Chapter in an Edited Collection: Haunted Bodies, Haunted Houses

(Volume under contract with the University of Wales Press/ Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru)

The haunted house represents one of the most enduring tropes within the horror genre. In recent decades however, cinematic focus has shifted from a traditional view of haunted houses as a literal bricks and mortar site of terror, to a metaphorical exploration of the concept. Specifically, contemporary representations of traditional haunted house themes are increasingly employing the human body in the role of house and home. In doing so, their interrogation of this site as a place of infestation and destruction, either by demonic forces or ghosts, has introduced a new sub-genre of horror film to audiences.

With this in mind, this chapter considers examples of Blumhouse films in which the haunted house is the human body. Unlike traditional haunted house narratives, in these films it is the individual or the family unit which becomes the target of the haunting and, while it is traditionally an individual who is the primary target of the malevolent force, it is everyone within the family unit who suffers the consequence. Although the physical home frequently provides the doorway through which the demonic or ghostly entity may enter the domestic realm, it is the human house (the body) which is the true object of possession and the space in which terror manifests. Unlike structural hauntings, when audiences are confronted with the haunted body, the inevitable battle between good and evil is more terrifying because the body cannot be destroyed. Added to this, the concept of an inner intrusion from which one cannot escape, physically or geographically, gives an added depth of terror to the traditional horror narrative.  Films which will be addressed within the chapter include;

Paranormal Activity Franchise (2009-)

Insidious Franchise (2011-)

Sinister (2012-)

Ouija (2014)

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Unlike the tangible structure of the home, haunting of the human body and/or possession of the soul present a far more terrifying vision to audiences. When this involves the body of the child, issues around domesticity and the sacrosanct nuclear family are also thrown into the spotlight, with viewers forced to confront physical and emotional impact which accompanies the destruction of these relationships. Enduring social fears around death and the afterlife will also be discussed in relation to how contemporary attitudes and phobias about the same are present in the narrative construction of many of these films.

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