FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 13, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 13: and this moment

The biggest complaint I hear from the total absolute FOOLS!!! who dislike Suspiria is that they feel the Josef Klemperer character is unnecessary. Once I even saw a heathen post a "fan edit" that excised as many Klemperer instances as possible. Nuts, I say. Nuts!

If you take out Klemperer, what are you taking out? What purpose does he serve that these FOOLS!!! just aren't seeing? I think he fulfills several functions, both practical and emotional, and he's rather essential to the film.

In Dario Argento's Suspiria, Suzy Bannion takes it upon herself to investigate the coven, seeking the counsel of Dr. Mandel and Professor Milius, and eventually making her way into the Iris Room and finding all of the secrets within. Obviously it's not possible for Susie Bannion to do this work in Luca Guadagnino's film, so we need someone else to do the detective work and drive the plot forward. Here, the duty falls largely to Klemperer after he reads Patricia's forgotten notebook.

It's just as important, however, that his story with Anke serves as the emotional heart of the film. Though there are also love stories between Susie and Sara and Susie and Blanc, it's the one between Josef and Anke that is more than subtext, that is real and has a place in history. (Though, to be fair, Susie/Blanc is so obvious and there that it might as well be text, no?) Anke is the human face of the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, which informs the Tanzgruppe's history, the political setting of the film, and much of Suspiria's messaging. She is a reminder of the real cost of doing nothing in the face of fascism, of leaving it all to someone else. The story of Anke Meier is perhaps the biggest of all the tragedies in this heartbreaking film, and as Josef was the witness for the witches' Sabbath, so, too was he Anke's witness. He tells us through the entirety of Suspiria that Anke was. She is gone, as we all will be someday, but he remembers. She haunts him–not always painfully. But she is always there, every day, still, over the years and the decades, because he wants her to be. She was a human being who was loved and who is missed dearly. In a sense, he is keeping her alive...and in a movie filled with cruelty, a movie in which no love can stay for long, we desperately need Josef's–and Anke's–humanity, as bittersweet as it is. 

I'll be taking a broader look at their story in another post. Here I want to highlight a small, lovely moment, a gesture, that essentially demonstrates everything I tried to convey in all those words.

First, though, can we acknowledge how magnificent Tilda Swinton is as Josef Klemperer? Or, if you prefer, as Lutz Ebersdorf as Josef Klemperer? (I'll be using the shorthand version of that.) (And in case you didn't know how cheeky they were being, "Eber" means "boar" or "swine," and "Dorf" means "village" or "town." Roughly: Ebersdorf = SwineTown = Swinton.) It's seen as a bit of a stunt, acting under all of that (incredible) makeup. No amount of latex that could save an inauthentic performance, however, so the real marvel is how Swinton inhabits this character so fully, in so many small ways. Even though they got up close and personal after the Sabbath, Ingrid Caven (Vendegast) had no idea she was singing that lullaby to Tilda Swinton. The rapid shallow breaths after a bit of exertion, the stiff gait and small, shuffling steps, the splayed fingers...there are countless tiny moments of physicality that render this performance so much more than a stunt.

The moment I want to talk about happens as Klemperer leaves the police station. He's just spoken with Detectives Albrecht and Glockner, following up on the phone call he made to them to report Patricia as missing. The detectives visited the Academy and, as we know, were ensorcelled by Vendegast, Tanner, and Huller, but the men have no memory of that. According to them, they searched the premises and found nothing untoward. Klemperer insists that they only saw what the women wanted them to see, but the detectives aren't having it and basically brush him off.

(Incidentally, I love how you can feel Klemperer's frustration with all of it in the quick, exasperated side-eyes he gives to the woman next to him who won't stop typing. To feel that your concern isn't given the dignity of a bit of quiet so it can be heard, how deflating. So is Glockner popping a meatball in his mouth while Klemperer talks.)

As he's about to head downstairs, Klemperer calls for Detective Glockner, who returns to the stairwell. Klemperer wants to thank him for information the detective gave him regarding his wife.

