This was an interesting weekend.  My wife left me to my own devices while on a trip to Chicago to see the Dixie Chicks with her BF from college.  In the spirit of the 1990s, and after a conversation with an old friend (thanks, Conn), I decided to go slightly classic with this week’s movie.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t drinking wine this Ghost Night since I started off the day at a brewery and the first rule of drinking is to NOT mix your drinks unless you are a glutton for punishment; however, I will plug in the wine I had a few days ago.

THE MOVIE:  The Haunting (1999)

Full disclosure, I had to look up this movie before a recognized the name.  There have just been so many movies of similar name in the last 17 years that it didn’t stick out.  That being said, I did have an overwhelming “ohhhhhhh yeeeeaaaahhhhh” moment when I looked it up on Netflix.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record in my advocating for undervalued movies, I think this one is worth a couple hours of your time.  Okay, so the movie did not do well when it opened in 1999.  In fact, it was nominated for 8 Razzie Awards for everything from worst actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to worst screenplay, director, and picture.  That’s rough.  Sure it had some awkward uses of CGI by today’s standards and some questionable plot points, but it also had some stiff competition in 1999.  That year we had: The Blair Witch Project, Johnny Depp’s Sleepy Hollow, The Sixth Sense, Stigmata, End of Days, Lake Placid, the list goes on.  It’s easy to get buried in that lineup, especially when critics say it’s just a remake of a 1963 classic of the same name.

The premise is that you have Dr. Markway (Liam Neesen) who is researching fear responses by introducing research subjects who are “impressionable” to a creepy mansion.  It’s all very Ahab in search of his whale as he ignores professional ethics.  Little does he know, the mansion is actually haunted and capable of killing.  Enter the unlikely research subject named Nell (Lilli Taylor) who seems to have an unnatural connection with the spirits of the house, both malevolent and benign.  As things spiral downward, Dr. Markway (pronounced “Marrow” for some reason) and the others believe Nell is having a psychotic break until they experience the full wrath of the mansion themselves.

The Haunting has a lot of things that I really like as a storyteller.  First and foremost, this movie is loosely based on a novel by the same name by the brilliant Shirley Jackson; a book that has been said to be possibly the greatest ghost story of the 20th century according to Stephen King (tall words when I am a HUGE fan of The Shining).  We have classic misdirection of modern minds believing the supernatural is just in the head (a technique I LOVE using in my own work) and heavy nods to Edgar Allen Poe (both The Raven and Masque of the Red Death – find them, I dare you!).

When I say “loosely adapted” from the 1959 novel, it is just that, but in a good way.  In the novel, a group of paranormal investigators are led by Dr. Montague (essentially Neeson’s character) who sets up camp in Hill House with his psychic helpers, interfering wife and her companion.  All of the characters from the novel are present, but few in the same roles in an attempt to modernize the film and depart it from the 1963 version (successfully so, I think).  As a side point, one of the more scandalous parts of the novel and 1963 movie is Zeta-Jones’ character “Theo,” who is a lesbian.  Imagine this character in the 1950s and 1960s (hell, even the 1990s), not as a predator or stereotype, but as an independent and feminine person.  Jackson was ahead of her time in many ways with her novel, and I think Zeta-Jones did an amazing job.

This is a good movie that is worth another look.  If you like movies like House on Haunted Hill, this one is for you.

THE WINE: Radius Chardonnay 2013 (Washington State)

About $10 a bottle.

Again, I was a beer drinker on Saturday, so I reached back to the last bottle I had.  Cindy made a panzanella – olive oils and a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, onions, peppers, zucchini, etc), croutons and cheese (goat and blue).  It’s an Italian dish that is creamy and filling.  Considering the creamy nature and mild acidity from the tomatoes and onions, a Chardonnay was the way to go.  You want a crisp, sweeter wine to cut through and compliment in this case.

The Radius Chardonnay was sweeter than I expected when compared to other Chardonnays.  I would have mistaken it for a Riesling, but it worked for this meal.  It wasn’t overly sweet, but pushed it, with notes of pear, apple, and butterscotch on the backend.  It was definitely a buttery and mildly oaky Chardonnay, which I can get on board with.

This is a great bottle of wine if you aren’t accustomed to the dryer versions or have a date that doesn’t really like wine.  It’s sweeter, not pretentious, and not expensive.