Hearing things go bump in the night is a common fear most people have when they are children and for some it continues into their adult life. Is it a deceased loved one trying to send you a message? Or something that wishes to terrorise your entire family to the point you have to just get out of the house? (The second option a familiar point in most supernatural horror films I can never understand; why people won’t just leave the god damn house?). Whether evil or friendly, a ghost can create fond or sinister memories in the film world. With the Ghostbusters (2016) reboot out this week, let’s see what other paranormal films have left us with chills up and down our spines. An honourable mention definitely goes out to the brilliant Beetlejuice (1988), but I would consider him more of an exorcist/demon entity rather then an actual ghost.
10. The Innkeepers (2011)
Director Ti West is someone I have a bit of a struggle with at times. However, this creepy tale about two bored hotel workers piqued my interest. When they decide to search the hotel for the ghost of a young bride, things slowly take a turn for the worst. When the presence of the ghost finally makes her big reveal, it isn’t a face you will forget anytime soon. A bit of a slow burner, but for those who like films to leave a chill, it is a definite recommendation.
9. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The great Vincent Price classic set in a clichéd but creepy location. Price plays an eccentric millionaire who throws a “haunted house” party. Whoever spends the entire night after the doors are locked will earn $10,000 dollars. Sounds simple enough at first. Until things start to get creepy (yet campy), and the guests begin to see why the house was abandoned for so many years to begin with. A horror classic but just a lot of silly fun at the same time, and Price is just brilliant as always.
8. Ringu (Ring) (1998)
Stepping into J-horror territory now, and with one of the creepiest films ever. When a mysterious tape is going around seemingly killing everyone who watches it after one week, a journalist tries her hardest to save her son after he unwittingly watches it himself. Just a flat out freaky film with a memorable character in the ghostly apparition of Sadako. Just be careful when your TV turns on by itself, you never know what might come out of it!
7. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
Quite frankly, this is the scariest film I have ever seen (don’t laugh), and I still get chills about it to this day. When people visit a house where a woman and her son were murdered by her husband, they are then cursed to have a fate worse than death inflicted upon them. The ghost of the woman climbing down the stairs whilst contorted is one thing. However it is the presence of the young boy who randomly appears and makes cat sounds whenever he is there (it is way creepier than it sounds) that really creeps me out. Not a horror film to watch alone and with the lights off, that is a promise.
6. The Sixth Sense (1999)
A film with a twist ending that nobody saw coming. Although nowadays it is as well-known as Keyser Söze’s identity, at the time it was pure genius. Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist who comes to the aid of a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see dead people. After failing a former patient who shared similar symptoms, the doctor refuses to give up on the boy. Probably director M. Night Shyamalan’s best film. A brilliant atmosphere and great performances all around.
5. The Devil’s Backbone (2003)
I know there is a lot of horror films on this list (and a few more to come), but it is a list about ghost films so what would you expect? Guillermo Del Toro’s film is set at the end of the Spanish civil war set in an orphanage in 1939. When an orphan arrives after being abandoned by his parents, he soon begins to see visions of another creepy boy. And soon he is lead to discover the shocking truth as to what happened to the young spirit, and why he came to him for help. Although the film isn’t as well received as Del Toro’s later film Pans Labyrinth (2005), this film is still quite creepy, tense, and in some ways, even heart felt.
4. Poltergeist (1982)
Although by today’s standards not the scariest of films, but Poltergeist still stands as a classic to this day. When a Californian family settle into a peaceful suburb, they are soon haunted by creepy spirits who speak to their youngest daughter through their static TV. It isn’t long before the young girl is taken by the spirits, so the family tries its hardest to do everything to get her back. This original film soon became a franchise with some creepy consequences, including the death of some of the leading actors. Whatever you think of the sequels, this original is still a great popcorn film, and one that deceased actress Heather O’Rourke will be remembered for, for decades to come.
3. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King’s least favourite adaptation of one of his most famous novels. But to this day remains iconic. Jack Nicholson plays a writer who becomes the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel off-season so he can write his next book. With his wife and young son in tow, he slowly descends into madness when ghostly figures begin to appear, urging him to kill his family. The film has such a sense of cold atmosphere and dread it still sends chills up my spine to this day. Would you go into room 237?
2. Ghost (1990)
Surprised this entry is so high on the list? When Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is killed in a mugging, his ghost must walk the earth as he soon realises his lover Molly (Demi Moore) is in danger, so he must do what he can to protect her. The reason I have this so high is that I don’t like romance films. They are boring and predictable to me. However, Ghost somehow strikes a nerve with me as it blends perfectly elements of romance, horror, and humour from the great Whoopi Goldberg. Call me lame, but it is still a great film.
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
And of course, the top of the food chain has to go to the 1980s classic. When three parapsychologists discover that New York City is now suffering from a paranormal presence, they set up their own paranormal agency which deals with the capture of the apparitions which are causing havoc amongst the streets. A classic cast, a classic script, a classic soundtrack, and an all-around classic film. Ghostbusters will have an ever lasting legacy that will never be over shadowed, even by its meagre sequel, and the fanboy-loathed reboot (although so far the reviews look positive). The film is still highly regarded, and will continue to do so in the same vain as the likes of Star Wars (1977-present) and Indiana Jones (1981-2008).