Halloween Week

Halloween Week – Movies: Ghosts and Hauntings

In celebration of our official Ghosts and Hauntings day, here’s a list of some of our essential movies in the genre:

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Based on a true story, which always sounds hokey, the Amityville House is actually still standing, and currently inhabited by a family that has no problems with its gory past. The movie follows a pair of newlyweds who unwittingly move into the Long Island home, oblivious to the house’s bloody history of murder. Strange events, including inverted crosses, house blessings gone bad, swarms of flies, devilish voices ensue. It’s not the best horror movie out there, but it certainly is an iconic film–and definitely worth watching.


Stephen Spielberg strikes again! Poltergeist is a truly frightening film (hello, scene in the little boy’s room with the creepy clown!),

documenting the haunting of a suburban tract home, primarily through the fixation of poltergeist energy around the young, blonde daughter Carol Anne. Pure brilliance.

The Haunting (1963)

Don’t get this confused with the crapfest that was the 1990s remake. This is probably THE greatest haunted house movie ever made. Loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hell House (the definitive haunted house novel), the movie follows four guests who spend the night in a New England mansion, hoping to disprove the rumors of hauntings. Eleanor, our protagonist, struggles as the movie progresses, losing her grip on sanity with each successive ghostly encounter. This is a psychological horror film and one that every fan should have in their personal libraries.

The Haunted: One Family’s Nightmare

A TV movie from 1991, this is one of Thea’s favorites for sentimental value. Based on a book by journalist Robert Curran documenting the true haunting of the Smurl family in their West Pittston, PA home, The Haunted manages to deliver a good amount of horrific scares, especially for a TV movie. It’s a scary, touching look at a family that cannot escape the ghosts that haunt them. If you can, try to get your hands on a copy (netflix or online ordering); I’ve seen it on cable once a couple of years back as well!

The Shining

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Though this film is markedly different than the novel (which everyone should read!), it is fantastic, and better for its deviations from the source material (really, the maze is far scarier than the topiaries–or hedge animals. Need we say more?!). A Kubrick classic, and Jack Nicholson delivers one of his most memorable performances–The Shining still terrifies, years after hitting theaters.(Ana says: the twins at the end of the corridor? *shudders* Scariest shit ever)

Burnt Offerings

A husband, wife and their young boy decide to rent out a summer house–only to find that the home is haunted. From a possessed swimming pool, the spirit of an old woman, and other ghostly events haunt the family. This is a wonderfully made, expertly shot film.

The Changeling

John Russell, a widower, moves into a large mansion, and soon realizes that he is not alone–the ghost is of a young boy, murdered in the early 1900s. John dedicates himself to solving the mystery. This is an intelligent, highly atmospheric movie, dedicated to slow creeping scares as opposed to jump-around-a-corner shocks. George C. Scott does a phenomenal job as John Russell–making this one of Thea’s all time favorite haunted house films.

The Entity

Another movie allegedly based on a true story – that of Carla Moran, a woman constantly tormented by an unseen entity that attacks her sexually. After being raped twice by the invisible being, Carla seeks the help of a psychiatrist thinking she is developing a mental illness; but after one of these assaults is witnessed by one of her friends, Carla seeks the help of a team of parapsychologists leading up to a showdown with the entity who becomes sort of corporeal – an event witnessed by her own psychiatrist. There is a book with the same title, by Frank DeFelitta which provides a more detailed account and it is highly disturbing. The movie states that Carla carried on suffering the attacks.

Lady in White

Lady in White is an 80s movies where a small boy , on Halloween night is locked at his school and ends up witnessing the ghostly replay of a young girl’s murder that took place 10 years before. The murderer has never been found and the ghost of the young girl, the Lady in White of the title, is still seeking for her daughter. The one scene where with the empty rocking chair and the Lady In White standing outside the window is possibly the reason why Ana will not sleep with the curtains open.

Lady in White is a great movie not only for its scare factor (High!) and atmosphere but also because it is highly emotional – who wouldn’t pity a mother desperate to find her daughter?

The Sixth Sense

The movie that established M. Night Shyamalan as the master of the Twist endings and bumped him into stardom. Bruce Willis plays the child psychologist who helps the frightened nine year old Cole to find a purpose for his gift of …talking to ghosts.

“I see dead People”

Who saw the twist coming on this one? (*Ana raises hand*: I did! I did!)

(Ana had to sleep with the lights on for 6 months after watching this movie. )
(Thea thought it was quite good too, but not nearly as scary as she would have liked *ninja*)

The Others

A psychological, atmospheric horror movie by Alejandro Amenábar, with Nicole Kidman playing widower Grace Stewart. She lives in a country estate along with her two children who suffer from photosensitivity. Little by little, odd events begin to occur and Grace starts to think that they are not alone – her daughter draws pictures of people that she sees around the house, a piano plays from inside a locked room when no one is there, doors open and close and they start to think that there are Others. But who are these Others?

Again, did anyone see the twist coming? (*Thea raises her hand*: I did! Blaaaaaah Nicole Kidman annoys me.)

So, these are some of our favorite (Hollywood made) ghost movies – what are yours?

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  • Heather
    October 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    What a great list!

    Please…*please* will both of you marry me right now?! (Although I confess to not having seen the LADY IN WHITE or BURNT OFFERINGS–yet; however don't let that stop you!)

    I have all the rest on DVD. Thea, are you familiar with Ed & Lorraine Warren, the demonologists who investigated the Smurl case? That book as well as THE DEMONOLOGIST spooked me like no others.

    I love all of these films but having recently seen THE CHANGELING, I must say it made quite an impression on me. It's a hidden treasure of haunted house films and I loved how they got so many details right.

