Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Days of Halloween: Favorite Haunted House and Ghost Movies

I love a good ghost movie, and the ghost/haunted house story is one of my favorite horror genres! I love the atmosphere of most ghost stories, the unseen or barely seen ghosts that represent the unknown, and I love how classic haunted house/ghost stories feel. I’m not a fan of the cheap jump scare that some crappy horror movies use, but I adore when ghost stories are done right. These are subtly scary, and cause dread to slowly creep up on you until you are on the edge of your seat and the slightest noise makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. Even better, they make you question every creak you hear long after finishing the movie.

Since I've been focusing a lot on ghosts during this year’s countdown, I wanted to share some of my favorite spooky ghost movies with you. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are so many great ones I’m missing, but the ones I chose really gave me a sense of unease when I first watched them, a tingling terror I hope you get to experience, too!

Carnival of Souls (1962) – This exquisite gem is still disorienting and terrifying to this day. The hallucinogenic atmosphere, creepy music, menacing ghosts, and abandoned carnival location make for some truly memorable visuals!

The Shining (1980) – The Stanley Hotel is haunted with all sorts of frightening spirits, all who seem to want the Torrance family to stay with them forever and ever. It isn't the most traditional of ghost stories, and definitely has a lot more going on than just ghostly hauntings, but the spirits plaguing the main characters of the film certainly are frightening!

The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this melancholy ghost story set in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War and is told though the eyes of a child. It is both a heartfelt coming-of-age story and chilling ghost story.

The Pact (2012) - One of the newer films on this list, but even after watching it once I knew this was a spine-tingling classic! This film builds dread upon dread with subtle scares, but after watching you won't want to be anywhere alone.

The Haunting (1963) – Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, this classic haunted house tale relies on ominous sounds and a foreboding atmosphere to get your (and the characters’) heart thumping.

Poltergeist (1982) – Like every kid, this film freaked me out! It affected me so much that I would always question if new houses/developments around town were being built on Indian burial grounds. And after watching, mundane things like clowns or a TVs suddenly became malicious.

Ju-On (2002) - When I first saw this movie I was so scared of the creepy noises the angry spirit makes! I remember watching it all alone one night and having just awful nightmares of creepy little boys, cats and long-haired ladies. It was one of the first Asian horror movies I was exposed to, and after being so scared by this one I was hooked!

Session 9 (2001) - The terror that creeps up on you watching this movie is so subtle that you almost don't even notice it until the pounding of your heart overwhelms the quiet horror unfolding on-screen. Definitely one of my favorite modern ghost stories with the wonderfully eerie atmosphere of a mental hospital making the perfect backdrop.

The Legend of Hell House (1973) – I really love this film, based on the novel “Hell House” by Richard Matheson (who also wrote the screenplay for the movie). The oppressive house was represented beautifully in the film, and I like how scientific ghost hunting equipment is combined with more traditional ghost investigation techniques like séances.

Lady in White (1988) – I can't think of a better ghost movie to watch around Halloween! It is set during Halloween and has a wonderfully nostalgic feel, plus a great supernatural mystery that we explore with the young protagonist.

Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – This gorgeous ghost story is another favorite Asian film (ignore the dull US remake), that has many frightening moments and beautiful cinematography.

Lake Mungo (2008) - I remember not expecting much from this found footage horror when I first watched it, but it turned out to be pretty damn spooky! If you haven't seen it, it is best to go in not knowing too much about it. Just trust me, and go watch it!

The Innocents (1961) – This classic film has a nanny taking a position at an enormous country estate watching two small children, however she keeps noticing mysterious people and occurences, and thinks the children are starting to behave rather oddly. Is it all in her head or is the mansion really haunted?

The Changeling (1980) – A creepy old house, violent deaths of children, a heartbroken composer and family secrets long buried make up this 80's ghost story. Creepy hidden rooms, ghost children, ominous bouncy balls and a terrifying wheelchair round out the fun!

The Orphanage (2007) - A heartbreaking but no less terrifying ghost tale from Spain. I must have a thing for ghost children, because this one features them as well.

Grave Encounters (2011) - Another found footage film that I didn't expect a lot from, but damn! There were some scares in this one that had me gasping for air! There is also a sequel, but it isn't nearly as good as the original.

House on Haunted Hill (1959) – Ok, this film isn't really scary, but I love the campy feel of this film, and it does have a few nice scares, including an unexpected spook in the basement. And there is always the debonair Vincent Price who, without fail, is a treat to watch.

Ghost Story (1981) - Ok, no kid ghosts here, just some older gentlemen hiding a devastating secret that seems to have crawled out of its watery grave. Filled with the beautiful snowy landscapes of New England, this ghost movie is perfect for a cold October night.

Ringu (1998) - What can I say? I have a thing for long-haired Asian ghosts. Like Ju-On, this is one of the first films I saw (actually, it was the US version, The Ring, but that made me want to watch this original) that got me into Asian horror cinema. And who doesn't love films about cursed videotapes and vengeful ghosts?

The Conjuring (2013) - I debated putting Insidious in this spot, but while I LOVE that film and its sequel, I thought The Conjuring was more appropriate for this list. I really dig how The Conjuring incorporates little (but no less terrifying) side stories (like the Annabel doll) into its overall narrative, which is creepy on its own. I remember watching this in the theater and having to watch some parts with my hands over my eyes! If you know me, you know how much says about how scary the film is!

There you have it, my favorite haunted house and ghost movies! What did I miss? What are your favorites?

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