Ghost stories are the number one sub-genre of horror. After all, tales of spirits and hauntings have permeated cultures around the globe for millennia. And whether literature, comic books, radio or television shows, or stage and cinema, ghostly productions abound to the point where many may not even notice that zombies and vampires, and any other creatures in horror, pale in comparison.
In the recent craze over THE CONJURING, it seems that many horror fans are in desperate need of a decent genre film to rally behind, and have placed James Wan’s “good” movie up on a very high pedestal. Sadly, for all its greatness, a trite story will keep this feature from scaring up super stardom in the end, regardless of what critics and fans think who are emotionally caught up in the furor.
However, the following ten have tremendous staying power because of their foundation, which is the same for every story: excellent storytelling. As THE CONJURING proved, wonderful directing, acting, cinematography, music, and special effects can only go so far. Story is king. These ten have it – and I’m sure you’ll see a bit of THE CONJURING in each one of them.
To learn more, check out “The Last Knock” episode: “If the Spirit Moves You”: http://crashpalaceproductions.com/crash-discussion-if-the-spirit-moves-you-the-last-knock-looks-at-ghost-stories/
Paranormal Activity (2007)
A young couple monitors a haunting in their home that only gets worse…
With a word of mouth campaign that brought it to screens around the world, Oren Peli’s found footage film relies on the simple fears that many of us may have experienced in our childhood. And all these elements add up to one suspenseful trip that doesn’t end until the lights come on.
Shutter (Thailand, 2004)
Involved in a hit and run, a photographer’s pictures begin to reveal strange images…
The creep factor is high in Thailand’s best horror tale to date. Directors Banjong Pisanthanaku and Parkpoom Wongpoom keep the audience on alert as Ananda Everingham leads us through his own murky misadventure. Forget the third-rate and laughable American version.
The Haunting (UK/USA, 1963)
A group investigation of Hill House is a nightmare for an immature woman…
Director Robert Wise adhered to Shirley Jackson’s novel as best he could, and he delivered on the creepiness. This thrilling haunted house tale features Nell (Julie Harris), a socially awkward soul who feels she belongs to Hill House. Should she escape, or is she right where she belongs?
The Legend of Hell House (UK, 1973)
When a wealthy gentleman wants you to prove ghost exists, the money isn’t enough…
Whether the music, cinematography, or the late, great Richard Matheson’s penchant for not letting an audience catch its breath, John Hough’s film is designed to take major bites out of one’s soul. And like the characters, the audience is trapped in claustrophobia.
The Shining (UK/USA, 1980)
A man’s overcome by the spiritual weight of a hotel, and attacks his family…
There isn’t much left to be said about one of the most celebrated ghost films of all time, except that the more you watch it, the more you learn about Kubrick’s attention to imagery. And the Overlook will maintain a hold on you whether you’ve seen the movie once or a hundred times.
A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea, 2003)
A ghost and a nasty stepmother prevent two sisters from healing emotionally…
Kim Jee-Woon’s masterpiece is as overwhelming as it is beautiful. And for any horror, Mo-gae Lee’s cinematography outshines all comers. The acting, spectacle, and emotional torment is enough to keep one frozen as this dramatic and intriguing tale unfurls to a riveting conclusion.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
A boy works with a therapist to stop ghosts from visiting him…
“I see dead people” is one of cinema’s most recognized catch phrases, but for first timers, this shocker of a movie will have you standing up wondering what the hell happened – before you watch it again. Shyamalan’s best. And one of only two horror films that ever made me cry.
The Orphanage (Spain, 2007)
A mother is on a mission to find her missing son at the orphanage where she was raised…
Belén Rueda shines as the mother who won’t give up even well all seems lost. The beauty of this film, from JA Bayona’s directing to the cinematography and music, is enough to make this one of the very best dramatic ghost stories of all time. This is the second horror to make me cry.
The Ring (Japan/USA, 2002)
People who watch a videotape will die in seven days…
While Rachel (Naomi Watts) tries to solve this intriguing mystery, others may be indulging in the original RINGU (Japan, 1998) – and find themselves falling asleep. This sobering thriller, however, will definitely keep you awake, and the makeup effects are mindblowing.
The Changeling (Canada, 1980)
The ghost of a dead boy has volunteered you to help him…
George C. Scott stars as a man who lost it all, and tries to find solid ground in a house with a story to tell. The scares in this one are so strong, even thinking about them is enough to give me a chill. This is a must see ghost tale of suspense and mystery, and the ugliness of the bitter truth.
Check these out. Leave a note, and let me know what you think. And never fear, I already know some of you despise PARANORMAL ACTIVITY because “nothing happened.” Well, that movie brings me right back to the horrific nightmares that kept me awake night after night as a boy – and that power’s hard to deny.
Regardless, I did like THE CONJURING, but didn’t love it. James Wan hasn’t directed his best movie yet, but he’s certainly closer. And I can’t wait for that day to happen. After all, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 will be released on September 13…
(Photo from Movie Poster Shop.)