A Bloody Good Time 11.29.12: A Guide To Surviving A Haunted House Movie
Posted by Joseph Lee on 11.29.2012
For God's sake, get out!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
I realize that two weeks ago I promised that I'd be back next week, but I wasn't thinking about the holidays. Anyway, I'm back now, so we can get rolling with our regularly scheduled content. That tournament was a lot of fun, and I do plan on doing another one next year.
Before I get to this week, I have a plea to my readers. The end of the year is fast approaching and that means the best of 2012 horror column is also coming up. I'm going to be completely honest. This year, Hollywood has not stepped up. I've got maybe three to four big budget Hollywood movies that could potentially make the list and then a lot of crap both mainstream and indie. So I need your help. Have you seen a really kick-ass horror film from this year that I need to check out? Let me know in the comments! I'm cultivating a list and will soon marathon these things over the weeks to make this list all the better. Here's what I have from your suggestions last time, so you don't suggest the same movie again: Excision, Cockneys vs Zombies, V/H/S, Sushi Girl, American Mary, Found, Father's Day, Killjoy Goes to Hell. I may not get to all of these (as I still have my own list on top of it), but at least they're on my radar now. If you have more, please suggest them!
This week, I'm going to provide a sequel of sorts to a column I did last year. I provided A Guide to Surviving A Horror Movie Road Trip. Well if you've decided not to go on that road trip, you could still be in danger! So now I'll give you a helpful guide to surviving in a haunted house movie!
#1: If anything supernatural happens, move out immediately!
Examples: Insidious, Sinister, The Amityville Horror
This should prevent you from even having to worry about the other rules on this list, but people are stubborn and may not follow it. It seems that in most haunted house movies, whenever something crazy happens, the people will not simply leave the house. Sometimes they aren't allowed to leave and sometimes not everyone in the house notices the paranormal (we'll get to that). But if you see things levitating or if a voice tells you to "GET OUT", then for God's sake, get out!
You saw this in Insidious. The wife thought the house was haunted so the husband, even not believing her, decided they should move out. As it turns out, that didn't help, but they had the right idea! In The Amityville Horror, all of the Lutz' problems end once they get away from the house. If you don't live there and have the means to leave, it should be an even easier decision. The people that would think less of you for leaving are probably going to stay and get themselves killed anyway.
#2: Check the house out before you move in.
Examples: The Amityville Horror, Sinister, A Haunting in Connecticut, House
This would also save you a lot of grief in the long run. Have you ever noticed that in haunted house movies where the family just begins to move in, they act like they've never seen the place before? When does that ever happen? Don't you normally check the place out before deciding if you want to buy it? Apparently in the world of horror movies, people like to blind buy homes often, or at least not check it thoroughly before they take up residence. Of course in some cases they'll notice odd things and move in anyway. People are very, very stupid when it comes to ghosts in horror movies.
There's always some strange room or some old, possessed object that is just waiting to cause trouble. At least in Poltergeist they had no idea that the house was buried on a graveyard and had no way of knowing. That's why Craig T. Nelson gets so pissed when he finds out they didn't move the bodies. He was one of the smart ones. You should look over every nook and cranny in your new home and even inspect the backyard to make sure something's not going to come back and bite you later. This isn't a guaranteed way to stay safe, but it will help a lot.
#3: If someone tells you that a murder happened in the house, do not move in!
Examples: Sinister, The Amityville Horror, The Grudge, Halloween 6
This goes along with the previous rule. If you're smart and doing your research (and you weren't lied to or aren't a total jerk), you'll learn about what happened in the house. If you're able to force a Realtor to admit that someone died in the house where you're going to live, don't live there. If you know of an old house where murders happened, don't ever go in. Even if it's not haunted, why would you ever want to live somewhere where someone died? In a horror film, the house will always be haunted. Unless of course you're in a Michael Myers movie, but you still have to worry about him coming back to where he once lived.
This also applies to finding out the house was on an old Indian burial ground, graveyard or the site of any satanic or religious practices of any kind. When it comes to a horror film, religion really doesn't help. More often than not, it's just going to make the evil forces angry. But if someone performed a satanic ritual on the property, it will have riled up some demons or spirits. It's inevitable. Don't go into a house where this has happened because it won't end well for you.
#4: Be observant.
Examples: Paranormal Activity 2, The Messengers, The Shining
You know what would save your life? Paying attention to the world around you. If you paid attention to the noises and weird things happening in the place you're staying, then you'd notice how weird they are and proceed to take off. But the people in haunted house movies ignore the problem until it's too late. Usually someone else will spot it first leaving our main character completely oblivious until it's too obvious to ignore.
In Paranormal Activity 2 (and it's even worse in the other sequels), certain members of the family will ignore anything going on or brush it off. This was really bad in Paranormal Activity 4 when they wouldn't even listen to the evidence that would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. In The Shining, Wendy just chalks Jack's problems up to cabin fever and doesn't pay any attention to the fact he's a completely different person or that their son claims he saw a naked dead woman. These are things you should be on the lookout for.
#5: Do not touch any strange objects or read from any strange books.
Examples: Cabin in the Woods, The Possession, The Evil Dead, Sinister
People have a habit in these movies of assuming that if something is in a house that probably shouldn't be there, or looks really old/strange, that they should touch it. If it's a book, even if they can't read the language, they'll try to read it out loud. You should never, ever do this. Even as a joke, do not read demon summoning spells. Even out of curiosity, do not read Latin passages. Do not touch the strange box with no openings. Do not solve weird puzzle boxes. Don't watch a box of films that has no place being in your attic. Just don't touch anything.
