Haunted homes and restless ghosts : (in)visible structures of power and violence in American haunted house films




Springman, Laura Alyssa

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This thesis explores depictions of suffering in American haunted house horror films and considers how hauntings can draw attention to systems of power and violence in our real world. Through textual analysis of The Amityville Horror (1979), Poltergeist (1982), THIR13EN Ghosts (2001), and The Amityville Horror (2005), I argue that an intersectional, necropolitical lens sheds light on the ways systems of violence, death, and memory operate in the American context of the horror film. Drawing from the insights of Achille Mbembe’s theory of necropolitics, in conversation with scholarship on hauntings, death, and the horror genre, I consider the ways violence functions in regard to both who is depicted as suffering, but just as importantly who is not. In doing so, I foreground the complex manner in which these films can both victimize the living, while also re-subjugating the dead. Further, I interrogate how real-world instances of violence in and around the home are made both visible and invisible within these limited white depictions of haunted homes. Taken together, my four case studies demonstrate the ways in which ghosts in haunted house horror films can unearth real-world instances of past and present American violence.


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