"Your wife also went missing?" Glockner asks, and you get the feeling that he finds it suspicious that this man has reported two women who seem to have vanished.

Josef gives Glockner just enough of the story, so the detective can fill in the rest.

"Anke Meier. 1943."

Klemperer makes her known.

Anke Meier. She was.

Glockner moves closer, affording Klemperer the attention and respect he didn't get in the office.

Thanks to Glockner, her could eliminate Poland from the list of places where Anke may have ended up during the war. Over the years since then, Glockner has surely helped or hindered hundreds of people. Perhaps this exchange sparks the ember of a memory, or perhaps for him she is forgotten and gone. Whatever their meeting in 1943 meant or means to the detective, now he will know her name. And their meeting was vital to Klemperer.

"I'm still grateful."

And the moment hangs there. Glockner is silent. Klemperer is momentarily in a reverie, lost in his thoughts, thoughts that are surely of Anke. Regret, sadness, love. Darkness, tears, and sighs.

He quickly pats himself on the chest twice, turns, and leaves. That taptap is so small and simple and beautiful, equal parts let's get on with things, then and i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart). It shows everything she was to him, and everything she is.

Anke Meier. She was.

How could anyone think we don't need this?

Oct 12, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 12: in the mutterhaus

As Volk is about to begin, Sara descends into the Mutterhaus once more in search of Patricia, surely, but possibly also for a way to help Susie, who she now realizes is lost to her. She does find Patricia and what seems to be the still living remains of some other girls. It's a horrifying sequence. Sara is terrified and pulls away from Patricia's grasping hands. A woman with no hands or feet unravels herself and begins to crawl. We hear the raspy voice of Markos yelling "Saraaaaaa!"

But gotdangit, I know it adds to the mysterious feel of Helena's dungeon, but it's so dark down there! It's a seriously dim scene in a movie that is not exactly bright and sparkling at the best of times. So just to see everything there is to see in the blackness of the Mutterhaus, I brightened up some screencaps and...oh my.

I've always loved the crazy wireworks that are a nice echo back to the razor wire room in the original film, but in the darkness you can't tell how much is actually there. And those beds, those small beds, are they typically filled with the poor women whose life force Markos is siphoning? There are many of them, a potential full of dread.

I suppose it's possible, even, that some of the coven sleeps down there, but somehow I can't really imagine someone as cool as Vendegast settling for sleeping in a box in a basement.

But we know who does sleep down there: Helena Markos. You can just barely make her out in her weird four-poster bed (another nice callback to Argento's Suspiria)–heck, the first few times I saw this, I didn't realize you could see her at all. But there she is.

She's got her Silent Hill corpse art to look at, I suppose, while she sits in her sunglasses and waits and waits for Susie to be ready. I hope someone brings her a magazine once in a while!

Oct 11, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 11: a gesture

Let's talk about that post-credits stinger! Here it is to refresh your memory, or if you're one of those "bolt at the credits" types, here's what you missed:

What oh what is Mother Suspiriorum up to?

There are a lot of theories floating around, and Anthony and I have discussed a few of our own on the podcast. According what I've read from the filmmakers, it doesn't necessarily mean anything specific. It wasn't in the script, and it's mostly just meant to let the audience know that there is more to come (OH THAT THAT WERE TRUE). So really, I think it's up to viewers to take whatever meaning they can from it. You know, whatever works for you works just fine. Some theories, though, work finer than others. To me, anyway.

The lamp post on the right side of the shot (Susie's left), is the same as the ones we see outside the Tanz building, which means Susie is facing it from one side or another.

Then there's that mysterious, intriguing gesture she makes.

I've seen it floated around several times that this is a fourth-wall breaking moment, that Suspiriorum is erasing the viewers' memories of what has taken place as she did with Klemperer. There are two issues with this theory: First, her line of sight and the aim of her gesture are over our shoulders, not directly at us. Second, it's not the same gesture she uses on Klemperer. When she removes all of "the women of his undoing," she places two fingers on his temple, then pulls away quickly. In the sequence above, it is more of a full, open-handed downward caress.

