious that The Haunting relied much more on it’s CGI visual effects to scare than The House on Haunted Hill.  There is definitely a difference in how the two movies choose to invoke fear…and is a perfect highlight as to how two very different movies can be made with nearly the same story line and setting.

Insane Asylum vs Private Mansion

The House on Haunted Hill takes place in a mansion-looking property resting high on a hill that was previously Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. This is a place where horrific medical experiments were performed on patients.  The patients got loose, killed everyone and the place burned, lock down mechanism initiated. 

The Haunting sets the scene in a beautifully constructed and decorated mansion that was built for Baron Hugh Crain and his wife. It was their dream to have a large family of children.  Unfortunately, they would never have any children, only evil which spawned and haunts the house forever.

Release Date

Although the two movies are very similar, they chose release dates about 3 months apart.  The Haunting was released first on July 23rd, 1999.  The House on Haunted Hill secured the more prestigious spot for a horror movie…right before Halloween being released on October 29th, 1999.

Movie Budget

horror haunted mansion in ruins painting from the move the haunting

Neither of these films performed very well, and probably made a lot of people really upset (despite becoming cult classics and horror fan favorites, especially The House on Haunted Hill). The starting budget, however, was hugely different between the films.

The House on Haunted Hill had an estimated budget of $37,000,000. It ended up earning $40,846,082 in the United States.

The Haunting had a tremendously large estimated budget of $80,000,000, nearly double its competitor!  In the end, The Haunting only raked in $91,411,151…still rather slim earnings for such a huge investment!

Fun Fact: It is no wonder The Haunting had a budget nearly double the size of The House on Haunted Hill…as the crew members of almost every department (art, makeup, visual effects, special effects, stunts, sound, etc), were nearly double!

Final Comparison Notes: Haunting vs Haunted Hill Movies

Despite the amazing similarities between the two films, there are obviously more than enough differences to warrant two unique viewing experiences.  Interestingly enough, they each have developed their own cult-fan clubs. And while both of these haunted house thrillers are based upon a more than 50 year old novel, they are both frightening and paved their own places in horror movie history. 

The True Abilities of a Poltergeist

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

The Mysterious History of the Poltergeist

Poltergeist reaching for the clown doll
Artwork by Mary Farnstrom

Poltergeists are often connected with ghosts, and while it’s true that ghosts can be poltergeists, poltergeists are not always ghosts. Categorized by their noisy nature, their ability to move objects, as well as various other physical disturbances. The term poltergeist comes from the German language, poltern, “to knock,” and geist, “spirit,” and in England the poltergeist is often synonymous with the boggart. These mischievous and often malevolent spirits date back to ancient Rome, as well as medieval Germany, China, Wales, and they continue to be reported from elsewhere in the world to this day. These impish spirits have not changed much over the year in how they present, except for taking into account the evolution of technology. In ancient reports, the reports showed that would throw rocks, dirt, and other objects, cause loud noises, knocking, strange lights, and unexplainable shrieks, as well as physical and sexual assaults that would leave their victims shaken. Modern reports have included lightbulbs spinning in their sockets and telephones repeatedly dialing the same number.

Physical assaults—scratching, spitting, biting, pinching, punching and sexual molestation—usually only appear in a small number of cases, but they are still consistently prevalent among cases over the years. Overall, the activity doesn’t just peter out, it stops as suddenly as it starts, but the length of time the victims are affected varies so widely that the end is never predictable. Whether the victim ends up suffering for a few hours, a few months, or a few years, it is never a permanent affliction. One intriguing aspect of poltergeist infestations is the fact that the activity is usually centralized around a single individual, or “agent”.

Researching the Poltergeist Phenomenon

The phenomenon of poltergeists has been researched in-depth at a scientific level since the late 1970s by parapsychologists and they have come up with several theories as possible explanations. Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, English researchers of the time collected the data from 500 separate instances of poltergeists dating back from the 1800s. Among the characteristics that these cases had in common, about two-thirds of all cases included small objects moving from their original location.  Over half of the cases showed that the poltergeists were most active at night, and many individual incidents lasted longer than a year. Some other disturbing coincidences were that quite a few cases were focused around females under the age of twenty.

Before the 19th century, poltergeist activity was blamed primarily on the paranormal—spirits, witches, demons, and most often the Devil. At the turn of the century, however, a large spiritualism movement began, where mediums would routinely allow themselves to become temporarily possessed as a conduit to those who have passed. There were several researchers who began to investigate the idea of unconscious psychokinesis, alluding to the idea that the individual that the activity centralized around, was, in fact, the cause of it all. This isn’t to say that they were being accused of faking the activity, but more likely causing it without their own knowledge and although this theory began to be explored in the 1930s, it is still considered fairly controversial in nature. It’s important to take into consideration that the majority of these reports were recorded between 1840 and 1920 before the phenomenon came under the scrutiny of modern scientific research.

