So you wanna see a haunted house??? and I'm sure you've seen all the shows on the television device. Ghost Hunters, Fear, TAPS, The View, everything's just as spooky as shit out there right now people. Go find yourself an EMF meter, maybe a tape recorder and a copy of Weird NJ and come on down to ghost town, the coolest town around. You too can have your very own ghost if you buy enough equipment or take enough photos or share pictures of orbs with one another over the net. So that's ghost hunting today and those are the haunted houses everyone's watching on the boob tube. I still haven't seen one that I believe is haunted but I've seen plenty of hunters worthy of an Emmy for their "reality television acting".
What about the haunted houses in your movies? Not the docu-drama epic TV show rip off documentaries focusing on people hearing suspicious bumps or seeing suspicious NOTHINGS AT ALL! Name your favorite haunted house movie. Where did it take place? Who acted in it? When was it made? Did it have Vincent Price? I bet it did, didn't it? Or maybe it had the number "13" in the title and also referenced... Ghosts. I really don't know what your very favorite HH (H^2?) movie is. Fact: I do not have ESP (get out your $249 ESP detector, fool). Maybe you really like the Haunting or the remake of the Haunting or House on Haunted Hill or the remake of House on Haunted Hill (blasphemer) or worse... the fucking sequel to the remake of House on Haunted Hill, but I think we are seeing a serious decline in the market for quality haunted abode pictures or at least change in what's going to get us scared of our own homes. Why? Read on. :Normally there'd probably be a commerical break here... I have no sponsors so I thought we should at least mention it almost films sometimes have "Intermission" in the middle... carry on:
Haunted house movies from the 1980's and back seem to deal with older, spookier houses. We've got houses of Colonial or Victorian origin, castles, mansions ... all of these are perfect for your scare o' second movie varietal of the haunted house ride at Morey's Pier. But wait a gosh darn second! Not all of us live in those. I, for one, have never lived in a house older than 1960's built. I can't truly identify with the terror of a ghost possession, an exorcism required to banish any age old demon or the HOUSE SIMPLY BEING A-FUCKING-LIVE! because I haven't lived in a house that looks like it could have had those things done inside its walls. My house at 5 Falcon Lane had plenty to be frightened of. Giant spider in the basement. Creepy sump pump in the basement. Creepy crawl space in the basement. Bad wallpaper in the bathroom and neon blue and red carpet. What I'm getting at, the real deal here is that most of us can't identify with the terror that goes on in any over sized pre-McMansion romp. I love those flicks but they don't make you scared to go to bed. They don't make me worry about what's around the corner, in the closet or in the toilet (don't ask). I certainly never think that it could actually happen to me (except the toilet part).
Moving on. The 1980's gave us the Gate, and we thank them for it whole-heartedly. It's beautiful. It's just as creepy as a creepy thing should creep, and, best of all, it has a record album being played backward revealing a secret message from a heavy metal band. Haunted House movie? Depends on your definition. The closest thing we have to a modern day haunted house picture seems to be this Paranormal Activity picture everyone's talkin' about. I'm sure there are others I've missed because I don't get out much. This is a movie that was a cult sensation, struck a chord with many who watched it (even though it wasn't that scary) and got some good box office numbers to boot. Why? Well it looks to be shot in a modern day, cookie cutter house in normalville America. I don't see anything strange about this house. The paint is on the walls and not peeling. Cobwebs are scarce. No dust or white sheets placed over furniture to protect furniture from dust. The house wasn't the site of an evil murder or beheading. Nobody killed their family there. It is obviously not the center of Hell. So I'm thinkin' we need to get the haunted houses in line with he modern times. Stop dating the house unless the house has been given your parents permission to court you. I love a good throwback haunted dwelling movie as much as the next freakshow, but it won't put the asses in the seats and Roger Corman has already done 'em all anyway(and done 'em awesome).
