Friday, October 18, 2019

The Haunted

The Haunted
Robert Mandel

The Haunted is a made-for-television film that was broadcast on U.S. Fox affiliates in May of 1991. It is the dramatic retelling of the ‘Smurl Haunting.’ It follows a pretty standard plot for a haunted house film, the family moves into a house, there’s a ghost or demon there, and the family battles it. They bring in investigators, priests, and try to solve the problem themselves, but ultimately it’s the family's unity that helps them to survive.

The Haunted works as a horror story because it keeps its monstrous encounters sharp and strange. There is never a proper explanation for what has made the Smurl family a target. There is also horrific imagery that is quite striking, the best one being a shot of something flapping and raging around in the house while the family is away camping. There is also a demonic rape scene that comes as quite a surprise for a show meant for mainstream broadcast television.

The Ugly House Haunting would have been too on the nose for a title.

I honestly like the look of The Haunted, it has a very bland, flatly lit appearance. It in no way could ever be mistaken for a theatrical film. That blandness makes the demonic attacks feel even more out of place, it feels like Satan attacking a sitcom. The special effects occupy that unusual time period where video effects were bridging practical and CGI. They have a very distinctive look, not a terrible one, but one that is particular to this era of genre television.

“The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.”

This often-repeated line makes an appearance in The Haunted. What is interesting is that the film makes a similar trick happen. It would be very easy for someone watching this for the first time on television with the assorted distractions of commercials and things happening in their own house to see the religious elements grow more and more prominent in the story and eventually be the device that saves the Smurl family.

But they don't.

The truth is that all the attempts by the church, priests, the family, and the community fail to remove the demon. The priests that get involved are either ineffective or oblivious, screaming at the forces in the house from the family fails to stop anything, and no amount of candle holding and hymn singing by anyone from the church helps. Even legendary hucksters The Warrens (of The Amityville Horror and The Conjuring (2013) fame) are unable to help. The Smurls are still abused by whatever is in their house and it even follows them to their next house. The power of Christ compels you? Not so much it seems.

The Haunted is a great made-for-television horror film, it moves at a quick pace and offers some genuine chills. It is a haunted house movie that is very much worth checking out.

Watch the Haunted on YouTube!

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