Janet Leigh starts off the film as Marion Crane, a clerk in a real estate office engaged in a romantic fling with Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the manager of a hardware store in Phoenix, Arizona. When she’s given the task of depositing $40,000 in cash into the bank, Marion impulsively decides to keep it, and drives off to California, perhaps to Sam’s hometown, Fairvale, with the freedom to pursue Sam without concern for finances. En route, her paranoid fears get the best of her, as she begins to have second thoughts, but a powerful storm forces her off the beaten track in search of a place to stay, and she comes to the Bates Motel, a completely vacant establishment with “12 cabins, 12 vacancies”. The motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a shy but friendly man who is excited to not only have his first visitor in weeks, but also one as attractive as Marion, who signs in under a pseudonym. But Norman’s mother, who resides on a small hill overlooking the establishment, isn’t going to lose Norman to just any visiting trollop who comes along without a fight. Alfred Hitchcock directs.
Motel Hell follows the exploits of Farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun), who has three basic jobs: farmer, motel owner, and purveyor of the best straight-from-the-farm smoked meat products sold in the country. He and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) set up road accidents to abduct injured passers-by along the two-lane highway near their motel (it’s called “Motel Hello” but the last ‘o’ is on the blink), chloroforming them to knock them out, then planting their bodies into the ground up to their neck in their walled-off “secret garden” (with their vocal cords severed). They’re kept fed until it’s time to process them for their super-secret blend of pork and human flesh meat products (their coy slogan is, “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”. Hanging around but completely oblivious is Vincent’s daft younger brother Bruce (Paul Linke), who happens to be a county deputy sheriff based in the nearby town of Grainville, and who has eyes for one of the abducted young women, Terry (Nina Axelrod).
A dysfunctional family is hired as the caretakers for an empty, isolated Rocky Mountain hotel, the Overlook, during the snowy season. Young Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) is gifted with ESP, his father Jack (Jack Nicholson) is a tempestuous alcoholic, and his mother Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is racked with guilt. Jack hopes writing a successful play will rectify his dreary life. The hotel has a history of evil, including Grady, a former caretaker who slaughtered his wife and daughters. The Torrances experience supernatural occurrences, enticed by the ghosts of the Overlook to repeat its evil history. Stanley Kubrick co-writes and directs.
The Changeling concerns an esteemed New York pianist/composer named John Russell (George C. Scott) who accepts a lectureship position in Seattle for solitude and restoration following the deaths of his wife and daughter in a roadside accident. Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere), a volunteer at the local Historical Preservation Society, moves him into a massive old Victorian-Gothic mansion located outside the city that hasn’t had anyone living in it in at least twelve years. Russell soon discovers that the house isn’t as uninhabited as he thought, as things begin to occur (banging noises, bathroom water taps, a boy’s image is glimpsed within the water) though it could also be his grief-fueled imagination. He’s told that the house has a history and doesn’t want people living in it.
Later, Russell senses the house wants to tell him something. He discovers a locked secret room that resembles a nursery, containing a rusty wheelchair and an antique music box that plays a song he’d been composing since he entered the house. Claire tries to help, digging into the sordid history of the house, including a revealing seance that leads them to make contact with the spirit within who provides more clues to the 70-year-old mystery that must be solved to find peace.
House II opens in the early 1950s, where we find Charles and Judith McLaughlin handing away their baby Jesse to adoption. This is to protect their child from retribution by a powerful ghost named Slim Razor, who has appeared in the couple’s mansion demanding they hand over a crystal skull. After the couple confronts Slim to reveal that they don’t have it or know where it is, Slim kills them.
Flash forward twenty-five years, and their aspiring artist son Jesse is all grown up, Jesse moves into his inherited but long-dormant home with his girlfriend Kate. Odd artifacts about, including a one that is obviously missing from a mantelpiece. Jesse and Kate are soon visited by Jesse’s rambunctious friend Charlie and his pop-singer girlfriend Lana, aka Puce Glitz.
While looking through the family’s photo albums in the home, Jesse spies pictures of his namesake, his great-great-grandfather Jesse, who was an outlaw from the old West who earned his keep finding lost treasure, including a crystal skull with giant jewels in its eye sockets. Slim Razor also factors into the pictures, elder Jesse’s partner, and details of their falling out over the ownership of the skull are revealed.
An old book on Mexican legends tells more stories about the skull that will unlock the mysteries of the universe and grant everlasting life to those who possess it, as well as the ancient Aztec practice of burial with one’s jewels. Jesse and Charlie determine to dig up the grave of elder Jesse to find the skull. Unearthed, they find the elder Jesse reanimated to life, preserved by the skull’s magical powers, though looking quite old. However, it also returns the spirits of others who’ve been looking for the skull from various times and dimensions, including Slim Razor, who is out to claim what Jesse stole from him prior to abandoning him into the Mojave desert to die.
