Like many horror fans, I often find myself scratching my head over a character’s idiotic decision to go down to a dark basement. But since becoming a private investigator, I’ve found myself screaming at the TV even more than usual – because I can see so many situations that are totally preventable. So in the spirit of Halloween, here are some very practical ways that a detective could give classic horror movies much happier endings.
1. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The Omen = Nanny background checks
Several IMDB threads have already mentioned that a simple background check in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle would probably have proven that Nanny Peyton’s references were bogus.
And a more thorough investigation by a professional PI may have shown that she was, in reality, the widow of the doctor that Kate put behind bars, mentally unhinged and and seeking revenge.
In The Omen, the creepy nanny shows up after the first one committed suicide under mysterious circumstances – and the PI probably would have figured out that she wasn’t really with the agency. The nanny ended up murdering the mom, who I’m sure regretted not taking the time to place a few phone calls.
Yes the detective may have been in danger, but would figure out the evidence long before the one ‘savvy friend’ that horror movies depend on to have common sense (who, as I’ve written before, usually doesn’t fare well!)
2. Lifetime movies = Pre-marital background checks
Whether the movie is based on a true story or a work of complete fiction, some of the worst villains have a charming veneer that an unbiased investigator can help pierce.
Take the cult classic Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?: A private investigator could have told Tori Spelling that her cute new boyfriend, Kevin Shane, had stolen the real Kevin Shane’s identity and left behind a trail of bodies long before he had her trapped in a cabin in the woods.
We laugh at some of these movies, but the real life scenarios shown by movies like TalHotBlond or the murdering medical student in The Craigslist Killer had red flags and inconsistencies that could have been spotted much earlier by someone with experience.
3. The Amityville Horror, Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist = Buying a home
The medium in poltergeist may have been able to communicate with the spirit world, but a private investigator could look through tax assessment records to unearth information on the previous owner before the family moved in.
In The Amityville Horror case, the family would have learned that everyone who lived in the house died under horrible and mysterious circumstances.
Realtors are only required to disclose violent crime in the home during the last three years in some states, but a bit of detective work could unearth dark secrets from further back.
For example after a PI’s detailed public records search, the owners of the house in Poltergeist would have discovered that their home was sitting on top of an Indian burial ground.
And the parents in A Nightmare on Elm Street would probably be very interested in viewing the crime statistics in Springwood. The only town that has a lower life expectancy for kids is Gatlin, Nebraska from Children of the Corn.
4. The Omen, Orphan = Verifying birth, death and adoption records
Don’t wait until you are already nearing certain death to figure out that the mother of your child is a jackal, or that the 13-year-old girl you adopted is actually a primordial dwarf.
An investigator could sift through superior court records and adoption records – and even examine the history and financial management of the international orphanage you are considering.
5. Rosemary’s Baby = Need for an objective third party
Instead of relying on friends who may have an agenda, neighbors who may or may not be agents of satan, spouses who may be hatching a murder plot or other potentially biased sources, a private investigator will be working with and for YOU.
And good ones will let you know if your goals of the investigation make sense and are based in reality.
6. Blue Velvet, Disturbia, Fright Night (original and remake) = The dangers of armchair investigation
These are all great examples of why investigation should be left with professionals. A private investigator would have notified the police that they were doing surveillance, and could have pulled up information including past address, social security number and criminal records. In addition to violated anti-stalking laws, amateur detectives can put themselves in real danger!
However, when it comes to the supernatural, I admit that there are a few are a few situations where not even the best detective could help out.
Yes, surveillance on Fright Night’s Jerry Dandridge would have shown that he was a vampire – but I must admit that if I was up against Chris Sarandon in a disco seduction. . . the high school boyfriend would have been toast.
Happy Halloween everybody!