Spring/Summer is upon us. For those looking to relocate to a new apartment, now is the time to do so. The harsh climate of winter makes for a terrible moving experience. It’s bad enough with all the hauling and unloading up and down stairs; no one needs to do this with a foot of snow on the ground! It is best to limit the moving day stresses, for there will be enough trials in future days; adjusting to the new environment, struggling to feel that sense of “home”, and….. coming to terms with all those mysterious noises that were absent in the former apartment. Fear will take over, especially at night.
The above jingle summarizes a common scenario within many horror tales –a family, a couple, or single occupant has just moved into a haunted apartment complex. The neighbors seem odd , the hallways dark and scary. There is something unsettling about the basement storage area or furnace room. The rent is surprisingly affordable. Who owns these units? No on seems to know.
Hello everybody, Happy Summer Days and welcome to my article that will kick-off a series of reviews concerning movies and books that deal with haunted apartment buildings. Not too long ago I ran a series about haunted cabins. Well, I have discovered similar themes between the two types of stories; stories of hauntings within alternate structures (alternate to a typical house or mansion). For example, as stated in the opening article to the cabin series, cabin dwellers are surrounded by forest, in which lurks the frightening elements of the “unknown”, sheltered by the trees, blanketed by darkness. Replace “forest” with “urban landscape.” Replace “cabin dwellers” with apartment renters. The scenarios are similar. Coming home late at night, the neighborhood suddenly becomes frightening. The door to the front lobby might only be several steps away, but still the terror persists. “It’s a jungle out there!” is a metaphor often used to describe the city. Criminals, stalkers, and rapists – they are lurking out there, somewhere in the darkened urban night. We know they are there – the news media tells us of their existence. But where are they now? They might be hiding in the alley, or in the bushes besides the front doorway.
Once inside, can the one returning home finally feel safe? According to the movies and books I will review, the answer is “not likely.”
Inside the apartment complex, the inhabitants of this city live all around you – the apartment dweller. They conceal themselves behind closed doors like the threatening animals that hide in the trees and nooks of the forests. Who knows who these beings really are? They are sooo close to home, and yet, from a familiarity perspective, they are unknowable. In tales of haunted apartments, they can be agents of this disembodied danger that infiltrates the city’s nighttime landscape. They are the things that terrorize the night. After all, the city’s worst elements have to live someplace.
Now let’s introduce the ghostly elements to an already unnerving situation. Your neighbors just might be ghosts, or demons, or members of some strange cult. The overall effect of this blending of both natural and supernatural fears is “terrorific.” (like that word? I blended “terror” and “terrific” together. I is a word creator!) Just like with a cabin, a personal apartment, (your home) is at best a fragile barricade to the frightful unknown that surrounds it. Sooner or later, the scary things of the forest, both natural and supernatural, will find their way into the cabin. Likewise, the terrified apartment inhabitant can only feel safe behind their door for so long. Eventually, the evil things will cross that threshold. Sometimes the helpless inhabitant will be forced to assimilate into a haunting hive of sorts.
In some Haunted Cabin stories, the cabin dweller is forced to confront aspects of his or her character. If alone and isolated, s/he might confront her own personal ghosts or demons. Likewise, in certain horror movies that take place within apartments, characters find themselves struggling with their own identify. While living in such close proximity to many anonymous and therefore strange neighbors, this sense of ambiguity rubs off on them. They lose their self among the nameless. An apartment building is a perfect setting for this kind of psychological horror. Director Roman Polanski has taken advantage of both this setting and situation in several of his films. We shall explore these films.
Unlike haunted cabins and differing from the archetypical haunted houses of literature, the haunted apartments of horror stories often have a more mysterious real estate trail. True, the history of a house in such a story is rarely apparent to the newest purchasers at the beginning of a story, thereby providing one of the arcing mysteries of the plot. But with haunted apartments, the protagonists are most likely the renters, and the true owners of the building remain a mystery. The lessors might not have a face; they could be a corporation or some shady organization for which lawyers have shrewdly hidden its identity. In some of the books I will review, the apartment complex is owned by an archdiocese. (Hint: Books written by Jeffery Konvitz). The veil of secrecy surrounding the owners of an apartment complex adds to the overall mystery of the narrative. It provides a conspiracy element to the story and presents further obstacles for the protagonists.
Over the next several weeks, be on the look out for reviews of films and literature that deal with these kind of haunted apartment scenarios. I have already provided hints for some of the movies and books that will be examined. But there will be others, like this real awesome Japanese novel. Oh damn, there I go, dropping another hint! Ah it’s all good. I only hope my reviews will be good as well. I’ll let you the reader be the judge of that! Here’s to the future! Here’s to the reviews that have yet to be written!
Oh and happy apartment hunting!
*** Pictures borrowed from Paramino.com and Nexthome.YP.CA