Another theory is that she's healing Madame Blanc, who is somehow alive after being nearly decapitated during the Sabbath. It's possible! It's akin to the way the witches heal Sara's broken leg in the Mutterhaus hallway, and who doesn't want to see Blanc back to her old business? Anthony and I have ruminated on what will happen to the Company in the wake of everything that's happened, and in our dreams a fully-healed Blanc and Susie run it together as the ultimate lesbian power couple. But still, there's a part of this "she's healing Blanc" idea that doesn't sit right with me. Why would Susie do that outside of the building and then leave? What would Blanc's place be in this new Tanzgruppe? The dancers have already been told that she "left." Would she just return and start doling out good morning kisses again?

Here's what works best for me:

That post-credits gesture is nearly identical to Blanc's gesture during the erotic chicken wing dinner scene. What does that gesture mean?

I think that's Blanc taking back the power she gave her earlier, the power that destroyed Olga. They've been talking about how Olga failed at Volk and Blanc states she's glad Olga's gone. Then she says "Thank you for you help with that" as she makes that gesture. The "Lemme just grab that power back while I'm at it" is implied; They couldn't have Susie unwittingly destroying everyone in the company all willy-nilly, could they? Blanc gives the power by pressing it into Susie's hands and feet, then she wipes it away.

So what is Susie wiping away at the end?

There are two possibilities, as I see it, and I dig 'em both. Each depends on which streetlight that is behind her in the shot. Is it the one right next to the door, or the one further away?

If it's the former, she could be wiping away all the supernatural power held by the women in the Tanz building, rendering them just a regular ol' dance company. She wiped the slate clean during the Sabbath, and now she's doing the same quite literally. She walks away, leaving them on their own. She's done enough, she's destroyed the old guard and reset the scales. It's up to her daughters, now, to forge their own way, if they so choose, where perhaps they will no longer be able to use the innocent for their own vile ends.

If Susie stands by the light pole that's farther away, she could be facing the Berlin wall and somehow taking away its power, starting the change in the political landscape that would eventually lead to its fall. Blanc and Markos went underground during WWII, choosing to abstain from politics, not using their powers to aid anyone but themselves. Susie begins a revolution against them, against the old political ways and the same-as-the-old-political-ways-but-in-a-more-attractive-package ways. Does she care enough about the world outside of the Tanzgruppe to get directly involved with it? Maybe.

If you've got your own theory, feel free to let it fly. There is no definitive answer, and chances are good we'll never know what comes next for the Mothers of Darkness, Tears, and Sighs. But what we do know for sure is that we watched Susie Bannion walk to the Tanzgruppe in that rainstorm, and now we've Mother Suspiriorum walk away. She's out in the world now, somewhere. I hope we do right by her.

SHOCKtober Day 11: ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)

What's that you say? "Oh, Stacie, I have been reading Final Girl since the very beginning and I have memorized every word you have written! Didn't you already talk about Alice, Sweet Alice during a SHOCKtober celebration?"

To this I say 1) I appreciate your support, but surely there are vastly better things to memorize, such as the lyrics to C.W. McCall's "Convoy" and 2) I did talk Alice, Sweet Alice for SHOCKtober–in fact, it was the very first film I covered for the very first SHOCKtober celebration, all the way back in the heady days of 2005. Remember those days? So young, so innocent we all were! My reviews–I can't bear to go back and read them–were essentially just excruciatingly detailed plot retellings that ended with a sentence or three of "criticism" that amounted to whether or not I found a movie to be scary. Look, that was my litmus test back then! I had never written anything for public consumption before I started this blog, and though I'd seen zillions of movies (horror and otherwise), I never much thought about them formally.