An elderly artist named Elizabeth Hopper (Susan French) is found having hanged herself in the three-story Victorian house in Marin County, California, that she claimed is haunted. Hopper’s nephew, a famous horror novelist named Roger Cobb (William Katt), inherits the house and decides to move in so that he can have the solitude necessary to write his next book, a memoir of his harrowing time as an American soldier in Vietnam. His publisher as well as his fans don’t want him to write but he finds something is compelling him to get it down on paper.
Cobb underwent several traumatic experiences: his son Jimmy (Eric & Mark Silver) disappeared a year ago at his aunt’s home and is presumed dead. The ordeal resulted in a separation from his television soap opera actress wife Sandy (Kay Lenz). In the home at night, Roger begins seeing things, unnerving things, around the house. They include harrowing flashbacks to his Vietnam War days where he let down a fellow troop named Big Ben (Richard Moll). Ben vowed revenge against Roger for abandoning him to be tortured by the Viet Cong. Harold (George Wendt), the next-door neighbor, is a bit nosy and keeps coming around as Roger tries to catch these apparitions in the act. Roger is sure that his son is still around the house somewhere and that finding him will redeem what has happened to his life since his disappearance.
After viciously murdering over 110 people, the serial killer known as ‘Meat Cleaver Max’ Jenke (Brion James) gets the death penalty, sentenced to fry in the electric chair. Max doesn’t go easily, staying alive for nearly ten minutes as they zap him with everything they have before expiring. However, something happens in the process of electrocution that allows Jenke to live on as a supernatural entity of electricity – one that seeks revenge on the cop that arrested him, Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen). McCarthy suffers from PTSD, forced into a leave of absence while seeing a psychologist until well enough to return as a detective. However, despite seeing Jenke executed with his own eyes, McCarthy sees him everywhere – in his dreams, on his TV, and popping up whenever he’s out and about. Either Jenke truly is a supernatural being taking up residence in McCarthy’s furnace, or McCarthy’s delusional and putting his family in grave danger.
Erratum: Once again, I refer to composer Harry Manfredini as Henry Manfredini, likely because of the composer Henry Mancini.
A college football star named Jonathan (Peter Berg) experiences horrifically vivid hallucinations following a concussive collision with a goal post. His first vision depicts the murder of his foster mother and siblings. When he awakes, he finds that his dream actually happened. He’s an eyewitness, but wasn’t physically there, leaving the cops skeptical. Jonathan realizes his visions are a telepathic link to the murderer, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), which he uses to thwart the next murder in the Midwestern town of Maryville before he kills again. Pinker gets caught and his verdict is death by electrocution. Before Pinker sits in the electric chair, he makes a Faustian deal his jail cell to a television set that allows him to live on after the experience as an entity of electricity that can channel into any electrical network, including people’s bodies, the power grid, and anything plugged into a wall socket, including televisions from coast to coast. After he reveals himself to b Jonathan’s biological father, Pinker makes a violent escape, only this time, he can be anywhere – or anyone – and only his son’s psychic powers might be able to stop his rampage. Wes Craven writes and directs.
Electricity lines between the houses in a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood allow an unseen but powerful malevolent force to enter homes, where it begins twisting the house’s wiring and everything that is plugged into it to its liking. Eventually, it begins using the home’s appliances to torture the inhabitants within. In one home on a cul-de-sac, the father went crazy and began destroying his home. Now it seems to be threatening the home across the street, where an 11-year-old boy named David (Joey Lawrence) is visiting his divorced father (Cliff De Young) for the summer. David seems to know what’s going on, but he can’t leave until he convinces his skeptical father before they’re stuck in a high-voltage death trap.
Roxanne Hart and Matthew Lawrence also appear in this 1988 eerie story written and directed by Paul Golding.
In this made-for-network-TV entry, a crack team of Catholic priests comes in to exorcise the demonic presence within the possessed Amityville home. Cornered, the demon finds refuge by traveling through the power cable into a hideous-looking floor lamp. Sensing the evil is gone from the home, the contents of the home are put up at a yard sale, where a frolicsome older woman spies the lamp for a hundred dollars that would make for a great gag gift to send her sister in California.
That sister is Alice Leacock, who lives in a Victorian house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the fictional northern California town of Dancott. Alice is a bitter fuddy-duddy set in her ways, and unhappy to have to take in her newly widowed daughter, Nancy Evans, and three grandchildren until they can get back on their feet. Alice receives the lamp, placing it prominently in her home, despite her household cat and parrot reacting with alarm to its presence. Not long after, strange occurrences erupt as the evil gets unleashed throughout the house, with the malevolent spirit especially targeting and influencing the youngest of the grandchildren by convincing her that it is her dead father. Meanwhile, one of the priests concludes that the evil may have transferred into one or more of the house’s yard sale items and begins sleuthing, trying to warn the family that they are in possession of a powerful demonic presence that will surely destroy them all.
