~Whatever you do...DON'T GO INTO THE ATTIC.
It was the perfect family vacation for composer John Russell and his family when a freak automobile accident claims the lives of his wife and daughter. Consumed by grief, John, at the request of friends, rents an old turn of the century house. Mammoth in size, the house seems all the room that John needs to write music and reflect. He does not realize that he is not alone in the house. He shares it with the spirit of a murdered child who has homed in on John's despair and uses him to uncover decades of silence and deceit. With the help of Claire Norman, the one who aided John in procuring the house, they race to find the answers and soon learn that a devious and very powerful man guards them.~
-----I don't know if it's the tone, lighting or music used in the 70s, but there is something about horror movies from that decade that just makes them extra scary for me. Furthermore, this film worked for me because something that has always creeped me out is the idea of being alone in a huge, decaying mansion, one full of dark corners, shadowy staircases and "things that go bump in the night" coming from rooms that should be empty. Furthermore, the main person in peril is not a "damsel in distress" but a middle aged widower (the great George C Scott). This movie had to have influenced Stephen King when he wrote Rose Red. The look of the house and the setting (a giant, decaying mansion near Seattle) are just too similar to be a coincidence.
When it gets going, it does somewhat follow the conventions of the haunted house story, but it still works. Also, I couldn't help at times but think of Eddie Murphy's famous complaint: "When the house is haunted, why do white people not only not leave, but bring even more white people over?" I know it would have been a very short movie, but there are moments rather early in the film that would have made me get the hell out of that house for good.
Would I see it again? Yes. This is not a horror masterpiece, but is a very well done and spooky haunted house movie. It was rated R in 1979, but would easily be a PG-13 today (no gore and some mild language only). It has a good mix of goosebump moments as well as a few "Boo!" scares, plus protagonists I found I cared about.
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