    You named all of my favorites but if I happen to remember any others I'll be sure to return. Y'all rock!

  • Bridget Locke
    October 26, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    LOL! I have this ridiculous, but funny story about the Others I had to share.

    After that movie had been out for awhile (I hadn’t seen it…no likey Kidman) I was watching Mad TV and one of the skits was the annoying movie theater attendant. At the end of the skit THEY GAVE AWAY THE END OF THE MOVIE!

    So, hadn’t seen it, but knew what the twist was before I saw it. Have to say tho, that the twist was pretty surprising (if I hadn’t known…grr).

    I like the movie Carrie. I completely, 100% empathize with her. School was sheer horror for me and I can completely see where she was coming from. Ugh!

  • orannia
    October 26, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I haven’t seen many ghost/horror movies – I’m a bit of a scaredy cat! However, I LOVED Sixth Sense…and I so didn’t see the ending coming 🙂

  • ag
    October 27, 2008 at 2:17 am

    um … I’ll give these a BIG miss. Haven’t been able to watch any horrors since I turned 19. The last time I broke this sacred rule for Omen, I had trouble sleeping.

  • little alys
    October 27, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Honestly? Asian horror scares me more. I watched those growing up thus causing me great fear just seeing stuff like this. This is a great list too.
    Like Bridget, I also like Carrie. Can relate, you know.

  • Kate
    October 27, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I just watched “The Messengers” recently, which, while not the best movie in the world, was pretty damn creepy for this girl.

    I also love that you picked the 1963 “The Haunting”! Although nothing, NOTHING will ever be as good as the book. I’m rereading it right now.

    And I don’t remember when I last saw “The Lady In White,” but I just got chills reading your post, remembering that film.

  • Rosario
    October 28, 2008 at 12:11 am

    *writing all of these down*

    Can I tell you how much I’m enjoying your Halloweeen week (even though, like Ana, Halloween was never a part of my life, living as I did in Uruguay)?

    One of the scariest movies I’ve watched lately is a Spanish one, The Orphanage. It’s about a young couple and their son who move into an old house. The woman had grown up there, when it was an orphanage, and since she’d been quite happy there, they intend to kind of turn it into an orphanage again, by fostering as many children as they can. But their son soon starts playing with an imaginary friend who turns out to be a bit too real. It reminded me a bit of The Others, not because there’s anything like that twist in it, but because of the atmosphere and the kind of horror.

  • Thea
    October 28, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Heather–thank you! Is this where I say “I do”? Only if we can get married on a spaceship :p As for the Smurls, I picked up the book after watching the movie, and had the pants scared off me again–I’ll have to check out THE DEMONOLOGIST! (Oh and if you loved the other films on this list, then I guarantee you’ll be a fan of Burnt Offerings and Lady in White!) The Changeling I think is one of those criminally underrated horror films–it’s so beautifully done, very traditional in a ghost story sense, but wonderfully atmospheric and creepy. I recently rewatched it and it definitely stands the test of time!

    Bridget Locke–LOL! I need to find a clip of that skit. I think I’m one of the few people that really didn’t care for The Others, and I totally called that twist :p

    Carrie is awesome, isn’t it? I love the book as well.

    Orannia–*hugs* Although I’m totally bummed out on M. Night Shyamalan (Ugggggggh The Happening *rolls eyes and gags*) The Sixth Sense is an undeniably wonderful film. Love it. (Although I must say everytime I see that famous “I see dead people” clip, it will forever be replaced with “I see monkeys”–at Angels games, before they used to bust the rally monkey out, they cycled that clip and dubbed over Haley Joel Osmett’s voice. LOL!! /random)

    Alice– Asian horror scares me more.

    Oh don’t you worry my friend. We will have Asian horror this Saturday!

    Kate–I rented The Messengers recently! I think it certainly had its creepy moments, even with a sort of run-of-the-mill plot. Plus, I’m always a sucker for the big sister protecting her sibling thing :p

    The Haunting totally rocks! Although I definitely agree–nothing can come close to the book!

    Rosario–thank you! And I LOVE The Orphanage. It’s a beautiful movie, scary but more…heart-wrenching than anything else. We’ll have a list up on Saturday with our favorite horror movies from other countries–and El Orfanato definitely makes the cut 🙂

  • Bev(QB)
    October 28, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Sorry, I have to disagree with you on a couple of them. I read the books for The Amityville Horror and The Entity BEFORE I saw the movies. The only thing I found scary in the movies is my OWN anticipation of what came next based on the book. When the expected incidents didn’t happen… over and over again… I was thoroughly disappointed in the movies.

    However, these movies were so popular that I have to wonder, if I had NOT read the unbelievably scary books, would I have found the movies scary then?

    Now The Haunting? I said in another post that Legend of Hell House is THE scariest book I’ve ever read. And even though this movie isn’t true to the book, I can say that it OMG soooo scared the living hell outta me! Do not watch without a pillow to hold on to and scream into!

  • Kate
    October 28, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Rosario, agreeing on “The Orphanage”! I saw that last year (?) when it came out in the US and spent most of the time not looking at the screen and determinedly eating my popcorn. That knocking game she was playing with the “children” when she was alone in the house…oh my god, nightmares – the best sort of creepy-scary.

    Thea, yes, “The Messengers” isn’t the greatest of all scary movies but it was far, far better than I’d expected. Good cinematography too, and a great mix of the Japanese horror ethos and visuals with a classic-ish middle-American story.

  • Lana
    October 29, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Ooh, I loved The Others and The Sixth Sense. So atmospherically creepy. I’m a big sucker for the Gothic.

    Also, inspired by these posts, I did my own favorite horror movie post! (Aince I’m a wuss, though, they all fit pretty well in one post.)

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