John Baxter is a recently divorced journalist working for an investigative magazine called Reveal. Baxter’s latest assignment exposes a seance scam operating within the abandoned Amityville home on Long Island, New York. Afterward, Baxter finds that the house is immensely affordable due to its sordid history of terrible things happening to those who’ve been inside. Baxter, apparently needing to find a new place following his divorce that has fourteen rooms covering three floors, moves into the house certain that all prior calamities were coincidences, delusions, and hoaxes. That bottomless pit in the basement others have claimed a portal to hell? Oh, that’s just an abandoned well. It has plenty of space for himself and his teenage daughter when she visits, as well as solitude for writing the “great American novel” he’s been talking about for years. Others around him experience strange events and implore him to leave. He won’t because he’s convinced the house’s reputation is causing mass hysteria. Unfortunately, with his daughter staying with him on occasion, he soon discovers that being wrong might be dead wrong.
In this prequel of a sort to The Amityville Horror (1979), the dysfunctional Montelli family moves into their new home and finds many curious things right away, including every window being nailed shut and a secret room in the basement of the house that is full of flies, muck and smells to high heaven (or down to low Hell). The longer they stay, the more they begin to witness strange events, and bicker violently with one another, until the eldest son of the family, Sonny ( Jack Magner), actually begins to exhibit behavior that may not be his own, including a desire to kill his abusive father, Anthony (Burt Young), and defile his younger teenage sister, Trish (Diane Franklin). Before things get completely out of hand, the mother requests that a local priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson), come out to investigate the supernatural events of the place, but without the backing of his superiors, he’s going it alone against what appears to be a portal to unfathomable evil that resides below the house. Rutanya Alda and Andrew Prine also appear. Directed by Damiano Damiano from a script by Tommy Lee Wallace.
The Amityville Horror is based on a popular novel by Jay Anson with a little longer title, “The Amityville Horror – A True Story”. The true story is, at this point, well known to be fictitious, but it did give the public quite a rise for a while. In the story, a young man ends up shooting his parents and sibling while they slept in the middle of the night for reasons even he couldn’t begin to explain. The horrific events shocked the small town, but the house was still deemed worthy for sale. Enter the Lutz family, who buy the house because it is going for a relatively cheaper rate than if it didn’t have the malevolent stigma, but they can’t pass up the price. However, weird things start happening, starting with the fact that the preacher (Rod Steiger,) who comes to bless the house is scared out of his wits, soon after suffering from an unknown ailment he feels has been inflicted by the evil within the house. The Lutz family themselves start exhibiting weird behavior themselves, with the father, George (James Brolin), always feeling cold, and having little motivation to do anything more than chop wood for the fire. Doors and windows open and close, the daughter starts talking to an imaginary (?) friend, and the dog starts sniffing around the cellar trying to dig up something only he knows is there. Margot Kidder costars.
Heather O’Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein are the only players from the first two films to cross over into the light of Poltergeist III. Here, O’Rourke’s character, Carol Anne, seemingly dumped by her parents for reasons unknown, is taken care of by her Aunt Patricia (Nancy Allen), Uncle Bruce (Tom Skerritt), and teenage step-cousin, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), living in a high-rise building in Chicago. Carol Anne has been enrolled in a school for gifted but troubled kids, as her therapist, Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire), thinks that the young girl has the ability to hypnotize people into believing her delusions about seeing ghosts. Seaton forces Carol Anne to speak about her experiences, which brings to light her involvement with the dreaded Reverend Kane (Nate Davis), and this talk has caused the late Reverend to cross over into trying to get in contact with the girl again. For some reason, the entire building is chock full of mirrors at every turn, which is convenient to the haunting that emerges, as most of its haunting involved scaring the bejeesus out of the family and their cohorts through reflections in whatever mirrors they happen to be looking at.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side seeks to give more back story to the events of the first film, why the youngest child in the Freeling family had been wanted by the spirits, and the nature of the cult from which the spirits culminated, headed by Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck). Kane manifests himself in human form in this sequel, tenacious in his pursuit of young Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke), now moved away with her family in the hope they could start a new life for themselves. Tangina Barron (Zelda Rubinstein), the paranormal investigator from Poltergeist, sends out a Native American shaman (Will Sampson) to help protect the family once she discovers the hidden cave buried in the ground where Kane and his followers died, knowing that the family will not be able to escape Kane’s interest no matter where they might go. Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, and Oliver Robins return.