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Coroners Corner | horror | movie | column | Lollipop

Coroner's Corner

Kill Me And I Will Haunt Your Ass

by John Bikowski
illustration by Eric Johnson

Hollywood seems to've jumped on yet another bandwagon this year - this time to do with ghosts. Some of the notables were, of course, The Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes. Most recently we have the chiller What Lies Beneath. My life skipped a beat when I recently found out that Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo were stoned during a good part of the filming of Star Wars. Now I get treated to Harrison Ford and Michele Pfeifer engaging in a bit of S&M during which the one and only Indiana Jones whines about her being "too rough." Oh, how my childhood heroes are falling... The premise of What Lies Beneath turns out to be strikingly similar to that of Stir of Echoes. In short, a presence is making itself known in order to shed light on how its earthly body was murdered.

Michelle sends her daughter off to college and is then ready to kick back with Harrison, her second husband. However, he's a brilliant geneticist who's totally wrapped up in his work. So wrapped up, in fact, that he'd kill to keep his name clean. Being alone in the house, Michelle soon begins to experience strange things: She believes her neighbor has butchered his wife, pictures keep breaking open and other poltergeist type activities ensue. Here is where the audience gets drawn in - there are some admittedly haunting images, like a dead girl's white face reflecting in the bathtub. The questions start to pile up - Who is the dead chick? What does she want? How is she tied to this family? I won't ruin all of it because it's worth finding out for yourself. But I will tell you that you'll see Harrison Ford in a new type of role. Creepy ending, too.

Staying with the ghostly theme, I thought I'd alert you to some other gems that may've hidden themselves from your viewing life. First we have Let's Scare Jessica to Death. This 1971 sleeper stars Zohra Lampert as a mentally unstable woman named Jessica who moves to a quiet Connecticut farm with her husband. Upon arrival, they find a young drifter named Emily living in the upstairs of the house and they invite her to stay. Jessica soon begins to piece together a mystery - she learns from an antiques dealer that Emily may be a woman named Abigail who drowned some 90 years earlier in the cove behind the house. Has she returned as a vampire to feed off the group of war veterans who wander about town like corpses with bandages over their necks? Is Jessica merely going crazy again or is she the only one who sees the truth? This film is somewhat dated by its immersion in the hippie generation, but it remains a haunting must-see to this day.

Next, you should consider seeking out the tough-to-find 1973 thriller, Don't Look Now. The film is based on the powerful Daphne du Maurier novel and stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. This is an arty but very involving tale about the parents of a drowned little girl on a trip to Venice. Strangely, the city that is typically very beautiful is caught here as a frightening backdrop to a series of murders. When a pair of psychic sisters claim to have contacted the dead little girl, the film kicks in. Is the ghost of their baby haunting them? Is she responsible for the murders? The end offers up one doozy of a climax that's not to be missed. This is also the film that was infamous upon its release because of an extremely graphic sex scene between Sutherland and Christie.

Finally, I'll leave you with an easier to find suggestion; John Carpenter's The Fog. This is a simple and classic ghost story: Revenge from beyond the grave - in this case a watery one. This film is successful for many reasons. For one, it's full of great characters played by talented actors (Jamie Lee Curtis as a drifter, Hal Holbrook as the distraught priest, Janet Leigh as the head of the festivities, and Adrienne Barbeau as the radio station voice who holds it all together). John Houseman relates the tale to a frightened group of kids around a beach campfire. It seems that 100 years ago, a clipper ship was lured onto the rocks and the entire crew died. The curse is that they'll emerge from the sea and repay the ancestors of their murderers. Holbrook finds that his grandfather was a co-conspirator in the dreaded deed and that the rationale was that the ship contained a crew of lepers. By crashing their boat, the town would be free of the nasty disease and would be able to help itself to the gold the ship carried. Now that San Antonio Bay is celebrating its 100 year anniversary, the fog has returned and there's something in it that wants blood. There are several effective scares, like the surprise appearance of a green eyeless corpse, the deep leper voice that mysteriously comes out of the cassette player, and the ghostly apparition that emerges from the mist to stab and hack victims. The whole thing tops off with a great parting decapitation. A good choice for the Halloween season.  

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