411 Movies Top 5 4.11.14: Top 5 Haunting Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 04.11.2014
From The Shining and Beetlejuice to The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, Poltergeist and more, the 411 staff counts down the top 5 movies about hauntings!
Welcome to Week 421 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: We have done ghost movies before, and you can add those here as well, but this can be ghost, demonic possession, or whatever as long as you explain why it is a haunting. A lot more open for interpretation here.
Honorable Mentions: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), Repossessed (1990), House (1986), Ghosts of Mars (2001)
5. Scrooged (1988)
Most people probably don't consider Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol a haunting movie or even much of a ghost movie, but when you look at what the Ebenezer Scrooge character is forced to do by the three ghosts (four if you count the Jacob Marley character) Scrooge is essentially haunted by them. 1988's Scrooged is a sort of modern version of that story and puts Bill Murray's Frank Cross (Scrooge) in the world of television/Hollywood. It is an awful place filled with greed and pain. And, as Frank is forced to look at his past, his present, and his possible future he slowly comes around and realizes that he's been an asshole for far too long. Frank eventually decides to start caring about people and about life. Scrooged is a fine example of a haunting movie that's meant to scare someone on an intellectual level or an emotional level instead of simply being a visceral experience.
4. Beetlejuice (1988)
Because of the strong, wacked out performance by Michael Keaton as the "bio exorcist" Beetlejuice and the overall look of the movie created by visionary director Tim Burton Beetlejuice probably isn't seen as a haunting movie or even much of a ghost movie, eventhough the movie's plot is explicitly about those things. It's a weird fantasy thing, a "Tim Burton movie" that's meant to be slightly screwy. But, in reality it's a double haunting movie. Think about it; Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin want to haunt and scare the Deetz family but they have no idea how to do it. So they call on Beetlejuice to help them, and as a result of that action Davis and Baldwin are then haunted by Beetlejuice. A ghost haunting other ghosts? How often does that happen?
3. The Haunted (1991)
This is a Fox made-for-TV movie starring Sally Kirkland and Jeffrey DeMunn that's allegedly based on a "true story" (right). It's about a family that's haunted/terrorized by some ghosts and a demon. I haven't seen it in years (I think it's on youtube somewhere) but just thinking about this movie gives me the creeps. There's the scene where Kirkland gets pushed down the steps. And then there's the scene where a female ghost/demon comes down the stairs, picks up and throws DeMunn across the room and then rapes him (one of the vilest scenes in horror movie history). There's the big hooha "house exorcism" scene where the house rumbles and the furniture goes flying and dresser drawers develop a life of their own. And then there's the final scene. The family has moved to a new house in a new neighborhood. Kirkland is unpacking, happy, thankful that the haunted house nonsense is over. And then a voice in the other room says Kirkland's character's name, "Janet." Kirkland looks up and starts to fall apart. Her family's ordeal isn't over. Jesus, I'm getting the heebie jeebies right now just thinking about this movie. Terrifying.
2. Poltergeist (1982)
The first movie in the Poltergeist franchise, the one likely directed by Tobe Hooper (people still question whether or not he actually directed the movie. I think he did, but you can see producer Spielberg's influence), is still insanely scary. It's all bullshit, of course, but the weird beard hooey that the Freeling family goes through (young daughter gets sucked into the TV, the furniture thing, the decomposing meat, the psycho clown toy, etc) still gets under my skin. It makes you wonder why they all didn't get the hint the second the weird stuff started happening. I'd like to think that I would have freaked out and left. Who the heck cares about the house? Let the demons have it. Get the hell out, man.
"They're here!" Yes. They are. Get out!
