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Blogoween 2020: Haunted Houses

Blogoween 2020: Haunted Houses Posted on 28/10/20202 Comments
Ahoy, hello! My name is Jenny. I am a thirty-something human female from Manchester in the north of England. I enjoy rainy days and sad songs, custard donuts and salt & pepper chips and beer, lentil dhal and fried okra, X-Files and Twin Peaks, fierce fat heroines and mental health advocates, dogs and cats and otters and a very special beirdo. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath: "I blog because there is a voice within me that insists on writing lots of ridiculous chuff".

Greetings, fronds! It is nearly Halloween!!! You may know that every year (ish) I make some blog post or other with movie/TV roundups. Like this:

I also did a vegan mofo horror film theme one year, which was a lot of fun! This year I’ve decided to do some sub-genre round-ups which I hope you will enjoy. These will be listicles of my favourite films that fit (more or less) into the following genres:

🏚️ Haunted Houses

📹 Found Footage

👿 The Devil

Prior to this year, all my previous lists had no repetition whatsoever, but this year I’m going easy on myself and allowing a few since some of those older posts are 4+ years old. And so to begin, in release date order, a round up of some of my most beloved movies featuring an abode that is haunted by…… something or other…

The Innocents (1961)

SPOILER ALERT IN THIS ONE!

I featured this in my vegan mofo post back on 19 September 2013. I also ate tacos which was an excellent dinner choice. Now, you may be more familiar with the most recent adaptation of the same novella that inspired this film, The Haunting of Bly Manor. That novella is Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. (You can actually read the whole thing online for free here if you want to.) Whilst Bly Manor was a perfectly adequate adaptation, and will probably live on as my second favourite thus far on account of the gay love story and the main characters of colour, The Innocents is by far the bestest of them all. And there have been a LOT of adaptations of this story. I think it’s difficult to truly adapt what makes the novella so horrifying in an ethical way as there’s a limit to how much you can ask a child actor to mimic a sexual deviant/sadist and rapist… But The Innocents was very escandalo in its day, and is fairly true to the original. One particular scene in which there is a kiss was QUITE shocking to audiences at the time, and Deborah Kerr (on the heels of having played an extremely wholesome character in The King and I in 1944) was a delightful horror in The Innocents as she became very, very slowly undone. This version no doubt benefitted from being co-adapted by Truman Capote, who so infrequently dipped his toes into the darker side of life, but did it so very well when he did. Of course, as in all good haunting tales, Miss Giddens is haunted by more than just ghosts, something I’ll come back to…

The Haunting (1963)

This is the first of two adaptations of one of my favourite novels that I’ll feature in this list, which is a little cheeky, but I’m doing it anyway. The novel is Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which I’m sure you also know from the Netflix adaptation. I enjoyed the Netflix version A LOT despite the fact that it veered rather significantly from the novel; I feel that it did so very respectfully and in honour of many of the original characters. It very intricately and expertly wove in the uneasy family ties and repressions palpable in the novel and explored them to very great effect. Once again, we see that adults -and children- can be haunted and horrified by more than just ghosts. I gasped, I sobbed, I was devastated on behalf of the characters. (Bly House didn’t have the same effect on me sadly.) It was a wonderful tale brilliantly told. BUT. The Haunting is a film that’s much truer to the narrative of the novel and is therefore worth a watch. A good ol’ fashioned haunted house story based on the original premise of a group of paranormal investigators coming together to spend a few nights in Hill House, to document what they find. It also, rather happily, stars Russ Tamblyn as Luke Sanderson (you might know him as Twin Peaks’ Dr Jacoby) who went on to play Nell’s psychiatrist in the Netflix adaptation (a pleasing nod to both the 1963 film and to Twin Peaks).

The Stone Tape (1972)

This is a bit of a wildcard addition as it won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s very of its time, so beware the casual xenophobia/racism of the laddish office worker characters, not to mention the casual misogyny too. However, I believe these were elements purposefully added to demonstrate the difficult circumstances the (woman scientist) main character is existing under, and the struggles she faces trying to convince her colleagues (and her ex-lover boss) that their new office HQ is haunted. Cue a very scientific investigation of the haunting which was pretty ahead of its time. It was written by Nigel Kneale and broadcast on the BBC in 1972. It’s a solid bit of scary Brit sci-fi, as was Kneale’s forte, and is RIPE for a remake these days if you ask me.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The second adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House on this list, I featured it in my movie round up in 2016. It vaguely follows the original concept, but does go rather off script at the end (I won’t ruin the twist for you). However, it’s a campy and full-colour 1970s delight and I am a complete sucker for anything that involves a paranormal investigation. The funnest part is that little Pamela Franklin who played Flora in The Innocents in 1961, now returns as an adult to play Florence in Hell House.

