Wednesday, October 23, 2013


All this talk of Halloween and ghosts has got me thinking: There have a lot of ghost story movies made over the years, and I have a lot of favorites among them -- but which are my most favorite? I spent a while thinking about it and came up with this list, starting with what I consider the best.

 1. THE HAUNTING (1963) - Shirley Jackson's film adaptation of her novel includes an excellent cast, great directing and dialogue, superior sets and camera work, and some seriously scary scenes. The quintessential ghost story movie. Period.

2. THE UNINVITED (1944) - A charming English countryside drama infused with a good old-fashioned ghost story. Ray Milland heads a wonderful cast in this deftly lensed classic.

3. THE INNOCENTS (1961) - Jack Clayton's famous film stars Deborah Kerr as a governess for two creepy kids who is certain the house she is in is haunted. She's right.

4. THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) - The Mt. Everest of haunted houses, indeed. Welcome to Belasco house, scarred with the taint of grotesque and perverted activities so horrifying that the energy from them still exists. Based on the book by Richard Matheson, this very scary film comes complete with an unnerving electronic film score.

5. THE SHINING - Mr. and Mrs. Torrance take over the care of the Overlook Hotel for the winter. Mr. Torrance goes slowly mad. Oh, and the hotel is haunted, too. Kubrick directs Jack Nicholson. The climax in the maze is a ghost story movie best.

6. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) - Thankfully, I was one of the audience that didn't see the surprise ending coming. M. Night Shayamalan's expertly crafted film is quietly terrifying.

7. LADY IN WHITE (1988) - A young Lukas Haas stars in this gripping story, complete with a child murderer that's tons more menacing than Freddy Krueger.

8. POLTERGEIST (1982) - This movie shows what happens when you build a housing tract on top of an Indian burial ground. And that's not a good thing. The swimming pool scene is memorable.

9. KURONEKO (1968) - There have been numerous ghost story movies that have come out of Japan. It's a hard choice, but this one strikes me as being the best. The opening scene of this film is one of the most chilling ever filmed -- and the only ghosts or monsters here are of the human kind.

10. THE OTHERS (2001) - On the UK isle of Jersey, Nicole Kidman waits for her husband to come back from the war. In the meantime, she's trying her best to keep her photo-sensitive kids away from sunlight -- as well as from the strange occurrences in her home.

11. THE FOG (1980) - Here's a film where a whole town gets haunted -- by the ghosts of pirates no less! An early effort by John Carpenter, it is atmospheric and thrilling.

12. THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) - The newest of the lot, and a Hammer film to boot! A post Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe does a great job in this slower-paced, very effective tale, showing that good movies can still be made that favor plot over action and special effects.

13.  HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) - Probably the most surprising entry here, but this film deserves mention as the best of the ghost story movies that doesn't take itself too seriously. Vincent Price, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Carol Ohmart combine for a funhouse thrill ride that only William Castle could pull off.

Well, there you have it -- my 13 favorite ghost story movies. As I said, I've got a few others, but these top the list. How about you? Have any favorites that would be on your list that aren't mentioned here?


DRB in Karloffornia said...

Excellent choices!

Mantan Calaveras said...

Right on! You bookended your list with two of my favorite ghost movies. On the low-end but full of campy goodness, House on Haunted Hill! Can't beat Vincent Price in one of his funnest roles.

And on the high end, The Haunting, which still creeps me out, just thinking of some of those scenes. REALLY effective use of cinematography, the likes of which you just don't see these days!


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