Haunted house stories, writing… a comparison.

The Amityville Horror
The Shining
Hell House
The Haunting (of Hill House)

“The Amityville Horror” got a lot of press because it was “a true story” and all of that. It really wasn’t all that good in my opinion, and only it’s status as “real” made it of any interest. When I read it I remember thinking it was the most uncoordinated haunting I’d ever read about. Seeing through walls, black gunk in the toilet, missing money, glowing red eyes, what the heck? It doesn’t hang together, there’s no *theme*, just a bunch of disconnected happenings.

“The Shining.” Ah, haunted *hotel*. Now we’re cookin’. Hmmm. Not really sure if the dad was nuts before he got there, or if the place made him wacky. The idea of haunting being like an electrical charge, and the hotel wanted Danny and his shining to give it enough boost to break loose. Cabin fever, hidden history, going for the weak points… yeah. The family dynamic, the idea of “Tony” giving Danny advice from the future. Not bad.

“Hell House.” Can’t go wrong with Richard Matheson. Ghosts as an electromagnetic phenom. The creepy history making it the “Mount Everest of haunted houses.” The characters and weak points to be exploited, the clues to assemble and the ultimate secret to discover. It had everything Amityville lacked, and paid off with a lot of action.

“The Haunting.” Hey, don’t show *anything*. I’m speaking of the book, the play, and the older movie. I try to pretend the new film never happened. Having it “narrated” by Eleanor’s internal monologue. The parallels in personal history and house history. Nothing is seen but turning doorknobs and a bulging door. Loud noises and a little girl crying. Carvings and wallpaper that become faces when you look at them long enough.

Different approaches to a classic concept. “Hell House” and “The Haunting” even resemble each other in the situation presented, but they aren’t anything alike.

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