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When Good Homes Go Bad

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.

Psycho (1960) | May 8 / Mother's Day, 4–6pm

From IMBD: A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Purchase Tickets: Psycho

$11; $7.50 for members



Beetlejuice (1988) | June 12, 4–6pm

From IMDB: The spirits of a deceased couple are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out.

Purchase Tickets: Beetlejuice

$11; $7.50 for members



The Shining (1980) | July 10, 4–6pm

From IMDB: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Purchase Tickets: The Shining

$11; $7.50 for members



Candyman (2021) | August 14, 4–6pm

From IMDB: A sequel to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.

Purchase Tickets: Candyman

$11; $7.50 for members