Haunting the house from within: Disbelief, mitigation, and spatial experience

In Steven Jay Schneider & Daniel Shaw (eds.), Film-Philosophy. Scarecrow Press. pp. 158--173 (2003)
I attempt to explain the lasting effectiveness and critical success of Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) by roughly sketching the role that spectator belief might play in a revised version of the so-called “Thought Theory” of emotional response to fiction. I argue that The Haunting engages viewers in a process of “disbelief mitigation”—the sheltering of nontrivial, tenuously held beliefs required for optimal viewer response—that helps make the film work as horror, and prevents it from sliding into comedy. Haunted house films do not have to extend much effort to keep us from walking away, since most viewers come to the theater ready to entertain the idea that haunted houses exist. Using the experiential philosophy of John Dewey, I propose that this willingness has to do with a fundamental aspect of our relationship with space. It is common to speak of places as “charged” or “tense,” to get feelings of dread or nostalgia from certain spots. Some haunted house films make use of this experiential characteristic to fuel the horror, and without it, the subgenre would probably not exist.
Keywords horror  paradox of fiction  belief
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,433
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

32 ( #150,189 of 1,925,069 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #187,249 of 1,925,069 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.