Back in the early nineties I saw a made for TV movie that creeped me out so bad I didn’t sleep for a year and even today as an adult, scenes from that silly dramatization of supposed true events still gives me the shivers. Thanks for the nightmares, Sally Kirkland, you sexy high-pant wearing beauty.
This little gem from 1991 is based on a true story about an ordinary family that has to deal with extraordinary events. With an over abundance of paranormal movies, Discovery Channel documentaries and ghost hunting shows today, it’s easy to pass this movie off as lame and outdated but it couldn’t be furthest from. This has some genuinely creepy scenes that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. So let me tell you in 3,000 words what it’s about. If you don’t want to read it let me sum it up: evil spirits in a house and Sally Kirkland chain smokes.
I love films that begin with a quick blurb explaining how it’s more than just ghost story but a well documented true story. Very “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in the way it sets up the film and provides a creepy atmosphere. Shit, this movie could be about growing carrots and if it started this way, I would turn on the closet light.
Starring the great Sally Kirkland as Janet Smurl, we begin the story as the family moves into a duplex in West Pittson, Pennsylvania and the future looks bright. With two kids and their parents living in the other side of the duplex, this is a happy family and they quickly became active members in the community and their Catholic church. But there are strange happenings afoot and soon they will be in a battle with forces from the beyond.
Holy cats! I completely forgot that Jeffery DeMunn (Dale from The Walking Dead) was Jack Smurl and his personality is the exact same. I venture to guess that Jeffery is the same person as the characters he portrays. It seems that most male roles in a haunted house story are pretty similar; the guy doesn’t believe it, forced to finally confront the situation and then tries to throw a rock at a ghost. Keep reading.
Little things start to happen as they settle in and begin to renovate the house like tools disappearing and then reappearing, stains on the walls that bleed through the paint even though they had put thirty coats on it already, scotch tape found in the fridge, toaster fires, ect… Over all, not malicious but more mischievous in nature and just enough to have them believing they might be a little nuts. The proverbial shit doesn’t hit the fan until years later. Years later and male rape. What?
Now, this whole story is told in first person by Janet (Sally Kirkland) and as bizarre events begin to happen she is the only one who notices. Things come to a head when she is doing laundry in the basement. It is, in my book, one of the creepiest scenes that I can think of. While she is doing laundry her mother from next door calls her from the top of the stairs. Well, she thinks it’s her mother. As she responds and walks upstairs the same mimic-ed voice calls her name again. FROM BEHIND HER!
When she ran upstairs and to the other side of the duplex she was met by her mother and pissed off father, believing they overheard Janet and Jack sharing extreme profanity. Confused, Janet explained her husband is at work and she could not have possibly heard them talking.
I don’t know why, but that whole scene gives me the chills. It’s the little things that get me.
This is when Janet begins to fall apart and the stock for Virginia Slims skyrocketed. Her husband can’t understand why she looks like a victim in an episode of “Cops: Crazy Bitches of the Midwest” and her requests to move because of ghosts were met with a “no way, José”. She was alone with some pretty spooky happenings. But, the rest of the family was about to join the party.
Soon the malicious spirit gets bored enough with Janet to start picking on her mom. When they both acknowledge that a pig-snorting vaporous black mass has been hanging out in their living rooms, a sense of relief comes over Janet. That’s good news but the tough sell will be the husbands. The men are always the problem, am I right girls?
Janet needs not to worry because one of the…the…you know what? I am just going to get say it. Jack gets raped by the demon. I am serious. It’s a male rape scene that defies my understanding of mechanics. If he wasn’t into it, I don’t think it would have happened. Especially the morphing fat-girl trick the demon seemed to pull on him. Jack might have issues.
At their wits end, Janet and Jack finally seek help through the church and invites their local pastor to come bless their house. Much like Amityville Horror, the priest gets a brutal brush with the devil and he quickly decides that being a complete pussy is the answer. He leaves and later when asked to return he pretends to be a Walmart greeter.
With little help and their family under attack, Janet seeks out demonologists to investigate their problems. Which is pretty funny because all they did was confirm that they have a problem with ghosts. Another day and another paycheck in the life of a demonologist, I suppose.
With screams and flashing lights, cabinet doors slamming and beds flipping, the family needed a break. They went camping. No shit, they are facing extreme life threatening circumstances from unseen evil forces but taking a break to make s’mores and sing songs by the campfire seemed like the right thing to do.
You know what? Ghosts like to go camping too! While they are enjoying their fire and NOT TELLING GHOST STORIES an unexpected guest floats up. Jack did the only thing he could.
Jack threatens to throw a rock at the specter. I guess shit always seems to happen when you don’t have a proton pack, right? Rocks are the logical second choice.
Meanwhile, the scene cuts to their house going bat-shit crazy and the neighbors seem concern. I don’t know why, but that also sticks in my mind from years ago and has severely creeped me out. Something about a house that’s suppose to be vacant and…not? I don’t know. It’s a me thing.
Finally they get a priest to exorcise the house. Not really sure why they didn’t do this to begin with but then again, this would be a short movie. And it seemed to work! For a while.
Actually, it didn’t do anything but make it worse. With no other option and already Jack raped, it was time to go to the media. Because when you go to the press saying you have ghosts, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
Yeah, you turn into a pariah. I don’t know why they decided to do that but long story short, it wasn’t the ghosts who finally drove them from their home but the constant harassment from media and ghost enthusiasts. They moved and yet again there was hope that life would return to normal sans the evil entities.
We end the movie with the family leaving their town and the house that was built on satanic worshipping ground. They move into a non-haunted house this time and everyone seems to be just swell. And then…
The damn ghost follows them and pulls the ol’ “pretend to be mom” move that creeped me out from before. We fade to black as Sally Kirkland stares in disbelief and sounds of pig growls lead us to believe that they are forever screwed might as well get used to having an invisible father-raping ghost that hides scotch tape in the fridge.
I know this was a terrible review of a surprisingly good made for TV movie from the early nineties. It has some genuinely creepy scenes that will stay in your head especially when you have to pee at 3am. It’s late and I finally am not concerned about letting people know about The Haunted. The whole movie is available on YouTube so I highly recommend giving it a whirl. You’ll lurv it.
I give it four pants out of five.