What’s within the attic? How scary films make the most of this house
Horrified, a locked house can quickly turn from a safe haven into a trap with murderers and ghosts lurking in dark corners. Whether in a haunted house or in a location pervaded by an outside threat, the attic is often a source of fear. Unlike any other room in a private residence, the attic is often out of bounds, with a small hatch to gain access to the dusty, dark, and cobweb-filled space. Hearing noises from above are a sign that everything is not okay and doing some research will only add to more danger.
The audience knows perfectly well that nothing good can result from this curiosity. Of course, characters in scary movies aren’t going to listen to the various bumps and scratches in order to stay out. If they avoided climbing the pulldown steps, we would be denied such memorable moments from Hereditary, The Exorcist, and the most recent adaptation of Invisible Man. As we continue our horror journey through the house, let’s find out why this place is so scary.
Scary movies use metaphors like a weapon, so an haunted attic also makes a bigger statement about the family enduring horror from above. The Exorcist introduces single mom Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) while hearing strange noises for the first time in the Georgetown house she rents while filming. The noise makes her check on her sleeping daughter, and she finds an open window that doesn’t seem too alarming. She believes the bumps are none other than rats, even though she is told the attic is clean. The following night she hears it again, but this time she makes the very bad decision to investigate with the light of a candle for company alone.
Director William Friedkin delivers the first scary moment from home courtesy of some classic tricks horror lovers might expect but will enjoy nonetheless. Chris enters an invisible object (because it’s so dark) and is not startled by a ghost or a murderer, but by the craftsman who has already told her that there are no rats. The fear of jumping was expected, but her candle, which briefly ignites in a larger flame for no apparent reason, is not. The traps are untouched; Rats aren’t responsible for the worrying excitement.
The correlation between the open window and the mysterious presence it makes itself felt suggests that something has penetrated the so-called protective walls of this house. Not all heavenly things come from above, nor will God necessarily intervene when they do. Demons don’t just live in basements – though they’re a fan of that locale, too – and the loft provides ample opportunity to turn a family home into a hellish landscape. Just ask Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) in Sinister.
If you move to a new location and explore all of the rooms to see if the previous tenants left anything behind, treats or unwanted items may show up. If the residence you moved into was the scene of a horrific crime that you are currently investigating, a discovery could be a major breakthrough. In the attic we put things that we don’t want to throw away or do – very out of sight and out of our minds -. When Ellison finds a box with a projector and several Super 8 reels, he believes he has hit gold. The innocent “home videos” are actually a box of snuff films, including the family who lived (and died) in this home. Creepy af but great research material.
What better place to set up a private showing than the most isolated room in the house? A sloping roof may cut the picture uncomfortably, but Sinister’s missing ghostly kids don’t have to experience the latest home theater options. What’s more, this is the perfect place for a creepy movie club run by the pagan deity Bughuul that is causing this violence. The moral of Sinister is that whatever you find in the attic is only going to do more harm than good. Hereditary’s Graham family would attest to this if they still had their heads (or if they hadn’t spontaneously burned them).
This film, in which items are kept that no one should see, inevitably reveals the discovery of the exhumed (and headless) body of Annie’s mother, decaying in this room. A decade-long plan to summon Paimon – one of the eight kings of Hell – is in the final stages of the cultists who infiltrated Graham’s house. Paimon’s symbol is a repeated image throughout the film, but it’s most disturbing when it’s painted on the attic walls with blood. In one of the most terrifying sequences of Ari Aster’s directorial debut, Peter (Alex Wolff) seeks refuge in the attic – the old man runs upstairs if he should go out the front door – and locks the door so that his mother cannot lock in Steig. Instead of knocking their fists on the door like a normal person, they use their head as a battering ram. The bruises won’t matter in the morning, as once she lands on the roof of her house, she cuts off her head with piano wire.
Video from Hereditary – Annie’s Obsessed Scene (Part Two | 1080p)
Keeping old family keepsakes is what this arena is often used for, but the metaphorical and literal ripples of it are not to be underestimated in hereditary construction. Toni Collette has come across three attics covering a spectrum of disturbing scenarios.
In the Christmas horror comedy Krampus 2015, she experiences toy terror in the attic when the now sentient beings attack. The rays of their flashlights are little protection against these forces. And in The Sixth Sense, she watches helplessly as her son is trapped in the top room of a birthday party. After reluctantly agreeing to appear in “Locked in the Dungeon,” the two bullies give Cole (Haley Joel Osment) a terrible experience. We never look into space; Instead, we’re exposed to Cole’s terrified screams as he can’t get out and his mother, Lynn, can’t get in.
Video by Krampus – The clown, eater of the children’s scene (5/10) | Film excerpt e
Sprits and demons aren’t the only danger lurking as flesh and blood humans hide and stalk themselves from above as well. In the original 1974 Black Christmas, the killer assumes his attack position from within. A classic urban babysitting legend tells the story of calls from the house, and Black Christmas takes that concept and runs with it. When the doors are locked, students simply get caught up with the person who is tormenting them.
A decade later, in House on Sorority Row, the attic is the site of the final fight with the killer, who gets extra creepy points for dressing up as a clown. The hatch, which is so often the mouth of eerie space, helps subdue the killer if he fails. The ending is ambiguous because of course he opens his eyes before it goes black. Black Christmas also ends on a cliffhanger, where the police stand in front of the guard, but luckily they don’t know that the killer was inside the whole time.
Hiding in sight is a perk of Adrian Griffin’s (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) tech suit in the recent adaptation of Invisible Man. After Adrian faked his death after fleeing his girlfriend Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), he ignites her to the extreme and moves into the house to which she fled. Although invisible, he needs a base of operations so that nobody accidentally gets into his still solid form – and he still has to sleep. The obvious location is the attic so he can spy on them from any room.
Cecilia rings the doorbell to get him out, and the uncanny realization that the vibrations are coming from the ceiling reveals his disturbing presence. In a film full of nerve-inducing sequences, this film peers thrillingly through the fingers while Cecilia investigates. Realizing he’s been here the whole time is terrible and the way she ultimately uses color to reveal his presence is awesome (and worth jumping).
Most attics are full of dust and memories with no malice or murder, but horror plays with our fears of this dark room. In some cases, items are stored above that we are not ready to dispose of or have greater importance. However, those rules are twisted in scary movies to ensure that whatever the darkness hides doesn’t bring joy. If you hear a noise coming from the attic, it’s probably not rats.