April 26, 2022
By Jon Mogul, associate director of research, education + grants
Safety. Shelter. Sanctuary. Comfort. Family. These words have powerful connections to the idea of home. But have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, alone in an old house, and heard creaking coming from the stairway or something scraping against a window? Then you know that homes can inspire other associations, ones that are not very benign at all. Maybe it's because homes are so vital for our sense of personal security that they sometimes scare the hell out of us.
Not surprisingly, filmmakers have created frights of all kinds out of this two-faced nature of the home. Any time a movie shows a happy young family starting their new life by moving into the "perfect" house, we know to look out. Domestic scares can come from murderous intruders, scheming hosts, or other sources of dread. But there's nothing quite like an evil spirit creeping around in the attic/closet/basement/walls/plumbing/etc. . . . to make a house break bad.
This summer, The Wolfsonian and O Cinema are teaming up to show four movies, each set in the U.S. and each in its own way centered around a haunted house. Followed by expert-led discussions, the screenings will give audience members a chance to think together about domestic life—and consider what these films (with their distinctly American settings and storytelling) say about the shadows that lurk within the American dream.
Organized as part of The Wolfsonian's Mark Mamolen series on American homes.