This is not to neg baby Final Girl, believe me! And neither is this to suggest that my writing is now, I don't know, Pultizer worthy. But I certainly hope I've gotten a bit better at this over the (holy crap so many) years, just articulating more effectively why I did or didn't enjoy something. And personally, that no longer boils down to "Is it scary?" I love to be scared by a horror movie, obviously. But I don't think that's the only criteria or benchmark that makes a horror movie worthwhile, you know? The point is, it's nothing short of a miracle that people have stuck with Final Girl through those early efforts, so if that's you, thank you.

I actually don't think I'd watched Alice, Sweet Alice since I watched that cruddy VHS copy for that long-ago SHOCKtober, so peeping it uncut (108 minutes vs 98 minutes) and cleaned up on DVD was a real treat. (Incidentally, I am aware that Arrow Films recently put out a gorgeous Blu-ray, but I found a caseless copy of the out of print Anchor Bay DVD for a mere $0.50, so, hey. I love a bargain!)

Though I always think of this film when I think of iconic slasher films, on this viewing I was struck by the fact that Alice, Sweet Alice is so much more than a slasher film. (I suppose, depending on how strict you are with your "what's a slasher" parameters, the 1976 release date might even put it in the proto-slasher territory.) If anything, it's a giallo-cum-psychological horror film with a light sprinkling of Don't Look Know over it. But however you want to think of or categorize this movie, there is no denying that the yellow rain-slickered killer sports a nightmare-inducing, 100% iconic look and hot dang, the stairwell attack scene is one for the ages.

The titular Alice is a troubled, possibly disturbed 12-year-old who may or may not be responsible for the brutal death of her 9-year-old sister during her Communion ceremony, as well as a series of stabbings that follow.

Alice, Sweet Alice is a deeply unpleasant film, and I'm not necessarily referring to the violence, which occurs fairly seldomly. Of course, when kill scenes do arrive, they are shocking and brutal for sure. It's more the atmosphere of the whole thing–it's all drenched in decrepitude and sleaze, and everyone is so damn loud all the time, yelling at one another and clomping up and down the stairs of the small apartment building where Alice lives with her mother (and sister, before her death). There is attempted child molestation/rape, there is kitten murder, there is child murder, there is filth and neglect.

The most disturbing aspect, perhaps, is that it's all too real. The dysfunction on display in Alice, Sweet Alice is a sad reality for so many, and that was even more true in the 1960s, when the film takes place. There may be actual mental illness at play in young Alice–she is certainly painted as a budding psychopath–but she also suffers greatly from neglect by a father that has moved away and remarried, and a mother who seems overwhelmed and blind to (or refuses to accept) the circumstances of her new family situation. The mother is shocked when Alice confides in a counselor that she's begun to menstruate, but she's often shown refusing to listen to or talk to her daughter, leaving the troubled girl to her own devices. The community puts all of their faith (no pun intended) in the church, seeing it as a type of cure-all shelter, but the homicidal fanatic Mrs. Tredoni proves that ultimately there is no refuge in religion.

What a nasty movie, I tell ya, a real feel-bad kinda flick but I love it regardless. Heck, maybe I love it because it's such a downer. And yeah, I must admit–I also love it because it's scary.   

Oct 10, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 10: red

I think that even folks who dislike Suspiria 1018 for not being more like Suspiria 1977 would have to agree that it would have been an exercise in complete folly for anyone, never mind Luca Guadagnino, to simply remake the iconic Dario Argento film. How many times have you watched a horror movie and realized that the director really digs Suspiria because whoa, they use colored gels for everything! The colors, man, the film is so colorful, whaaaat, it's just like Suspiria!

The visuals and the kills are the two biggest signifiers of the 1977 film. How does a filmmaker work with those criteria and not simply pull some Gus Van Sant's Psycho shot for shot remake nonsense?

There are no two ways about it: the original Suspiria is one of the most visually stunning films of all time, in horror and beyond. It's remarkable. And from the moment Suzy Bannion hops into that cab during a rainstorm, it's very very red.

