David Ash, after the death of his sister, has spent his entire life trying to disprove the existence of ghosts. He is invited to spend some time with the Mariell family to comfort their panicking nanny. With her declining health, she seems convinced that the ghost of the adult siblings' dead mother is haunting the Manor.
As David investigates he starts to come across happenings that go against everything he believes in and things start getting strange and he can't keep blaming it on practical jokes for long... while being overly suspicious of the siblings, Christina, Simon and Robert, he finds himself quickly drawn to Christina which Robert doesn't seem very fond of.
A book by James Herbert, it was adapted into a film in 1995 staring Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale. Major plot points were changed between the novel and the film; reading the book doesn't spoil the film, vis versa. The key element is the same but the backstory is incredibly different.
Tropes in this work:
- Adaptation Expansion: Arguable but the major plot points of the story are incredibly different between the film and the novel, giving different twists and stories. For example, in the novel Christina turns out to be schizophrenic and burnt down the house whereas in the film Nanny Tess found the siblings together in their parents' bed having sex and drinking alcohol and burnt them all alive in the basement.
- The Alcoholic: In the novel, David is one but he was cleaned up for the film and Simon is one in both.
- The Atoner: David, after the death of his sister whom he killed.
- Big Brother Instinct: Robert clearly wants to protect Christina when it comes to David.
- BrotherSister Incest: In the film only, and it was technically brother-brother-sister incest.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: As it turns out in the novel, Christina set the house on fire as a child, killing everybody, and jumped in the pond to stop the fires that were on her... and then drowned.
- Dark Secret: The secrets of the Mariell family, the different versions both count, and David's secret.
- Dead All Along: Christina, Simon and Robert are the ghosts who are haunting Nanny Tess. They wanted to make David suffer as well. In the book, it's explained that actually his dead sister, Juliet, (also a ghost) was in on the plan as well because she wanted some revenge on him for murdering her. And the Doctor, he was dead as well.
- Driven to Suicide:
- In the novel, to some extent, Christina, when she set the house on fire as a child.
- Mrs Mariell in both versions drowned herself after the house fire(s).
- Drowning My Sorrows: In the novel, David did this routinely.
- Dysfunctional Family: The Mariell family.
- The End... Or Is It?: After David makes it back home, Christina is seen following him as he leaves the train station.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: A mighty big explosion for one little crashed car. Christina and David were fine.
- Evil Twin: In the novel, David believes the haunting to come from Christina's twin sister playing jokes on everybody except there was no sister. The family claimed Christina had a mentally unsound sister who caused all of the problems caused by her schizophrenia, not Christina herself (before she eventually lost it and killed everybody).
- Ghostly Goals:
- In the novel, Juliet wants revenge on her brother for murdering her and the siblings just wanted to torment Nanny Tess.
- In the film, the siblings are tormenting Nanny Tess for murdering them and they dragged David to the house because they wanted somebody new to play with after they killed her.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: Juliet still looks like a young girl while her alive twin brother, David, is rather old.
- Haunted House: Edbrook Manor.
- Man on Fire: In the novel, Christina had set the house on fire and was on fire herself and jumped in the pond... and then drowned. Of course, the entire family was eventually on fire when they were killed.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Robert, over Christina. For a different reason than it first appears...
- Not-So-Phony Psychic: Elsa Brotski, a previous fraudster exposed by David Ash who used her genuine telepathy to masquerade as a medium.
- Pyro Maniac: In the novel, Christina is one of these when she sets the house on fire.
- In the novel, this is Juliet's reason for having David sent to the house.
- In both versions this is also why the siblings are tormenting Nanny Tess.
- "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: David initially believes that Simon is behind the series of events, but this is eventually disproven. Though, it is technically true as he is part of it, but he is also a ghost.
- The Shrink: Dr Doyle, who David sees when he starts questioning his sanity. Though he is dead.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Juliet.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Both David and Nanny Tess are played as these.
- Twist Ending: Everybody except for David and Nanny Tess are dead and the secrets of the family.