What scares us in Paranormal Activity could be just how normal (normal?) these people are and how normal their house is. I don't find this movie frightening. I'm a doctor (wanna play?). I do think that it has some very chilling scenes, and I can see why people jump out of their seat over it. Mrs. T never offered to put a camera in our bedroom to video record ghosts that I know of, but I guess people do that kind of thing, no? I mean, if I was a wealthy investor and could just go out and purchase a super expensive camera I'd probably film my gruesome ghouly neighbors, but I could see people trying this out for real and in their real modern house where there's no precursor to a haunting.
What about all those apartment of terror movies? Rosemary's not a haunting movie. Sentinel is but I'd never think of it that way and either way those are both old apartment buildings. Do you wanna go The Beyond? I didn't think so. I GIVE YOU... Troll. Yes, that's definitely more modern, got me as a kid (yes it did.... no really). Happy fam. New-ish building. I don't know if we'd call it a haunted house, but it has that home invasion feeling that some HH movies go for (it's certainly not the Entity, but you know what I mean). I bet more people live in apartments, projects etc then any other kind of dwelling place in America. Somebody get me the Census Bureau. These just aren't overly used in scaring you... not modern apartment living. It's scary enough (see comments about my neighbors). Somebody say Candyman for the fifth time and let's be done with this topic.
I'm really one for Indian Burial Ground movies myself. There's something more real in that I suppose. Put your house over a cemetery and I could see you getting the fuck, fucked out of you. I don't think they've really been classified as haunted house movies though. Poltergeist is right? I mean just because it's not a "ghost" or a "demon" it's still a haunting right? Maybe that's why Poltergeist gets us good. I would say the subterfuge is ruined by the fact that the Poltergeist follows them around from house to house or at least it loses it's haunted house movie status and leans more toward possession. One might argue that Paranormal Activity is a possession movie, but I think at this ripe old age I'm willing to accept the concept of cross pollination in my horror sub genres.
So where are we now that I've just wandered and sauntered down any number of assorted arguments for the re-invention of the modern haunted house? The world may never know. :Tootsie Roll Pop's got nothing on the Blog of Horrors folks: I guess I'd encourage our limited audience to do their house justice this Halloween. Take the homeowners association to task and create a beautiful nightmare association in your 1960-present cookie cutter house or in your semi-normal, only kinda creepy apartment complex. Halloween isn't just a door hanger holiday. Decorate. Take some pride in inventing a new era of scary houses that are modern but have an edge. You've got to find the inner haunted house INSIDE of your house.
Gonna wrap this fucker up with a little nostalgia from prepubescent Terror's Halloween past (I'm gonna make A Halloween Carol if you don't stop snickering at the concept of me in a Dracula outfit circa 1985). I'm walking down a street. Night. Halloween. There's a very loud scary sound fx loop running. I'm on the corner with no houses about to walk down the street filled with houses. All decorated. All 1968 and newer. Kids piled on door steps and every single one looks fantastic. I get so scared I almost would rather stay on the dark corner away from the conglomerate of houses than approach the houses with strobe lights and music blaring. Those were "haunted houses" and that's what we need in the movies today. The beauty and schlock of cheesy Halloween decorations filled with the unknown in an environment we are very comfortable in normally. Halloween, Satan's Little Helper. Trick or Treat... you know the movies that get this right.
Did I make my point? Re-invent or get the fuck out (I mean not really get out but just work with what scares the people and don't be afraid to use what ya live in)? Diagnosis: Replace the aging hip with no cartilage or don't walk at all.
-if there's surgery, there better be morphine drip - Dr. Terror abides
Special Thanks to all those ghost hunter television programs for taking my comments on the chin because I'm one of your biggest fans. Special thanks also to Weird NJ for keeping me up until 6am looking for Colby mansion only to find out it burned down, but Blair's Den was worth and if Black Betty is in the hills of central NJ... you're fuckin' high. But Shades of Death is still fun. And Ghost lake (ass kissing ends... now).
Further Screaming (like reading... only with your mouth open) on this topic:
-Castle Dracula From My Childhood
-Pants Wetting Haunted Houses
-Top 20 Haunted House Movies from OMG Horror