Red is the primary color in a film comprising primary colors that aren't just there to wow our eyeballs–though wow 'em they sure do. The effect is as unsettling as it is beautiful: this Germany, this Freiburg, this dance academy couldn't possibly be real, could they? Don't misundertand–I'm not throwing out one of those "This fan theory about how Suspiria was all a dream and it also ties in to Toy Story 4 will blow your mind!!!" ideas. What I mean is, simply put, this movie is a storybook fairy tale. The witches are the ones of old, you know, the ones that will lure children away from their parents with bright, pretty colors and then eat them. Their gorgeous home is full of dangerous impossibilities, like rooms full of razor wire. It's another world, a place out of time, right there in Germany. It is a cruel place, but it is beautiful.

The red in Suspiria 2018 is our destination, rather than a wash saturating the entire journey. This is Berlin in 1977 during German Autumn, a time of terror. These witches are real women, artists who have performed the world over. This isn't a fairy tale, it's a story grounded in reality and rooted in politics. The slow evolution from greys and beiges to complete and total red reflects and amplifies many of the themes at play, both political and personal.

Side note: there are so many themes at play in this film, and because it's so masterfully crafted I find it's difficult to untangle one thread when pulling on it shows how tied in it is to everything else. Everything spools away and intertwines, and even just talking about "red" I find my self tantalized by and wanting to talk about all of the history behind this film, or the political allegory, or Susie's journey to self-actualization and what it means. I'll get to them all (I think), we're only a third of the way into this experiment. I hope you'll stick around or check back in, and forgive me if it seems like I'm not exploring this aspect or that one completely in-depth yet. This is a movie to wrestle with! Or it is for me, anyway.

The sparing uses of red and violence throughout the film are more deliberate than the total gonzo cacophony they are in Argento's vision. They're not the entire point, they're more the punctuation to the point. We get teases throughout, sudden splashes of crimson that serve almost as winks from the director to his audience–after all, we're all fans of the original film and we're eager to see what he does with it.

The buzzing sign outside Klemperer's office and the buzzing neon outside the witches' favorite haunt. The soft orange-red of Susie's hair and the deep maroon of her leotard. The German subtitles, the geyser of blood shooting from Griffith's neck after she stabs herself, and the matrons' outfits–especially Blanc's Sabbath look which is instantly iconic.

Dario Argento films revel in elaborate, gory scenes of death and murder, with bodies absolutely drenched in...ahem...deep red. In comparison with his Suspiria, there is not nearly the amount of violence. Guadagnino uses it sparingly, at when it arrives it hits like a freight train. Olga's destruction is one of the most jaw-dropping, nauseating, hard-to-take scenes in horror, but the blood doesn't fly. Olga might lose bile and piss, but you hardly realize she's bleeding until she's gone.

Nicely accented by the highlights on Vendegast's shoes, by the way.

The damage done to poor Olga throughout that scene is excruciating to watch. Part of this is the stomach-churning effects. A huge part of its effectiveness owes to the incredible physicality of Elena Fokina as she's thrown about the room and bent beyond recognition. But part of it is the fact that it's not a bloodbath. Something about over-the-top gore tends to take us out of the moment. We look away or close our eyes, or we marvel at the makeup, or we're simply too shocked to really engage. But here, the injuries are largely internal. The witches–acting through Susie–shatter Olga's bones but don't break her skin. Limbs and body parts dislocate, flesh bruises as she is pummeled and tossed. She is a literal pile at the end of it, and she's still alive. We are grossed out, yes–but the internalization of it all has us feeling it.

Side note: that internalization also speaks to art and more specifically, dance, doesn't it? Dancers endure enormous amounts of pain to practice their craft. Art can (and often will) destroy you even as you dedicate your life to it. See? Another thread for another post.

Susie's dreams–Susie's gross, horny dreams–gahd this movie is so horny!–are full of red, but now we see the insides, it's all viscera and blood.

(We'll get to those dreams. They're stuffed full, man.)

