website, blog and vanity nexus of writer R F Brown

Posts tagged ‘families’

THE SOUL IN STUFF – flash essay by RF Brown

cabinet.rfbrown

When you lose your mother but you inherit a headache. My thoughts on grief and “things” in a flash essay appears in Variety Pack, Issue 1: http://www.Varietypack.net

Before my mother died from a long cancer struggle she had many infirm months to reckon the future of family heirlooms. My husband and I traveled across the country to Colorado for the last goodbye, and after Mom’s memorial we had to solve getting our assigned heirlooms home to Rhode Island…. https://varietypack.net/issue-i/

 

 

Haunted Home

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club.Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Burnt Offerings

The literary antecedents of the haunted house movie go back  to 18th and 19th century gothic novels and the underlying mythological matter probably from further than that.  I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies this month and hadn’t fully realized how frequently the device of the haunted house is used.  Real estate marketing parlance has infected our contemporary culture in the use of  the word home for house, to conflate an ideal with a place.  The idea being that home is about values – family, comfort, safety, legacy – and that a house is the thing that will provide all of that for a negotiated  price.  It doesn’t.  The home/house conflation is a hollow notion.  Maybe that’s why when talking about movies where people find their new place occupied by restless dead people, demons, and unsettled spiritual grudges we prefer not to have the residence of these terrible stories called a haunted home.  The haunted house as depicted in Burnt Offerings I think symbolizes a deep uneasiness with the excepted idea that for every family, house is where the home is; that the values of home can always to be found through accumulation and consumption.

some unseen force tears this family asunder

The family of Burnt Offerings isn’t wealthy.   They are a  middle-class family stumbling across a home that is not too nice for them, but rather too much, too big.   When they assume the role of being able take control of the house, they discover too late that the house is consuming them.   Marian and Ben, with their teenage son and septengenarian aunt in tow rent a neglected and decaying gothic mansion as their summer getaway.  They are told by the off-beat  sister and brother who own the house that the couple can have it all summer for $900.  They only need the couple to provide care for their invalid mother who resides in the attic.   Marian volunteers to be the one who looks after the old woman and set meal trays outside her locked door.  The family moves in, but Marian begins to be obsessed with the photographs and antiques and spends long periods in the old woman’s parlor.  She overreacts when the the boy accidently breaks a crystal bowl and admonishes him not to touch “beautiful things.”  Meanwhile Ben begins to be feel depresssed.  He and Marian stop having sex.  He is haunted by terrifying memories of his mother’s funeral.  He has disabling visions of a old fashioned hearse driven by a creepy, spectral  chauffeur .  Ben’s disorientations lead to a scary incident where he uncontrollably tries to drown his teenage son in the swimming pool.  The aunt, at first animated and full of vigor, quickly declines into lathargy and ill health.  As the family falls to pieces, the aging old house starts to repair itself; the gardens bloom and the shingles and siding literally fall off like old skin to be magically replaced by fresh painted materials underneath.  The house thrives like a destructive parasite on the family’s youth and vitality.  The family is dying physically and emotionally, so that the house can live.  By the time they figure out it’s the  house that’s killing them, they also learn that the house will not allow them to leave.  The dream house becomes a prison and a death trap.

It’s a critique on the idealization of American dream. In trying to live the dream, this family learns that the cost isn’t just $900 for the summer, but the hidden costs of moral and familial values that would make such a dream worth living.  Even if you don’t buy into the critique, Burnt Offerings is still a great horror movie.  The scenes with the ghost hearse and the family trying to escape are all effectively frightening.  But the growing uncertainty in what these formerly nice people are going do to each other, as their inner rage manifests, is the scariest part.

Burnt Offerings (1976, Dan Curtis)



BSD Halloween Movie Club: Amityville II, The Possession

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club.

Watch today’s movie and posts your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Amityville II: The Possession (1982, d. Damiano Damiani)

If you’re a fan of the original Amityville Horror movie from 1979 or the 2005 remake, this sequel is the prequel.  If you’ve never seen The Amityville Horror, this one works as a stand alone as well.  The first Amityville Horror was based on the  terrors of the Lutz family who moved into the Long Island, pumpkin-eye windowed, Dutch Colonial house unaware that it had recently been the site of the grizzly Defeo family murders.  Amityville Possesssion is drawn from the story of the Defeos, although there isn’t any reference to the Lutz incidents and there’s no indication in the script or art direction of time setting.  The real Lutz incident is to have taken place in 1975; the preceding Defeo murders in 1973.

Standing in for the Defeo’s are the fictional Montelli’s, who also purchase the Amityville house for a dime and soon become the surprised victims of it’s aggressive behavior.  Then the teenage son is overtaken by a demon and goes on a shooting rampage inside the house.  A family priest feels responsible for not trying hard enough to save the family.  The priest kidnaps the teenager from police custody and takes him back to the house to perform an unauthorized exorcism, a dramatic showdown between good and evil.

Amityville Possession is a paint-by-number haunted house movie, another in a long list of The Exorcist copycats, and you don’t need a degree in psychology to break down the obvious metaphor between evil spirits and sexual temptation.  However, they did a great job with scary effects and sound.  Also,  there are some big surprises in the last third of the movie that all happen after family is murdered.

If you want to watch The Amityville Horror before or after, the 2005 version is an excellent remake, made almost beat-for-beat, accept for the ending.  I prefer the 1979 version because the filmmaking is grittier. Rod Steiger is great as the family priest and James Brolin is a slow-boiling kettle of phycho.

There are a also a bunch of Amityville sequels I haven’t seen.  Some apparently continue the story of the house, some are just sponging from the name.  A guy buys a stapler from the Amityville house estate sale and now his office is haunted sort of thing:

Amityville 3D: The Demon (1983)

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989)

The Amityville Curse (1990)

Amityville: It’s About Time (1992)

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

Amityville Dollhouse (1996)

Feel free to comment on this post if you know any of these to be good.

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The Amityville Horror (1979, d. Stuart Rosenberg)

The Amityville Horror (2005, d. Andrew Douglas)

Booth Brother Saves Lincoln Son and Other Strange Historical Coincidences

How Edwin Booth saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln and other bizarre coincidences in history.

link:  The 5 Most Mind-Blowing Coincidences of All Time | Cracked.com.