31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 26]: A Big Old Scary Haunted, Big Old House

While my headline comes from the grossly under-appreciated and underrated musical “Spice World,” the film for today isn’t British nor is it a musical and nor is it about a bunch of women. But today’s movie is about a big, old, scary haunted house. While “Amityville Horror” was shot in my hometown (the remake) and a neighboring town (the original), it isn’t the big old house I’m about to write about today. Instead, today’s movie is one of the most cursed series in all of horror: “Poltergeist.”

I’ll admit that it took me a long time to see this film. It weirdly never crossed my mind or my screen, which meant it didn’t come to be something I felt needed to be seen. It actually was this past summer that I first saw it; I watched after viewing Shudder’s series on cursed horror films. I hadn’t seen the remake of the film either. I really only knew what others told me or what appeared in blogs I read. So my reading and writing of this film is still infantile.

To start, I love seeing Spielberg both as a screenwriter and producer on a horror film. It further validates the genre. Second, I love the lore that comes with this film and how creepy, cultish and crazy what followed it was. Lastly, I hate clowns, so getting to see one in a horror film makes it that much scarier for me.

Yet, these three pieces don’t make the film for me.

It’s Heather O’Rourke that makes the film for me.

She takes the movie from being about a haunted house to being a supernatural powerhouse with childhood and imagination at the center.

Additionally, this film had tremendous effects, no surprise with Spielberg attached, but it is under Tobe Hooper’s leadership that the creative vision of the film fully came to fruition. The effects were even nominated for an Academy Award, one they lost to Spielberg’s “E.T.” The rich use of effects in this film enhance the overall narrative so effectively that you never know where the effects end and the real world begins. That’s a good film.

As a bonus, you get some incredible work from the late Zelda Rubinstein. She won a Saturn award for her role in this film.

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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