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Sir Toose's Unholy House of Horrors

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"If these walls could talk...they would SHRIEK!"

In 1977 I was ten years old and my friend, Lisa Whiteman, sat next to me at lunch and told me the scariest ghost story I'd ever heard. I found out later that the story was comprised of bits and pieces of 'The Amityville Horror', the film, the book, the phenomena. The heightened awareness of this case during that time led me to a lifelong interest (and many a research project) in the events of 'the haunting' and in the events of the actual murders that took place in the house the year before.

Amityville II, The Possession, is a prequel to The Amityville Horror and it is a disturbing and, at times, scary film. While the film is indeed a work of fiction, it does borrow heavily from the actual DeFeo murder case.

On its surface, Amityville II appears to be another schlocky sequel with an eye toward capitalizing on the success of the first film. Undeniably, there are aspects to this that are true but to anyone familiar with case testimony the film will seem somewhat familiar territory.

Without divulging plot points I'll just state the facts of the case. A family moves into a house on Long Island, and as the family ages, the oldest son goes wayward and this culminates into a situation where everyone but the oldest son is dead.

In the murder case there are accusations of heavy paternal abuse, alcohol and drug abuse and incest. These are all covered quite well in the film and Burt Young, of Rocky fame, does an excellent job of playing the brooding and dangerous patriarch. Perhaps most disturbing to me remains the son's (Ronald Defeo, 'Sonny' in the film) testimony around the events of the night he killed his family and the few months prior. DeFeo spoke about mysterious happenings and about feeling like 'something was inside, moving me'. There was a lot of talk about his change in appearance (some say because of drugs) and the film really capitalizes on the creepier aspects of that testimony.

It was a huge story and remains (despite what many have heard) largely a mystery. If you do decide to watch the film, try ignoring some of the 'over the top' commercial aspects (explosions and such) and realize that many of the plot points are rooted in case fact.

An even better suggestion, for those so inclined, would be to locate and read a copy of Gerard Sullivan's High Hopes prior to viewing.

The Trailer:

"The time has come to tell the tale."

Somewhere along the line, in America, we've collectively decided that the time to tell ghost stories is in October. Personally, I've always been a fan of the winter ghost tale (a la Dickens) and particularly a fan of ghost tales around the yule log. There's something about the chilled quiet darkness of winter that enhances the whole experience.

Ghost Story is a winter's tale that's based (sometimes loosely) on Peter Straub's novel of the same name. In brief, it's a tale of vengeance and of being haunted (quite literally) by one's past.

In the tradition of Henry James, a group of successful life long friends meet on a regular basis to tell one another midnight tales. As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that they actually share a life event that out-horrors any story they could possibly tell.

As par for the course for this thread, I'll leave the plot points for you to discover. Suffice it to say, if you like my picks so far you'll like this one too. It's creepy, atmospheric, dark and spins a pretty decent yarn. Of course, the cast is outstanding, as is the score so it's easy to overlook the cons which include some early 80's special effects and a plot that some will find simple to decipher.

The Trailer:

"Dark water conceals darker secrets."

Dark Water is a remake of a 2002 Japanese film based on a story by Koji Suzuki (of The Ring fame). I really dig the Japanese way of telling horror stories because they don't try to explain the unexplained. They just kind of let it be as something unknown. In this particular story though, an explanation is offered in both the Japanese version and in the American version. There have been a number of these converted films particularly in the horror genre. Two that come to mind are The Grudge and The Ring. in both of those cases I thought the Japanese renditions were the better of the films, but in the case of Dark Water I would have to go with Walter Salles' American release.

I don't do plot points, but the gist of the story involves a young, newly single mother who is struggling, mentally and financially, with her new life. She suddenly has to take on much responsibility for herself that has always been done by others in her past. A case could be made for major portions of story serving as a metaphor for this woman feeling as if she's drowning.

Anyway, she ends up on Roosevelt Island in NYC which features some stark, utilitarian architecture that's frankly not in the best shape. I also think this entire backdrop serves as a metaphor for pretty much everything not working. I'll leave you to discover the events of the story but I will say that mother and daughter move in to their new place and some frightening things occur and they escalate in intensity. It's all very well done and Jennifer Connelly's performance is first rate.

The quality of story and the way events play out in the film are all above average, especially for a horror film. One of things I found very attractive about it though was the atmospheric and almost claustrophobic tension in some of the scenes. Add (literally) water to those goings on and I'm creeped out. I'm somewhat of a natural thalassophobic and also have a fear of large scale man made submerged objects (shipwrecks etc). Seeing houses with water in them is another thing that sets me off. There are many scenes where water seeps, drips, rushes into places where it shouldn't be and water (in a threatening capacity) is a major plot point in the film.

So, if you like mystery, dank & dark creepiness and films that make you wonder/think a little give this one a shot.

The Trailer:

Also, the parallels of this film (2005) to the recent and mysterious death of Elisa Lam (in 2013) are uncanny.

The Elisa Lam video (right before her death):