Top 5 Haunted House Movies – Number 2

Continuing our countdown of the top five haunted house horror movies of all time:

2. Poltergeist (1982) Dir: Tobe Hopper

Carol Ann Touching The TV

Carol Anne Touching The TV

Everyone’s favourite director of power tool related massacring films knocked it out of the park with one of the most recognisable family haunted house films, Poltergesist.
The film follows a family as they move into a new house unfortunately built on an Indian burial ground-I’d be asking for a new conveyancing solicitor! The ghost like presence in the house focuses on the youngest child played by Heather O’Rourke who unfortunately passed away some years later.
The tension is built methodically with minimal activity at first building as the house takes hold of the family. Where Poltergeist is so effective is the use of a family unit, the threat of the destruction of the family through the torment of the spirit is every parents nightmare especially with centring the attention on the younger child, Carol Anne.
The film, tightly directed by Hooper became the subject of much speculation that the films producer, Steven Spielberg had actually took over directing duties. An unfair comparison when looking at Texas Chainsaw Massacre and how tension is handled in that film compared to Poltergeist, both have a lingering under tension, an ongoing sense of imminent destruction and a break down and rebuilding of a family unit. If anything the slickness of the look of the film makes it look more Hollywood when perhaps it would have been even scarier had Hooper done it on a no budget.
Either way Poltergeist remains the pinnacle for haunted house films in modern Hollywood both for its handling of rising drama and its use of the archetypal American family to engage the audience.

Top 5 Haunted House Movies – Number 4

Part of our infrequent series detailing the top five greatest ever haunted house movies.
4.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982) Dir: Damiano Damiani
Spooky House For Sale

Still from Amityville 2

Everybody’s favourite haunted house movie franchise is back! The sequel (or rather prequel) to 1979’s The Amityville Horror recounts the story of what happened to the original family who moved into the real life New York house. Built on a site of an Indian Burial ground the family start having strange occurrences round the house, nothing to get too alarmed about – every new house has it’s faults. The real problems start happening when the oldest son, Sonny starts to hear voices through his Walkman leading to him possession by an unnamed demon. All good stuff!
The film was helmed by Italian Exploitationer Damiano Damiani, usually at home with Spaghetti Westerns or Euro-cop thrillers which seems an odd choice but what he brings is that Italian style that makes the film feel a lot more raw and certainly a lot more close to the bone that the original Hollywood film. The film centres more around Sonny and his relationship with the spirit than it does the house and it’s grip over the family but this leads to a more interesting dynamic held together by Jack Magner who plays Sonny, strangely he only had one other bit part in 1984’s Firestarter after this.
The film looks nowhere near as slick as the 79 version and jump out of your seat scares are few and far between but the impending sense of dread as the family unit begins to disintegrate is nail tearing stuff. Where the film loses pace is three quarters through where we get into the legal ramblings of why Sonny did what he did but what we have to consider is this is based on an actual case and to leave out the follow up to the incident would seem inappropriate (no matter how far stretched the truth is).
A lot of people would argue that the original film is a superior film and it is true to an extent, certainly technically and narratively but all good haunted house films should suck you in and ratchet up the tension rather than opting for cheap I Know what you did Last Summer scares, in this case Amityville II stands head and shoulders above it’s counterparts.
Ben.