Thursday, September 24, 2015

Films for Halloween: 10 Great Ghost Movies

There have been many movies made about what kind of life exists beyond this one that we know. Some films portray those who inhabit the spirit world as tortured souls that love to torment the living; some make them caring and helpful to those of us still alive; and some even envision them as wise-cracking ghouls just out to have a good time. The films on this list are all very different takes on ghosts, from the funny to the frightening, and they all make us wonder if there really are beings from other lives out there that could possibly reach out and touch our own:

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
This film is a very bizarre but touching love story between a young widow and a salty sailor that takes place in a charming cottage by the sea. The only problem with this couple's love life is that the sailor is deceased and is haunting his old home. The ghostly sailor helps the poor widow by dictating his memoir for her, which she sells so that she may keep the cottage that they share. Although their love seems hopeless and sad, the film still manages to have a happy ending.

This film is definitely no love story, and is all about trying to terrify audiences. Many fans of the film believe that there is a Poltergeist curse due to the death of two stars of the film and the fact that real skeletons were used in some scenes. Regardless of if this is true or not, the film itself is rather frightening, and the young star of the film who died at the age of 12, Heather O'Rourke, gives an outstanding performance as one of the family members living in a haunted house. Although many films have focused on haunted houses, this one is pretty creative and one of the best.

This Japanese horror film is a modernized version of a Japanese folk tale about a girl who is thrown down a well by a jilted lover. In this tale, a haunted videotape that kills those who watch it is added to the ancient story. Americans have taken this wonderfully stylized, unique vision and twisted into their own version of the film, which was very popular, though not near as good. 'Ringu' is notable for ushering in a new horror genre in Japan of similar films, most of which have been remade for American consumption. So while the rehashing of these films is a bit of a travesty, the responsibility of this film for bringing about a whole new movement in horror cinema is a testament to how good it really is.

Ugetsu Monogatari
This is another Japanese film that centers on an ancient ghost tale, but this one really does take place centuries ago. It is about two ambitious young men: one a potmaker who dreams of being rich, and the other, his helper, a somewhat inept man with dreams of becoming a samurai. The potmaker soon finds himself attracted to a mysterious, beautiful and wealthy woman who he abandons his wife and family for, as his friend leaves his loved ones to pursue honor as a great hero. On the sidelines of this film that mixes the supernatural and the harsh realities of life are the long-suffering wives of these ambitious men, left to fend for themselves in a time of war and destruction. The spirit in this film is evil, but not in the way of modern ghost films, and I won't reveal here who or what it is for those who have not seen the film. This film is a beautiful, artistic masterpiece that is much more a human story than a ghost story, however, and it is most definitely my favorite film on this list.


This campy classic has become of the most beloved ghost movies ever, even though it is far from your ordinary film about haunting. It's definitely one of the more creative films on this list, with characters like Slimer, the Marshmallow Man, and, of course, the four Ghostbusters themselves. Their crazy ghost-sucking gadgets, cool cartoon ghost logo, awesome 'Ecto-1' Cadillac, and the film's obsession with slime (as well as the four great ghost-busting actors, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson) have made this funny film an American favorite, and there is even a new installment to the series in the works right now with all four of the original Ghostbusters on board for the project.

This is another great ghostly comedy that is very unique. Before Tim Burton directed Michael Keaton as the best actor to portray Batman ever, he directed him as the wacky exorcist of the living, Beetlejuice. The film's premise is very interesting, taking the exorcism of a house and reversing it: a ghostly couple hire a bizarre, striped-suit wearing, wise-cracking ghost to scare away the new owners of the home they are confined to as ghosts (mostly because they can't stand their modern decoration theme). He, however, has other plans, intending to wed the live daughter of the intruding couple so that he can return to the land of living. This film frightened me as a child, but now I appreciate its hilarity, B-movie campiness, and that special Tim Burton twisted touch that makes all of this films so unique and fun to watch.

The Shining
Stephen King may have hated Stanley Kubrick's version of his tale of an alcoholic writer, but Kubrick fans and horror fans alike agree that this film is one of the best horror flicks of all time. There's a river of blood, a boy with an invisible friend who isn't just part of his imagination, ghosts with furry fetishes, and a very sexy naked woman who is not all she seems to be. The downward spiral of Jack Nicholson is great, as well, and his acting is superb. This film is definitely one that keeps you on the edge of your seat and is a testament to Kubrick's capability to take any film genre and master it.

Sixth Sense 

This film is another that features a young boy as a main character, and it is, unfortunately, director M. Night Shyamalan's only great film. It's also unfortunate that the film really loses its power after you've seen it once, but that first time around, it really does get you. Haley Joel Osment does a great job for such a young actor, and there are plenty of frightening moments where he 'sees dead people'. The film was the start of a series of 'what a twist!' endings for director M. Night Shymalan that has made him into a bit of joke with audiences, but this method really does work perfectly in this disturbing film.

The Others
'The Others' has a combination of some of the elements of 'Beetlejuice', 'The Sixth Sense', and 'The Turn of the Screw'. (If you've seen it, you know what I mean). It is compared a lot to 'The Sixth Sense' because of its ghostly twist, but I actually prefer this film. It has a great, spooky atmosphere to it with wonderful cinematography and art direction, and it's still a great film to watch even after you know how it ends. If you haven't seen it, however, it's best, because the film really pulls you into the story of the mother played by Nicole Kidman who is trying to protect her sunlight-sensitive children from an unknown presence in their house and is dealing with seemingly conspiring, manipulative servants. I will reveal no more in case you haven't seen it, and, if you haven't, you definitely should.

The Entity
There are a lot of ghost films that are based on true stories, but this is definitely one of the most bizarre. It's the only film I've ever seen that deals with rape by an unseen 'entity' that spends its afterlife undressing and sexually molesting the female inhabitant of a haunted house. I love how every time the entity is raping Barbara Hershey's character this horrible track of music plays, and I'm still trying to figure out how they made it appear that an invisible hand was grabbing her breasts in one scene. The movie is a bit silly, but the thought that this really has happened to someone does make it rather frightening.

So if you're looking for ghostly movies to watch around Halloween, no matter what kind of ghosts you like - loveable, scary, frightening, or funny - there's sure to be an interesting supernatural film for you on this list. Contemplating the afterlife is something we all do, but the creators of these films have done it in ways that are very entertaining and a lot of fun to watch.

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