The best supernatural tales are never really about ‘super-nature’. They only use supernatural elements to highlight the workings of human nature, thus telling engaging stories filled with mystery and suspense. Sadly, without these puzzling and thrilling factors, even a good story might gather less attention than deserved. We can even say that it is human nature to feel drawn towards ghost stories, even if in a love-hate way.
To face demons in print and on-screen can be as terrifying as to face our own inner demons. And if they are indeed relatable, may we face them bravely, to learn a lesson or two, lest we humans become actual demons after! Thus, paradoxically, the best ghost stories are essentially not ghost stories; they are human stories. After all, any featured ghosts are ex-humans too, who are still ‘living’ with their habitual human instincts.
‘The Little Stranger’ is one of those horror films, that do not overly scare you throughout. While building up its mystery, it throws you off guard with a ‘usual suspect’, who is the ‘likely’ haunter of a mansion, before revealing its most unusual suspect to be the guilty one… in its very last few seconds. It offers food for thought indeed, on why we did not suspect the guilty one enough. In this sense, it is with ourselves to blame. This forces us to break free from demonising others; to look more closely, starting with ourselves. Demonisers are the worst demons surely, be they human or otherwise.
The story proposes that even a little sense of innocent awe, if left unchecked when young, can grow over time, to become jealousy, and even deadly covetousness. What if the mind is so powerful, that if not minded well, might even project a dark force that acts out our hidden desires in ghostly ways? What if even living people with burning desires and rage are able to create poltergeist-like physical disturbances unknowingly? Could this explain how some of the severely mentally disturbed seems to be more haunted by ‘ghosts’?
What if unreasonable physical movements of things at home arise from ‘accidental’ telekinesis, that hint of suppressed tensions, that have no other outlet of expression? In terms of the Dharma, even if there are actual spirit karmic creditors disturbing, they are still karmically self-induced. Again, before pointing fingers at others, may we first point at ourselves, to check ourselves. The true tragedy in horror films is when the protagonists still do not recognise themselves to be the perpetrators of the horrors they experienced, meaning they might go on. Is this not the horror of horrors?