Centered on a teenage cancer patient, Matt (Kyle Gallner), and family moving into an old home and subsequently falling prey to paranormal rumblings; Haunting is best described as a reflection of the ongoing state of mainstream frights. The first hour is a well measured, suspenseful slow burn. An experimental medical treatment, which might cause hallucinations, is being used on the ill teen and writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe take obvious pains to make the viewer second guess whether Matt is merely delusional or a more sinister presence is taking hold of his weakened state. With the boy's room choice being a gloomy basement; there's all sorts of chances for ghastly shadows, creepy sounds, and a wall of doors off to one side that seem concreted shut. In a waking nightmare Matt gains access to what's beyond the facade and discovers a long forgotten embalming room. Naturally, the family was never told of the home's former life as a mortuary and Matt's visions intensify.
Sounds like a good ol' ghostly cracker of psychological horror, right? Here's where you can liken Haunting to the modern approach to this brand of horror in microcosm. After that first hour is up, this taunt build is cast away for a mountain of slambam cliché to wake up those bored with its arguably superior initial path. This tonal shift is palpable as the creaky house's past of necromancy, seance, and ectoplasmic vomit is broken wide open. A priest also stricken with cancer (the ever dependable Elias Koteas) comes in with all the answers and soon there's doors slamming uncontrollably, room rampaging phantom birds, and lights flickering from bulb-less sockets. The evil has fully awakened! And now only Matt can free both himself and a not-so-bad entity that has attached itself to the teen in order to rid the house of its demons. Hellfire! Mummified remains! Tribal tattooing that suddenly disappears! Burn victims! The Shining! The Changeling! Stir of Echoes! Unrealistic Happy Ending (after several false endings)!