Together with zombies, vampires, and werewolves, ghosts are part of the creepy collective that brings us nightmares. But there is something innately terrifying about stories of the unseen spirits of dead people compared to corporeal freaks that you can physically escape from. The ethereal presence of spirits allows filmmakers to expand these terrifying aspects of a horror story beyond physical prosthetics of a given monster and instead, discover the psychology of both the human and supernatural aspect of a horror story.
Some of the best ghost films produced aren’t necessarily ‘scary’ per se; directors are given the liberty to explore a more spiritual and existential avenue to pluck on our emotions, creating more unsettling and mind-rending experiences for the viewers. The best ghost movies utilize a lot of cinema’s aspects like sound and music to well up the tension of a scene instead on solely relying on the physicality and effects. With that said, here are five ghost movies you should watch this Halloween.
A Ghost Story (2017)
This film is David Lowry’s comeback to cinema after his 2013 film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints which became a hit. The story revolves around a young couple played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara who procures a home and planned to start life together until a tragedy ended their plans. Affleck’s character dies in a car accident leaving his wife (Mara) to survive on her own and attempt to build a life in the house they made their life plans in. As she goes through her mourning, the man starts to haunt their home and witness his wife continue her life without him. This movie is beautiful and painful at the same time. It dives deep into a person’s grief and misery from losing someone (on both ends of the story).
Carnival of Souls (1962)
A horrifying nightmare that is true to its name, Carnival of Souls by Herk Harvey is an unforgettable trip through a funhouse of our deepest darkest fears.
The story revolves around a woman (Candace Hilligoss) that survives a drag race accident in a small Kansas town. The young woman takes a job in a church in Salt Lake City as a pianist, but an apparition starts to haunt her and beckons her to go to an abandoned lakeside pavilion. This film, made with a small budget effectively uses eerie locations and haunting musical scoring that led to it becoming a b-movie masterpiece.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Guillermo Del Toro’s ability to mix terror and perplexity that stimulate the audience’s senses while maintaining an air of uniqueness to his films is just magical.
Told through the perspective of a twelve year old boy named Carlos, the story is set during the Spanish Civil War where the boy arrives at a sinister-looking orphanage after his father perished during the war. Upon arrival, the boy is then haunted by an apparition and starts to have grisly visions. He then attempts to uncover the mystery of what happened when an attack hit the orphanage. The movie is more psychologically unsettling rather than ‘oh my god it’s a ghost’ scary, with having the realization that being a child during war is the true terror.
The Others (2001)
Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a devoutly religious mother with two kids, Anne played by Alakina Mann and Nicholas, played by James Bentley. She moves her family to the English coast when World War II breaks out and waits for news on her missing husband while caring for her children. Anne claims that she can see spirits which her mother attributes to the new servants playing tricks on them. When unsettling events starts happening accompanied by visions, Grace starts to believe that something paranormal is indeed happening.
Unsettling and peculiar events starts happening to a normal family in California when spirits start to communicate with them through their television. At Harmless at first, the spirits turn hostile all of a sudden and when their youngest daughter goes missing, the parents seek help from a parapsychologist and soon, an exorcist for help.
Poltergeist is one of the best classic ghost stories of the modern age. The unique collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper is one of the greatest collaborative efforts in the history of film. It’s the kind of film that will stick with you for a long time after watching it.