Poltergeists in History and Modern Culture

The Amityville Haunting

Ron DeFeo Jr., the infamous murderer of Amityville still lives and he continues to serve his six 25-year life sentences in the New York Correctional Facility; his initial story consisted of him claiming to hear voices that were convincing him to kill his entire family, but then his story changed, multiple times since. While DeFeo now claims that he didn’t murder his entire family, the details have gotten so fuzzy over the years that it’s still incredibly difficult to tell if this was an actual case of possession—which later resulted in poltergeist activity for the Lutz family—or if the entire thing was a hoax propagated by the Lutz family. It’s widely theorized by skeptics that the Lutz family intended to cash-in on the mass murder committed by DeFeo, due to a problematic financial and legal condition so they could take advantage of the publicity. It makes sense to take the view of the skeptic, it’s never a good idea to accept anything on blind faith, but much of the evidence and first-hand accounts disagree with the skeptic’s point of view.

Why do we believe them? Well, even though it’s been proven that lie detector tests are not infallible, George and Kathy Lutz weren’t trained to pass them, yet they did so to prove their innocence and ended up passing. There are also claims that George Lutz had a history of dabbling in the occult, we’re not so sure where we fall on this matter—this could mean that either Lutz was incredibly familiar with the symptoms of a poltergeist haunting, or it means that he was more open psychologically to the idea and the poltergeist took hold. The entire family apparently experienced foreign odors, cold spots in certain areas of the house, and reported a slime that would randomly ooze out of the walls and keyholes. One tidbit that could be an embellishment, was the allegation that George Lutz would wake up at 3:15 AM every morning, which was when Ron DeFeo Jr. was said to have committed the murders.

Aside from observers from outside of the Lutz family, there was the priest that was called in to bless the home, who reported having heard a voice scream to, “get out!” Due to his own personal experience, he advised the family to never sleep in that room again. The paranormal activity within the house only increased from there, with a garage door opening and closing, as well as a knife being knocked down in the kitchen by invisible forces. This all escalated even further to every member of the family except for George, who observed the phenomenon, levitating off of their respective beds. Daniel Lutz, one of the sons continues to have nightmares about this house even to this day.

The Truth Behind Amityville?

The following video addresses both skeptics and believers when it comes to the Amityville haunting, so why not hear both sides?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvXU11Kyj5E
Amityville Horror The True Story

The Ash Manor Haunting

Poltergeist as an apparition on the bed
Photography by Jrwooley6

Investigated in 1936, Dr. Nandor Fodor became incredibly popular for his controversial poltergeist theory about the Ash Manor Ghost. The actual case reports that shortly after moving into the old house, the owner, Mr. Keel and his wife began to encounter a strange apparition dressed in an Elizabethan era smock—as well as hear strange loud knocking—upon trying to confront this intruder, Mr. and Mrs. Keel found that trying to touch the apparition that their hands would go right through it. Fearing the worst for his family, Keel hired a medium, as well as various psychic investigators. This resulted in the medium suggesting that all of these happenings were the result of strained family life, a tell-tale sign of poltergeist activity. The final result of Dr. Fodor was that people, “who put themselves in an unguarded psychological position,” are likely to be more vulnerable to hauntings and poltergeist attacks.

The Enfield Haunting

In the book, This House is Haunted (2011), the account of the Enfield Haunting is given in full, which also inspired The Conjuring 2 (2016), part of the great paranormal franchise that follows the investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren throughout the years. The Enfield case is possibly one of the most famous poltergeist hauntings ever recorded. Originating late August of 1977, in the suburb of North London, the house in Enfield was inhabited by a single mother and her four children; the initial report was of the two middle children experiencing their beds shaking violently, and shuffling sounds when the children were in their shared room. At that point, the mother Peggy, was not entirely convinced that it was actually happening.

Peggy and her two middle children were all witness to when sudden furniture movements and loud knocking with no origin began, at which time Peggy sought the help of her neighbors. Once her neighbors witnessed the knocking but had no explanation for it, the police were called in. The police were even hard-pressed to find an explanation behind the knocking and furniture movement that they ended up witnessing upon responding to the call. The Enfield case eventually subsided for a time, before being reignited a short while later lasting for a few years in total.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHPYriXhNW8
The Enfield Haunting – A Real Life Haunting (2016)

Films that feature poltergeists

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