The Haunting (2009): Maternal Grief and Mystery in a Haunted Mansion


Elio Quiroga’s “The Haunting” (2009) pairs maternal grief with a haunted mansion, and a puzzling story emerges. Is it worth piecing together?

Ghosts and other Grief-Related Symptoms

There are plenty of movies about ghosts, hauntings and paranormal events. The Haunting (also called No-Do) has some things setting it apart, though. It’s about a mother, Francesca (Ana Torrent), trying to piece her life back together after having lost her previous child. Understandably, she is constantly afraid of losing her newest baby. It becomes a source of drama between her and husband Pedro (Francisco Boira), who must remind her that she cannot watch her child literally every second of the day.

Here’s the thing: While one may criticize other aspects of this movie, I find it hard (and perhaps unfair) to really bash this story element. Even though I don’t have children, I can imagine the hardship one must endure, faced with such a loss. It’s not just about literal ghosts, but one’s own psychological hauntings (so to speak) and the rocky journey to recovery. So this aspect of the movie works for me, especially when it’s done pretty well, and it offers some minor horror elements in itself.

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The Plot and the Ghost Question

Although The Haunting has various subplots, it’s not the most complex story. Most of the confusing aspects are resolved near the end, so you won’t likely get a headache from them. That being said, this aspect almost seemed unnecessary to the movie. I would have been fine with a simpler psychological horror, honestly. The focus could have been more on the couple, and why not more on Pedro? The grieving mother movie happens pretty often, but (in general) not enough focus is given to grieving fathers. I see it as a rather missed opportunity, sacrificed at the altar of conventional storytelling.

Also, I found myself asking if the ghosts were even necessary. They almost seem to distract from the heart of the story, and from the performances. I recall the acting being decent, and felt there was enough there to keep my interest. Ana Torrent is not a household name, at least not in America, but I can imagine she’s been good in other stories, too.

The Ghost Effects

Ana Torrent and some of the better ghost effects in The Haunting. (The Haunting)

In a movie like this, the effects may not be everything, but they definitely count. While The Haunting ghosts aren’t the worst I’ve seen, they didn’t exactly knock my socks off, either. The problem is the usual suspect: CG animation.

In some sequences, I think the movement seemed a little too Ghostbuster-y, when subtlety would have been better. They were often too brightly lit, too, making it very obvious that they were animated.  Unlike something like Sharknado,   this is a movie that almost requires flawless special effects.

Some Beautiful Imagery

Picture from “The Haunting’s” IMDb page.

Regardless of my whining critique just now, there are beautiful images in The Haunting. Watch for decent landscape shots. Also, the filmmakers displayed a good eye for quality of color. So, even if you’re not attracted to every aspect of ghost stories, you might still watch this for the images. This movie had one interesting effect on me: For whatever reason, at times I was imagining sepia tones that weren’t even there. I feel weird typing that because I don’t understand it, but sometimes movies can have strange effects on people, visually. For me, this was one of those occasions.

The Final Word

I would say The Haunting is a decent movie, although I prefer J. A. Bayona’s The Orphanage. The Orphanage is scarier (or creepier), has similar themes and is more compelling overall. Actually, it might be interesting to compare the two, just like The Shining can be compared to The Amityville Horror.

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What are your thoughts? Did The Haunting linger in your mind, or did it scare you away? Let us know in the comment section below.