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 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.

No comments: