While I’m capable of enjoying a horror tale (and have written a few myself), the haunted house form has rarely really grabbed me. And it was only after watching the first episode of Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, a haunted hospital series, that I really put any thought into why.
As a general rule, the central antagonist (and often the central character) of a haunted house tale is the house itself. It may be populated with individual spooks, but generally they are mere echoes in the evil nature of the house itself.
And as characters go, a haunted house is simply boring. It may have a history, but its only real character trait is meanness. There’s not much in the way of subtlety or complexity there, because it’s not a human being. It’s a building. And being a hospital doesn’t change that much.
Kingdom Hospital has a story (site of an old mill fire that killed a lot of child laborers), but it’s still just a building. It’s a hospital, although mighty empty for a hospital. King has reworked a European series leaving visible thumbprints of a somewhat clumsy effort. There are nice scenes, nice moments, good acting, but it doesn’t add up to much.
It also hit what is beginning to be a sore spot: the use of psychics in fiction. I know, I know it makes as much sense as using vampires and werewolfs on some level. But the problem is that there are people who proclaim themselves “psychic” in the real world, and while some of these people are merely self-deluded, a large portion of them are scam artists, and often of the most vile sort. They prey on people who are in need, who are desperate. The folks in the “psychic detective” business, for example, prey on victims of recent crime, building false hope and in far too many cases creating wild goose chases for the police at times when they are most needed. Having “psychic” characters who are actually psychic and a force for good seems kind of like having a rapist character whose magical manhood is actually curing the women of fatal diseases they didn’t know they had. It’s putting a friendly facade on something that is in reality quite nasty.