I’ve said more than once that I am very partial to ghost stories, so I thought I’d talk about a few ghost films I particularly like, that you might want to check out. These are in no particular order of preference, and I make no claim to them being the best. They’re just movies I think are good examples of this genre. I have also tried to avoid some of the more obvious selections (ie Sixth Sense, The Others, etc.)
A Ghost Story (2017)
I have done a full review of this film elsewhere on this blog, so you can read that to know how very much I like this movie. If you ever want to watch it, you need to remember this – “A Ghost Story” is NOT a horror movie. I suppose you could call it a study of grief, of the soul, unfinished business, the nature of the afterlife. It’s a slow movie, with little action and little dialogue, but if you’re patient, you can experience something truly brilliant.
Dead of night (1945)
This is a horror anthology, possibly even the first of its kind (though I’m not entirely sure about that.) It’s also very good, and surprisingly creepy. There is an overarching plot, as well as five stories told by various characters. Two of these involve ghosts. The first of these is quite sad – a woman meets a distressed young boy at a Christmas party. She consoles him and puts him to bed, before returning to the party. She is told that a boy of that name was murdered in the house by his sister. The second is the only comedic story in the film – two golfers play a game of golf over a woman they both care about. One wins by cheating, whereupon the other kills himself. The dead golfer returns as a ghost, insisting that the live golfer give up the woman or he’ll haunt him. The ghost then discovers he can’t seem to go away, the living man decides he will keep the woman anyway, however on the night of the wedding the living man makes himself disappear, leaving the ghost to woo the woman. This story is actually very funny.
Overall this is an excellent film and surprisingly disturbing for the time it was made. Watch it if you can.
The Stone Tape (1972)
The Stone Tape theory, or the residual haunting theory, was first proposed in the nineteenth century, and was the idea that hauntings were a form of recording imprinted on an environment which could then be played back. This was an attempt to explain why most ghostly sightings did not involve any interaction with the ‘ghost’, and often seemed to have the ghost or ghosts repeating a movement over and over.
This was the concept behind the 1972 made-for-tv film. Written by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame, it is an atmospheric and creepy look at the idea of a haunting being a recording of sorts, where an employee of an electronics firm believes if he can find the way an environment records an event then he can replicate this phenomenon and play it back at will. He thinks this will revolutionize the recording industry. Naturally this does not go according to plan. It seems that some people will partially or fully experience a haunting, whereas others might see and feel nothing at all. The ending of this story is truly terrifying, and I don’t want to give away spoilers. I would recommend that if you can find this, watch it. It is really worthwhile.
Carnival of souls (1962)
This was a low-budget horror film, not getting much attention at the time of its release. However, it has grown a larger audience over the years, and is a superbly creepy ghost story. A survivor of a car accident moves to a new town, and is seemingly haunted by a ghostly apparition of a man with a dead white face. The woman experiences increasingly strange incidents and dreams, involving an abandoned carnival building outside of town to which she is inexplicably drawn. She has been told the carnival is locked down and entry is prohibited, but she eventually goes there. In tried and true horror fashion, this was not the wisest choice, though given the final solution to this story, you could ask the question whether the woman had any choice at all. Again, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I can say this film will give you all the ghosts and ghouls you could desire. It’s definitely worth seeing.
Lake Mungo (2008)
This is an Australian movie and done in a mockumentary style. A family is being interviewed about the death of their daughter and the events that have occurred since. Alice, dead from a drowning accident, keeps on turning up in photos and video. The events appear to have a rational explanation, when Alice’s brother admits to having doctored the footage, in a skewed attempt to bring comfort to his family. It does appear that not all of the footage can be explained that way, especially when Alice’s own phone is recovered and shows a harbinger of death, that is the single creepiest image in this film.
I like it because I think it is presented in an interesting way. The mockumentary/found footage style is, of course, hardly new, but this was done very well and convincingly. You could really believe that this was a documentary you were watching. The dialogue was apparently improvised by the actors based on the outline of the story they were given, lending authenticity to the speech. It is less frightening and more unsettling, with its score and atmosphere lending an uneasy vibe to the whole movie.
So, if you haven’t seen any of these, I hope I have provided some suggestions for Hallowe’en viewing. If you can think of any ghost movies you particularly like, let me know.