And, of course, there is Volk, with its dancers clad in dripping red, Luca giving us more viscera now, the tension building as we speed toward the journey's end.

When the red finally comes, the world is drenched in it. Mother Suspiriorum summons Death from beneath the Sabbath chamber, and the greys and beiges we knew are completely subsumed. Death to any other color!

We have our Suspiria candy color at last. Impatient fans of the original film will think it's too little, too late, but there was no other time for it. The despot has been destroyed, the revolution begun. It's the culmination to Susie's evolution and journey, everything she internalized over the years–her passions, her desires, her very being–is finally out in the world. It is the world. In 1977, Suzy Bannion stepped into an alternate reality steeped in red. In 2018, Susie Bannion made one.

SHOCKtober Day 10: APOLLO 18 (2011)

As you may know by now, I get my absolutely flawless taste in horror films from Final Mom. I was raised on Hammer films and slasher films and most everything in between and beyond. We were–and are!–a horror movie family. So whenever we chat, Final Mom and I usually update each other with things we've seen recently and the such. During one conversation she told me that she'd seen Apollo 18 and she found it to be–and I quote–"fine."

Well! Combine that ringing endorsement with my ill-advised, foolish, foolish unending love for found footage films and for space horror and it's miraculous that it's taken me all these years to check it out.

Look man, we all thought the Apollo space program ended with mission 17 in 1972, right? Well guess again, sucker! In 1974 the US Government launched Apollo 18 for the Department of Defense. The super-classified mission was meant to install equipment on the Moon that would enable us to spy on the Russians more effectively.

"Super-classified," eh? That's right. And the only reason we know about it and what really went on and what the true mission objective was is because some anonymous whistleblower uploaded classified footage to the website Apollo 18 is edited from that footage.

See, I told you it was a found footage movie. That's a classic setup! The usual, trope-y, classic setup! But this time it's in space, so I was like...bring it, Apollo 18. Show me the forbidden film!

Oh, and doesn't exist anymore. Probably the Government shut it down because it's too dangerous! I'm surprised they haven't also confiscated all copies of Apollo 18 as well. Maybe they will some day. But for now, that URL is for sale if any of you want to nab it and continue fighting the good fight against THE MAN and BIG SPACE.

Three ill-fated astronauts head to Luna for Operation: Do Not Tell. One remains in orbit in the command module, while two head to the surface in the lunar module. They spend a day setting up spy equipment and gathering samples and all seems well. But oh! The next day they find shoe prints where no shoe prints should be. Following the trail, they come across the corpse of a Russian cosmonaut and his lunar module. Something really ain't right!

As the two Americans shine their flashlights around that derelict Russian lander, I had one of those hit you in the face moments of clarity. If nothing else, Apollo 18 made me realize a truth about myself that I never wanted to admit...or maybe I never even knew.

I love a derelict ship, be it of space or sea!

Shit like Triangle, Event Horizon, Death Ship...I love the whole spooky "what happened here?" vibe as folks explore. Somebody make me a Mary Celeste horror movie pronto, dangit!

Anyway, I digress. There are infectious moon monsters that look like rocks until they reveal the creepy-crawly legs beneath. Infections, accidents, government cover-ups, we've seen it all many times before.

Apollo 18 suffers from the number of tropes it uses–of course, it's found footage so what did I really expect? But beyond plot contrivances, there are a zillion little things like that zzzzzkt film interference thing (you know the one), rapid jerky head movements (you know that one also), the Texas Chain Saw flashbulb noise...all that stuff was tired in 2011 and it's coma-inducing at this point.

But I am nothing if not pretty forgiving of found footage and space horror, so I'm definitely gonna have to disagree with Final Mom on her rating for this one. I'd give it a firm fine minus.