If you do find something horrific, your best bet would be to just get rid of it. This involves touching it, but only long enough to make sure it is gone. I'd say to just kick it in a corner and hope it never sees the light of day but then your friend or kid is going to find it and cause everything to go down. Your best bet would be to destroy it, if you can. Even then you're likely to just release the forces inside. So don't touch it. Hire a mover to come in and take it away. Throw it in the back of a garbage truck. Let them deal with it. At least you and your family are safe.
#6: Do not taunt the entity.
Examples: Paranormal Activity, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors
If I may speak for everyone else...the reason people hated Micah was not that he wanted to film the activity. While it involved him making some stupid decisions, that's not why I hated him. No, I hated him because he was an idiot and thought taunting the malevolent force, just so he could see some crazy stuff happen, was the worst possible move he could have made. How dense do you have to be to see that there is an evil force and provoke it in to getting mad enough to kill you? Do you just have a death wish?
Even if you think you have the upper hand, don't taunt the ghost. As entertaining as Kincaid calling Freddy a "burnt-face pussy" in Dream Warriors was (it's not really a haunted house movie, but Freddy is kind of a ghost, right?), all it did was give Freddy more motivation to kick his ass later. Taunting the evil forces will also just make them focus their energy on you. Sure, that gives the people with you the chance to escape, but unless you're all about self-sacrifice you should just shut up. No one likes a jerk, not even ghosts.
#7: Forget about evidence.
Examples: Paranormal Activity series, Sinister, The Innkeepers, Poltergeist, One Missed Call
Honestly, who cares if there is proof that ghosts exist? You have all the proof you need as it picks up your bed and levitates it through the ceiling. Maybe you're getting proof so people won't think you're crazy, but who cares what people think? You're alive. If you're getting the proof so you can be famous, your priorities are screwed up. Micah's famous now..and Micah's also dead. The people who want to find evidence of the paranormal are just provoking it by sticking around to make sure they can get it on video, or photos, or whatever.
If you're one of those in a haunted house movie who just has to have factual proof, then congratulations, you're going to get it. The people like that in these movies are almost always successful. But there are also chances that the evidence isn't going to convince anyone, should you make it out alive and get to show it to people. Ghosts and demons don't want to be on camera. They're not interested in people knowing they exist unless they're going to torture or kill those people. So if they're showing themselves to you, then you're in trouble.
#8: Keep an open mind.
Examples: Poltergeist, The Haunting in Connecticut, Paranormal Activity sequels, Insidious
There's a good chance you will not see the evil spirits first. It could be your pet, it could be your kid or it could be your spouse. The chances are even greater that it won't be you if you are an adult male. However, if your teenage daughter swears there is something strange going on, don't just assume she's smoking "the pot" or whatever, at least hear her out. I'm not saying to automatically believe her, because she could be just hyperactive. What I am saying is that if she says she has proof, don't write her off and go about your day. Look at the proof and make an informed decision.
So many people die in horror films because they are incredibly stupid. Of those stupid people, at least 3/4 are stupid and stubborn, which is a bad combination. At least in Insidious, Patrick Wilson moves out. Like I said before, he didn't even believe his wife. But she believed, and that was enough for him to know something is up. If you don't listen then you're not being observant, and that will get you killed. At the end of the day, use some common sense and don't be a jerk. That's what all of these rules amount to.
#9: It would probably be best if you just didn't try to contact the dead at all.
Examples: Book of Blood, Paranormal Activity, The Exorcist, Witchboard, Poltergeist, White Noise
This goes back to the statement about not trying to find proof, but you could also have ignored the first rule and decided that maybe the ghosts are friendly. It's also possible that you think that by talking with the ghost you can find out what it wants and reason with it. If you're in a horror movie, this is not going to happen. The ghost is going to get angry. The demon is going to possess you. If you're using an Ouija board, it's likely to open up a gateway and invite spirits in. Trying to bridge the gap between the living and the dead only benefits one of those sides, and it's not the person with the beating heart.
It doesn't matter what your motivation for contacting the dead is, it rarely works out. I mentioned Witchboard because it's not even a haunted house movie at first. It becomes one because Tawny Kitaen is an idiot and has to keep contacting the dead spirits. She gets tricked and lots of people die. In Paranormal Activity, Micah uses a board and it ends up getting set on fire. The dead do not want to talk to you. If they do, then it's very rare that anything good will come of it. Everyone wants to know about the spirit world, but if you play around with forces you don't understand, you'll learn about it very soon.
#10: If the ghost is trying to warn you, listen to it!
Examples: Pet Sematary, The Amityville Horror, The Changeling
For this rule to happen you would have had to ignore the previous one, but some people are stubborn, as I've said. If you've somehow broken every other rule on this list and are in contact with a dead being, but it turns out to be friendly, then you should definitely hear what it has to say. Because in a horror film, a friendly ghost is just there to warn you of your own impending doom. It's a ghost, it should know about the evils of the supernatural and how it relates to you staying alive. Don't you think you should put a little stock into what this spirit is telling you, since it probably knows a lot more than you?
In Pet Sematary, Louis never listens to Pascow. Not once. You saw what happened there, and that's not even a haunted house movie! In The Changeling, John actually does listen to the ghost and as a result he solves a murder. But that's the exception, not the rule. Even if the ghost is malevolent and is telling you to get out, that's pretty good advice. The spirits clearly do not want you there and you should listen. When the dead speak, they should not be ignored.
That's it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, we have a top twenty list to start before I get to my end-of-the-year stuff. I've decided to look at the best "minor" characaters in film. I'm talking about the really entertaining or awesome characters that are in the movie for only a scene or two. It should provide for some fun discussion.
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