This is without a doubt one of my favorite horror movies of all time. It’s a perfect blend of two directors’ styles Tobe Hooper and Producer Stephen Spielberg. They take a simple haunted house story and give it some fresh life…so to speak. This movie includes so many subgenre’s that it transcends classification. It’s ghost story for sure, but it’s also a home invasion film, a child abduction thriller, as well as a creepy supernatural family film.
How will we ever be able to forget the first time we saw beautiful little Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne turn away from a TV screen filled with snow and say in her sweet little sing songy voice, “They’re Heeeere!” Or JoBeth Williams as her mother, Diane, shouting, “Carol Anne-listen to me. Do NOT go into the light!” Or tiny little Zelda Rubinstein saying, “Now, clear your minds. It knows what scares you.” Or “This house is clean.” Just so many iconic moments. I could go on and on, but it’s usually best to let the film speak for itself.
I showed this movie to a bunch of my Taiwanese students one night late after lights out on a weekend when they were all supposed to be sleeping. About twelve of them and the dorm parents sneaked into my room and we watched it. And all these years later, it still scared the crap out of them. The funny thing was they couldn’t understand what the TV snow was all about. They grew up in a world where TV stations didn’t sign off and stop broadcasting at the end of the day. They couldn’t imagine a TV without something to watch on it in their world of 700 channels to choose from.
Anyway, the link I’d like to talk about is another one of our Five Fears that horror movies tap into and in this movie it’s our Fear of Separation. Usually horror movies are set in isolated locales because it reinforces the fact that we are alone or separated from those who may help in the case of an emergency…or a zombie apocalypse…whichever the case may be. But Hooper flips that one its ear and sets this film smack dab in the middle of well…middle America in a suburban sprawl with loads of neighbors, yet this family (aptly named the Freelings) are anything but free, especially after daughter Carol Anne (who has been talking to these “TV People”) is abducted – separated from her family, her home, and her safety.
The fact that these ghosts have a legitimate reason to be there and be pissed about being there is another level that makes this movie so good. The ghosts themselves have been separated from their final resting place for a reason. And even though the Freelings aren’t the ones responsible, they are the ones present…and as they say in Real Estate, it’s all about 3 things – location, location, location!
Films that place people in situations where they are disconnected from comfort and safety, from civilization’s rules and expectations, from family and loved ones…are the ones that we can all relate to. This fear is prevalent in many other genres as well because it’s such a universal fear.
FOOTNOTE: R.I.P. Heather. You were taken from us too soon, but you will always be remembered fondly. Even sadder footnote: They’re making a remake of this movie. Why?