The Changeling (1980)

I also included this in my 2016 round-up and it remains one of my top ten horrors of any genre. George C. Scott adds the class/gravitas needed to turn this (fairly generic haunted house) narrative into something special and enduring. It has everything a good haunting tale should, including an absolutely top notch séance scene and bit of EVP creepiness. *Chef’s kiss*

Poltergeist (1982)

Another entry from my 2016 list of all time favourites, and still up there in my top three horrors I’d say. A rare and magical perfect storm of Steven Spielberg’s story, Tobe Hooper’s direction, excellent (for the time) SFX, and a palpable chemistry between all the main actors. My Mum used to tell me she just couldn’t watch this film anymore after having kids of her own, so I guess it does a pretty good job of portraying the agony that Carol-Ann’s parents are enduring throughout most of this film. I’m even partial to the sequels, I have to say, but nothing comes close to the first and best and one of the finest haunted house romps ever made.

The Innkeepers (2011)

A bit of a gap now as we jump to 2011, and yet another film from my 2016 round-up. I was enchanted by this film the moment I first saw it, and I’m extremely fond of all Ti West’s horror offerings (he’ll show up again once I get to Found Footage). He seems to have a bingo card of film genres and subgenres that he’s filling up, and I don’t mind one bit so far as he does such a marvellous job every time. This has (with the exception of a minute or two of Lena Dunham) ALL the right ingredients: likeable characters, a spooky story, some paranormal investigation, a medium, a finale that slaps you in the face, and the all-important question; what exactly is haunting these people, and is it really a ghost?

The Enfield Haunting (2015)

You might know this story from its 2016 adaptation in The Conjuring 2. When I was a ween back in the 1980s, the Enfield Poltergeist featured heavily in all my books of ghosts and spooky stuff. There was a delightful abundance of ‘evidence’ from the investigations by Harry Price and the Warrens that all translated very well into print, which was very compelling to 8 year old me… BBC’s infamous 1992 Halloween broadcast Ghostwatch (featured on last year’s round-up of spooky stuff) was clearly inspired by the Enfield Haunting, but you might have missed the very excellent 2015 Sky TV adaptation that came in three 45-minute chunks. Timothy Spall is typically tremendous as investigator Harry Price, and Matthew Macfadyen is perfectly charming as Guy Lyon Playfair, Price’s co-investigator, on whose book the adaptation was based. (You can buy the whole series on Amazon Prime or YouTube if you want to.)

Under the Shadow (2016)

Though there’s some debate to be had over whether this particular film fits neatly into this category or not, I think it’s fair to say that the main characters are haunted by something in their home, and the masterfully slow build will very uniquely lead you to your own conclusions. Against the backdrop of war-torn Tehran in the 1980s, there’s a lot that’s terrifying and disturbing to mother Shideh, whose husband has been called away to work as a medical doctor on the front lines. Most horror film heroines can flee safely from their homes into the night without having to worry about being arrested for indecency over the lack of a headscarf…. not so for Shideh. I love a good slow burn and a crescendo in a horror film, and Under the Shadow does both brilliantly.

My Amityville Horror (2013)

Slightly out of chronological order as an honourable mention, this documentary is a compelling investigation into the Amityville ‘hauntings’ from the point of view of little Danny Lutz, who isn’t so little anymore, and who carries much trauma from his childhood and his experiences in the Amityville home. Perhaps not for the reasons you think. I am extremely fond of the Amityville movies, and of course the original is a classing haunted house tale, but as I get older I become more uncomfortable with the exploitation of what was, at its core, a very sad reality of family disharmony, domestic violence, and murder. This is a great alternative, one that shows the very real impact of all the lore surrounding High Hopes on those who lived inside.

I hope you enjoyed this little round-up, friends, and I will see you tomorrow for: FOUND FOOTAGE.

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