Rating 3½

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Written by Timothy Prager, Bob Kellett and Lewis Gilbert, based on the novel by James Herbert

Starring Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews, Alex Lowe, Anna Massey, John Gielgud, Geraldine Somerville, Liz Smith, Linda Bassett and Victoria Shalet

Professor David Ash (Aidan Quinn), an Oxford don, is dedicated to proving that claims of the existence of ghosts, the supernatural and psychic abilities are bogus hoaxes perpetrated by fraudsters. He is inspired in his quest by the guilt he feels for the tragic death by drowning of his twin sister Juliet (Victoria Shalet) in childhood.

Ash is invited to Embrook, a large country estate, to investigate and disprove the fears of the elderly Nanny Tess Webb (Anna Massey) that the house is haunted. He meets the oddly intimately-connected Mariell siblings who own the estate (played by Anthony Andrews, Kate Beckinsale and Alex Lowe) and finds himself falling for Christina Mariell as he tries to rationalise a series of inexplicable and seemingly supernatural events that occur in the house and out by the lake.


‘Haunted’ is based on a 1988 novel of the same name by the English writer of horror stories, James Herbert. It was produced by Anthony Andrews and director and co-writer Lewis Gilbert, a famous British film director whose career dates back to the mid 1940s and includes such films as ‘Reach For The Sky’, ‘Educating Rita’, ‘Shirley Valentine’ and three James Bond films; one with Sean Connery and two with Roger Moore.

The film is set in 1928 and, perhaps partly because of the presence of both Anthony Andrews and John Gielgud, immediately puts one in mind of ‘Brideshead Revisited’. It has the feel of a film made for television rather than theatrical release, although that is not the case.

Despite the nudity and a sex scene, it actually has a distinctly old-fashioned feel. It works surprisingly well, thanks in part to a clever and satisfying twist in the story. Anthony Andrews, an actor I am not unduly fond of in general, perhaps because I somehow associate him with really bad Hollywood versions of Agatha Christie novels (unfairly so since I don’t think he has ever actually appeared in one), is much more effective here than I would have expected. So too is Kate Beckinsale, whose subsequent successful foray into big-budget Hollywood fantasy-blockbusters like ‘Underworld’ and ‘Van Helsing’ leaves me cold.

John Gielgud, one of Britain’s most famous and iconic stage actors, was 91 years old at the time of this film, although he would continue to act in films and on television for another five years until his death in 2000.

Review posted 28 February 2009


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