Oct 9, 2019

SHOCKtober Day 9: THE HAUNTED (1991)

Look, I have said it before and you can be sure I'll say it again–right now, in fact–I am but a simple, simple-minded woman. If a movie summary features but a few keywords from the ever-lengthening list of oh heck yeahs in my head then I will immediately jump on board, full of all the pep and excitement and drool of an oversized (and shaved, thank you) Labrador Retriever. You can imagine, then, how my heartplace was nothing but pitters and patters when I discovered The Haunted (1991) and saw these keywords and phrases in the description of it:

  • Haunted
  • The
  • Made-for-TV
  • Sally Kirkland
  • Sally Kirkland as Janet Smurl
  • spirits
  • demons
  • the house is possessed
  • Diane Baker as Lorraine Warren
  • I REPEAT Diane Baker as Lorraine Warren
I thought "Oh, hello new soul mate" and started the movie (aka pressed the X button on my Xbox controller) so fast that my thumb caught on fire! It's making it a bit difficult to type this now, but SPOILER ALERT it was worth it. 

Who are these so-called "haunted" you ask? Well, I answer, they are the Smurls. The film tells the true story–or the "true" story, I suppose–of the demon-flavored shenanigans they found themselves all wrapped up in and, you know, haunted by during the 70s and 80s.

Jack and Janet Smurl are just a couple of Good Catholics who move into a double-block home with Daughter Smurl and Other Daughter Smurl and Other Other Daughter Smurl and Other Other Other Daughter Smurl (I told you, they're Good Catholics, aka the humpin' kind) and Jack's parents, the Elder Smurls. 

It's not long before Janet (Kirkland) is hearing things. Well, to be clear, Janet is not hearing-impaired, thus she hears stuff all the time. But this stuff, it's not what she's expecting to hear, you see, and that's what makes it disturbing. She hears the sound of water running in a tub when the water ain't turned on, voices in rooms, voices in pillows, you know how it is. She feels hands running up her legs while her husband sleeps soundly. She finds the Scotch tape in the refrigerator when she knows she left it on the counter. It is all as terrifying as it sounds! 

What is happening in the Smurl home? Is Other Other Daughter playing tricks? Is Janet crazy? Is it, as their priest suggests, simply marital problems? Whatever is going on, it's putting a lot of stress on Janet, which we see reflected in many scenes of her staring into space worriedly whilst smoking.

As the church is no help, the Lady Smurl turns to none other than parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, they of Amityville, they of the Extended James Wan Conjurverse. The two con art--uh, devout defenders of all that is good and holy tell the Smurls that their house is home to all manner of spirits and one very bad demon. They can't help much by way of a cure, even though they're armed with "especially blessed" holy water and the "powerful protection" of a crucifix.

Shit gets real, particularly for a made-for-TV movie. Jack Smurl is raped (!) by a specter (!!)– specifically that blonde up at the top of this post–that suddenly transforms into a man in a blonde wig (!!!). It is...a choice. The house rattles. The spirits–olde timey ghosts sporting the occasional unibrow–follow the family on a camping trip. "God's will" apparently smells like roses.

Nothing works, not even prayer en masse. The nogoodniks follow the Smurls wherever they move until finally they get a sanctioned exorcism in 1989. We do not see the exorcism. The end!

Again, for a made-for-TV movie, The Haunted is pretty hardcore! All that demon action, plus all that smoking Sally Kirkland does. It's strange, seeing this version of the Warrens, considering their appearances in the Extended James Wan Conjurverse. They're a mere curiosity in The Haunted; the forcus, after all, is the Smurls. These days they've been somewhat legitimized in films such as The Conjuring, which treats everything they do and all of their "cases" as pure fact. The Haunted did too, to an extent, but again, the Warrens didn't help the Smurls, not really, and they were only present for a couple of scenes. They're not the stars of the show, and they're not the "horror icons" they seem to be today. As enjoyable as their schtick was, that's all it was: a schtick. A con. They took advantage of vulnerable people during the Satanic Panic heyday, pitching themselves as "experts" and the only ones who could really understand and help with, you know, paranormal activity. Rather than give them a pass, I'd rather watch Sally Kirkland smoke and search for her missing Scotch tape.