It’s October, so that means audiences seek out stories of horror both old and new. One common trope is the haunted place, typically a house but it can be any location where someone has died in an extremely violent or tragic manner. Here is a selection of films (and one tv series) that I think present hauntings in an exciting and sometimes very different way.
The Innocents (1961)
Written by William Archibald, Truman Capote, and John Mortimer
Directed by Jack Clayton
Based on the novella by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw, this adaptation tells the story of Miss Giddens, a governess who has just arrived at a remote estate in the countryside to care for a wealthy bachelor’s orphaned niece and nephew. The children’s behavior is extremely questionable, and Giddens finds herself attempting to uncover what is driving them to such bizarre extremes. Eventually, she learns of dark events that took place before her arrival between members of the staff and the specters that remain as a result. There are some deep psychological levels to this story beyond the ghosts and this masterfully written, and directed film will linger with you for a long time after viewing it.
Session 9 (2001)
Written by Brad Anderson and Steven Gevedon
Directed by Brad Anderson
It’s not a house this time, but an abandoned mental asylum. An asbestos removal crew is brought in to do their work with a week deadline. The owner, Gordon is experiencing a severe amount of stress in his personal life, having just become a father and getting into arguments with his wife. One the crew uncovers the session recordings of an infamous patient, Mary Hobbes, a woman who butchered her family on Christmas morning decades prior. One crew member begins listening to this series of reel to reel recordings while strange events befall the rest of the workers. Gordon starts to hear voices in the darkness calling to him. None of them are aware that their week won’t end with them finishing up the job.
The Innkeepers (2011)
Written & Directed by Ti West
Ti West is a sort of modern horror phenom, finding ways to be true to the traditions of horror yet find new angles and approaches to the genre. In The Innkeepers, we’re presented with incredibly slow burn tale of the final night the Yankee Peddler, a colonial-era inn that is closing the next morning. Claire is stuck working the night shift with Luke, expecting no one to show up…that is until someone does, a medium. The arrival of the psychic seems to coincide with the appearance of murdered guests and strange noises coming from empty rooms. Claire ventures further into the unknown as the night progresses having no idea how deeply tied her fate is to the Yankee Peddler.
Written & Directed by Mike Flanagan
Here we have the story of a haunted tunnel, a passage that most people in the neighborhood use when they are out jogging or for a walk. Callie has come to stay with her sister Tricia, a woman who has finally accepted her husband’s death after he vanished seven years ago. While out for a run, Callie comes across the tunnel and meets a haggard-looking old man who is surprised she can see him. He begs her to find his son, but she is spooked and runs off. This sends Callie spiraling back into her old habits of drug abuse. At the same time, Tricia has begun a relationship with the detective over her husband’s case. What neither sister realizes is that something is coming from that tunnel that will plague them, haunting them with losses from both their pasts.
Channel Zero: No-End House (2017)
Written by Nick Antosca, Harley Peyton & Mallory Westfall, Don Mancini & Erica Saleh, Katie Gruel, Lisa Long, and Angel Varak-Iglar
Directed by Steven Piet
This second season of SyFy’s Channel Zero anthology series was phenomenal. Based on a classic creepypasta tale, we follow Margot who is grieving the tragic death of her father. Her friend Jules returns from college and during one night of hanging out they receive invitations to the No-End House, a pop-up building that everyone views as an unexplained art installation. Inside, the two women experience a series of deeply personal and upsetting scares, nothing like a typical haunted house attraction. Then they exit finding the world empty and head home. Margot does find an occupant in her home that causes her to question reality and Jules seems to be the only person with the urgency to find the real exit.