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Literature / Haunted (1988)

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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 directed by Lewis Gilbert starring Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale. Major plot points were changed between the novel and the film; reading the book doesn't spoil the film, and vice versa. The key element is the same but the backstory is incredibly different.

Not to be confused with another book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk

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.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Juliet is out for revenge on David in the novel but saves him and forgives him in the film.
  • Agent Scully: David Ash, to an extent where he manages to dissuade himself of his own psychic buoyancy. His determination to expose ghosts as natural phenomena and fakery seems driven by his guilt over the drowning of his older sister Juliet, and fear that she may return to haunt him.
  • 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.
  • Big Sister Bully: Juliet, a few years older than David and seemingly resentful of having to share their parents, did such things as break his model aeroplane, and trip him up while he carried plates.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In the film only, and it was technically brother-brother-sister incest.
  • Call-Forward: In the film, the Marriells' car narrowly avoids the ghost of David's young sister Juliet. Successive The Ghosts of Sleath features a similar near-collision.
  • Came Back Wrong: Initially, averted.
    • Later, when Christina drives David back from the local pub, he looks up to find half of her face a mass of scorched gristle, with one starkly exposed eyeball. She soon reverts to her violent schizophrenia.
    • On finally leaving his Edbrook room, a terrified David, at the top of the stairs, finds Simon, sporting an unnatural pallor, and partially rotted.
    • Robert then emerges from the cellar, in a phantom reiteration of his incineration.
    • Seemingly averted with Seeker, the family dog.
  • 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).
    • In the novel, Simon, on the death of his siblings.
  • 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 God, What Have I Done?: When Juliet threw his fishing rod in the river; backed away from his sudden fury, and stumbled towards the river, young David, mindful of the danger, tried to pull her to safety - but failed to save her from drowning.
  • My Greatest Failure: Nanny Tess blames herself for failing to prevent the deaths of her niece and nephews.
  • 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.
  • Pyromaniac: In the novel, Christina is one of these when she sets the house on fire.
  • Revenge:
    • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: A seance sees the documented spectral phenomena of exhaled ectoplasm, and brief facial alteration.
  • The Shrink: Dr Doyle, who David sees when he starts questioning his sanity. Though he is dead.
  • Spooky Séance: Prior to the main narrative, David, with Psychical Research Institute-employed medium Edith Phipps, investigated a seance, whose "medium," Elsa Brotski, a fake medium but genuine telepath, sensed David's intent. Edith then involuntarily channelled a discarnate voice; whose successors, as well as a stream of ectoplasm, then issued from the mouth of Elsa.
  • 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.
  • Verbed Title

Alternative Title(s): Haunted