1. The Exorcist (1973)
William Friedkin's The Exorcist is scary because it makes you believe that Linda Blair's Regan, despite all common sense and logic (demon possession and exorcisms are just total bullshit), really is possessed by a killer demon. Friedkin has absolutely no problem with Regan cussing like a sailor, vomiting gross green vomit at a moment's notice, and stabbing herself in her lady parts with a cross. Who else, outside of a crazy person, would do that kind of thing willingly? And let's not forget that Regan's skin turns a gross shade of green and her bedroom is like a meat locker (it's the only room in the house where you can see your breath when you talk). The Devil has to be responsible for that. It's the only thing that makes sense. Jason Miller's performance as the troubled priest Father Karras helps amplify the movie's overall sense of dread, but Regan's transformation from a young teen girl into a foul mouthed monster is what makes the audience squirm (well, that and the spinal tap scene. My God that's gross shit). Had Friedkin held back at all I don't think the movie would have worked. It had to be all or nothing. I mean, would anyone have cared if we didn't see Regan all messed up? I doubt it. I just don't see how that movie works.
Shawn S. Lealos
5. The Haunting (1963)
There was a remake of this movie years later with a goofy looking CGI demon. What made this original version so great was that you didn't see the demon or ghost or whatever it was that was haunting the house. Robert Wise chose to keep you in the shoes of the protagonists and did not show you what was causing the disturbance. What a person sees is never as scary or powerful as what a person imagines. That is what makes things that go bump in the night so scary – you never know what it was. That is why this movie is so great.
4. The Evil Dead
Yeah, I am going with the very first movie – warts and all. Sure, Evil Dead 2 was the stronger movie and is considered one of the best horror movies of all time. I don't care. I love Evil Dead 2 but I hold the original Evil Dead up as one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Sam Raimi did everything with him and a group of friends and used some of the most impressive and inventive filming techniques I have seen on a low-budget film. Of course, the movie is about the reading of a book that unleashes the demons to possess Ash's friends – and eventually Ash – until they are all killing each other. It is a great story of a haunted cabin in the woods and remains a movie that I re-visit frequently whenever I get the itch to pull out the movie camera. It proves that it just takes a good and creative mind to do just about anything you want. Plus, it's a damn fun film.
3. The Shining
Is it a haunting movie or is it a movie about a man going insane? Is the Overlook Hotel haunted or is it all in the head of Jack Torrance? In the Stephen King novel, it is clearly a haunted hotel that drives Jack crazy and convinces him to try to kill his family. It had been happening for many years before. Hell, there were so many deaths in the hotel that it remains a place of security for people who live off the deaths of others. However, in Stanley Kubrick's movie, he leaves it open and it seems he prefers to let it look like Jack is just going insane. I do feel that the movie is a haunting movie because of Danny Torrance, who sees the dead girls and the woman in the tub. Danny saw them, and Danny has the Shining, so that means the hotel was indeed haunted. That is my interpretation, at least.
2. The Devil's Backbone
Guillermo Del Toro is one of cinema's most visually impressive filmmakers. His Pan's Labyrinth is one of the best fantasy movies ever made. However, before he made that film, he created this wonderful ghost story. The Devil's Backbone shares many traits with Pan's Labyrinth, including a child protagonist and a dark secret that needs to be uncovered. The movie tells the story of a young boy whose father drops him off at an old orphanage, while he heads out to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It is hinted early on that he won't return and this young boy must find a way to deal with this new life, living in the old facility, with an undetonated bomb in the front court and an angry ghost who wants retribution for a crime never punished. It is atmospheric, the music is haunting and Del Toro really knows how to direct scares. He has been producing more horror films by young Mexican filmmakers, and there might be no one better to teach them than Del Toro.
1. Stir of Echoes
In 1999, I remember going to see a different brand new horror movie for three straight weekends. Those movies were The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes. What I remember the most is that I hated Blair Witch, but felt the other two were brilliant. Now, 13 years later, Stir of Echoes is the one that I consider the best of the group. The movie stars Kevin Bacon as a father who is hypnotized and then finds that ghosts from the other world can now connect with him and his young child. While the ghost seems gentle with the boy, it grows increasingly violent with Bacon as the movie moves on, demanding that he step up his game and figure out the puzzle that the being needs solved before it can move on to the other side. It is a brilliant ghost movie and is actually quite a bit more memorable than The Sixth Sense.