Author(s): Josh P.
Produced and Directed by Jonathan Demme
Screenplay by David Koepp
Art Direction by Kristi Zea and Leslie E. Rollins
Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Edited by Craig McKay
Jodie Foster (Eleanor Vance)
Jeff Daniels (Dr. Markway)
Amy Adams (Theo Normansen)
Neil Patrick Harris (Will Anderson)
Charles S. Dutton (Mr. Dudley)
Alfre Woodard (Mrs. Dudley)
Laura Linney (Joanne)
Tagline: "The history of this house will haunt you forever"
Synopsis: Eleanor Vance (Foster) has lived, what she believes is, a full life. Although others might not see it that way. She is in her early fifties, works at a local television station, and shares an apartment with her sister (Linney). However, Eleanor can’t help but feel that something else is out there for her to experience. This feeling all but goes away when she sees an ad in the paper about an upcoming experiment about the nature of fear being performed at a countryside mansion called Hill House. She feels a sort of attraction to the idea, almost as if it was calling to her. She decides to explore this new opportunity.
Upon her arrival at Hill House, she meets the mysterious caretakers (Dutton, Woodard) and the doctor who is in charge of the experiment (Daniels). She also meets the other participant (Adams) and a relative of the owner (Harris) who is there to see what he might inherit. Eleanor has an interesting relationship between all these people. She reacts to Will as a childish adult whose playful attitude masks him ignorance of the world; to Dr. Markway, she has a subtle attraction to him. She never acts on her impulses, but a slight glance or brush of his fingers against her shoulder sends her heart racing. Eleanor has the closest bond with Theo, a proclaimed lesbian whose relationship with Eleanor starts to grow stronger. Any physical relationship is never explored, but she does have a sense that they are becoming something even more than just friends.
All of this is tested by the goings on at the house. Eleanor has mixed feelings about her temporary home. Whenever she glances at the windows, there is a sensation that they are eyes watching her, voices call to her in the night and faces are shaped in the wall. Is she going mad, or is it possible that the house is trying to communicate to her? Slowly, she finds out the attraction to this project that has been there from the beginning, and the terrifying secret she eventually reveals.
What the Press would say:
In any other hands, this would be an average horror flick with minimal weight to it. However, thanks to director Jonathan Demme, it evolves into something even more special. Demme takes a commercial suspense thriller and adds a great mysterious aura to it by enhancing it with a rich story and directing commanding performances and artistic styles. Much could be said about his previous Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs.” On that note, Demme’s actress for that film, Jodie Foster, also delivers an amazing performance. She portrays Eleanor with more of a subtle power. She never says or does much, but that is where the genius lies. In the beginning, she does a great job as a lonely woman desperately wanting to break free from her ordinary life, and then is outstanding as her slow descent into possible madness is revealed. Amy Adams is also marvelous as a woman who helps Eleanor come out (no pun intended) of her shell and experience the world a new, as well as someone who displays great fear as the house begins to wreak havoc on their relationship. David Koepp’s screenplay, adapted from both the Shirley Jackson short story and Robert Wise’s 1963 film, focuses more on the characters in the plot and exposes their relationships in great detail and wonderful descriptions. The eerie set design of Hill House, the shadowy cinematography and the eerie, operatic score from Elliot Goldenthal add to the tension this movie brings, as well as enhance its brilliance. The campaign consideration:
Best Director: Jonathan Demme
Best Actress: Jodie Foster
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams
Best Adapted Screenplay: David Koepp
Best Art Direction
Best Original Score