Sunday, October 7, 2018

Haunted House Movies

Today’s episode of Sounds of Cinema kicked off the month-long Halloween theme with a look at haunted house pictures. What follows are the movies discussed on today’s show as well as some additional titles.

The Amityville Horror (1979)
The Amityville Horror was based on the supposedly true story of a haunting experienced by the Lutz family in their Long Island home. The facts in the case have been a matter of dispute but that controversy only added to the mystery of the Amityville haunting. The 1979 movie was enormously successful and inspired a series of sequels although the follow ups had little to do with the original material. A remake of The Amityville Horror was released in 2005.

The Beyond (1983)
Lucio Fulci is one of the legendary directors in the horror genre. His movies were mostly known for their gore but he mounted ambitious productions on small budgets. Many of Fulci’s fans consider 1983’s The Beyond (also known as The Seven Doors of Death) to be the director’s masterpiece. The movie concerns a hotel constructed over a gateway to hell. At the time of its release, The Beyond was subject to censorship and like most of Fulci’s films it was critically derided but it has since achieved a modest reputation as a work of surrealist horror.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods was a high concept metafiction about the clichés and subgenres of horror. It was a witty and generally smart picture that was also a bit cynical about the attraction of horror for the audience. 

The Changeling (1980)
A man mourning the death of his wife and child rents an isolated mansion and is accosted by the spirit of a murdered child. Martin Scorsese named The Changeling one of his favorite horror films.

The Devil’s Candy (2017)
The Devil’s Candy is an exceptional example of domestic horror. The family relationships are the strongest element in the film. The father and daughter, played by Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco, share a love of heavy metal music and the soundtrack includes songs by Pantera and Metallica. This complements the film’s visual style which channels the demonic imagery of heavy metal album cover art. 

Hellraiser (1987)
The Hellraiser franchise is now synonymous with the character of Pinhead but the original movie is really a haunted house picture. A married couple move into the husband’s childhood home but the reanimated corpse of the husband’s older brother is living in the attic and he seduces the wife into bringing him victims so that he can regenerate the rest of his body. Hellraiser was one of the best horror pictures of the 1980s and it’s one of the best debut features by a director in the genre.

House (1986)
A troubled novelist moves into the home of his recently deceased aunt in order to complete his next book. The movie isn’t a horror comedy but some of the visuals are a bit silly in a way that makes the movie campy fun. Interestingly, House was produced by Sean Cunningham, director of Friday the 13th, directed by Steve Miner, who helmed Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3, and features a music score by Harry Manfredini, who scored Fridays 1 – 6.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Directed by William Castle and starring Vincent Price, The House on Haunted Hill tells the story of a millionaire who offers ten thousand dollars to five people who agree to be locked in a spooky house overnight.

Monster House (2006)
Monster House is a good example of a family movie that respects the intelligence of both kids and their parents. This is an animated film but it gets pretty intense and is thematically heavy while managing to be appropriate for the family audience.

The Orphanage (2007)
A couple renovates an orphanage into a home for handicapped children and their son plays with imaginary friends who might be ghosts. The Orphanage is a thoughtful haunted house picture. It may not deliver the shocks of a mainstream horror film but it does tap into something that is mysterious about childhood. The Orphanage was directed by J.A. Bayona who also directed this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The Others (2001)
Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, The Others is a very effective haunted house movie. The story concerns a mother and her two children who have an allergic reaction to sunlight. The mother maintains strict control over the household but her grip is disrupted by supernatural phenomena.

The People Under the Stairs (1991)
In the late 1980s and early 90s, Wes Craven wrote and directed a series of horror films for Universal Pictures. Among them was 1991’s The People Under the Stairs. The movie is fundamentally a haunted house picture but not in a supernatural sense. The story involved a young boy who breaks into his landlord’s house and discovers a terrible secret hidden in the walls. It’s one of Craven’s wildest and most entertaining pictures.

The Shining (1980)
Based on the book by Stephen King, The Shining has been adapted twice. The more popular version is the 1980 motion picture directed by Stanley Kubrick. This film starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as a married couple who spend the winter as caretakers of an isolated hotel and the husband gradually goes insane. King was unhappy with Kubrick’s film, as it diverged greatly from the novel, and he produced a made-for-television remake that aired on ABC in 1997.

Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist was a very intense and quite successful haunted house picture in which a family’s youngest daughter is abducted by ghosts. Released in 1982, the movie was rated PG but it is more intense than that rating suggests. Poltergeist inspired two sequels and a television series. A remake of the original film was released in 2015.

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