Top 10 Creepiest Ghost Movies12.10.09 # Top Ten # 186 Comments
It is fast approaching that unique portion of the year when all true matters arcane and diabolical are given the festive treatment, as Halloween prompts folks to deploy their broomsticks for something other than sweeping up after the household pet. Although we have recently seen cinematic quotas of the supernatural gobbled up by vampire and zombie flicks, it would be remiss to overlook the genuine chills instilled by the most successful exponents of the ghost movie genre. So here are ten of the scariest ghost movies to put the frighteners on us poor, trembling cinema-goers.
10. Dark Water (2002)
Leaky plumbing becomes an unlikely source of spine-tingling terror in this J-Horror offering from director Hideo Nakata, the man who had previously attached creepy connotations onto video cassettes and cold-calling in the first two Ringu films. Sharing some narrative ground with his earlier horror hits, Dark Water finds Nakata once again casting a supernatural child as his primary wellspring of unsettlement, as the spirit of Mitsuko (Mirei Oguchi) seeks some redress for her premature demise. The red of Mitsuko’s lost bag and the prevalence of water in the movie both establish a link to Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, and the blend served up on this occasion by Nakata was beguiling enough to inspire Hollywood to deliver an unexceptional 2005 remake starring Jennifer Connolly.
9. The Fog (1980)
Gar! Me hearties! Spectral seadogs resurface to wreak vengeance upon the small coastal town of Antonio Bay, as Jamie Lee Curtis collaborates with director John Carpenter on a more expansive chiller than their earlier Halloween. The Fog sees Curtis cast alongside her mother, Janet Leigh, and although the shock ending of Carpenter’s movie is certainly not up to Psycho standard, the enveloping mist of the title provides an effectively eerie shroud under which the succession of revenge killings can be enacted. And, as ever with horror aficionado Carpenter, there some teasing little genre nods too – such as a twosome of characters turning up bearing tributary monikers to Robert Fuests’s Abominable Dr. Phibes and Great God Pan writer Arthur Machen.
8. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Better known for the bizarre, tactile mutant bodies that inhabited his Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy movies, The Devil’s Backbone saw Guillermo del Toro adopting a rather less-outré approach to the paranormal than that which we have come to expect from the fuzz-faced Mexican auteur. Death looms large over the film’s scenario, with the Spanish Civil War-era action taking place in an orphanage in which roams the restless spirit of deceased young resident Santi (Junio Valverde). A sense of unease stalks The Devil’s Backbone throughout, as the darkest facets of human behaviour overshadow Santi’s baleful haunting – although del Toro himself might have felt like he was the one coming back from the dead, as he fully grasped the opportunity to rebuild following the production difficulties and poor reception of Mimic.
7. Poltergeist (1982)
And we reach the first haunted house movie of the list. Tempted as I was to include The Legend of Hell House (which sees the astral presence of Michael Gough’s devilish Emeric Belasco spreading misery as an expression of the resentment he harboured about his titchy little legs), I decided to plump for this successful collaboration between writer-producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper. The sense of wonder one has come to typically associate with The Beard’s output is given a darker tint here, with Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) being ripped away from her family and subsumed by the static of the television set. Meanwhile, Texas Chainsaw Massacre helmer Hooper keeps the schlock coming; as evinced by Martin Casella’s psychic researcher clawing his own face to shreds, and some slightly bathetic final revelations about a defiled burial ground.
6. The Haunting (1963)
Blimey, wait for one haunted house movie and then a pair of the blighters show up at once. What are the odds? Well, probably significantly better than finding someone who prefers the Jan de Bont-directed remake of The Haunting to the 1963 original. Coming as it did between his work on West Side Story and The Sound of Music, The Haunting perhaps represents a slightly unlikely interjection in the production schedule of the period for its director Robert Wise. However Wise brings the kind of intelligence to proceedings that you might expect from the man who cut Citizen Kane, delivering a disquieting thriller that is high on aesthetic quality and psychological sophistication.
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