You might not have noticed, but there’s a new Ghostbusters film out. While your waiting for the sequel to the remake, or grumbling about your stolen childhood, lets have a look at some other fun ghost flicks you might have missed.
There is something about the superstition and mythology of ghosts that lends itself to storytelling. The cinema inherited it’s love of depicting our insubstantial ancestors from the theatre.
Who could forget the moment Hamlet faces the tormented apparition of his father in Shakespeare’s opus? In the Phantasmagorias of the 18th and 19th centuries plays were staged using elaborate illusions (literally smoke and mirrors) to create transparent spooks and spectres for the sole purpose of frightening audiences.
Ghosts, unlike most of the supernatural beings our species have conjured up from the confused and superstitious corners of our imaginations, were once humans like us. They can be our loved ones watching over us, tormented souls unable to pass over to whatever version of an afterlife you prescribe to, or they could be the result of a supernatural transformation into another kind of being entirely. The possibilities, like eternal souls, are endless.
1. The House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The House on Haunted Hill is a supernatural thriller written and directed by William Castle. Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren, played with relish by horror icon Vincent Price, has invited five random people to a party for his fourth wife in, of all places, a haunted house on a haunted hill. Not surprisingly, murderous and supernatural shenanigans ensue.
Having William Castle at the helm alone is enough to ensure an entertaining ride. Ever the showman, when you went to see one of his films you went to be entertained, and you were. He would frequently employ gimmicks and tricks in the cinema, such as the seats vibrating during the parasite thriller The Tinger (1959).
In The House of Haunted Hill a skeleton with glowing red eyes would rise above the audience, matching the action in the film and frightening it’s 50’s adult audience and delighting their children.
Of course, we can never recreate the original experience watching it at home, and if you see a skeleton with glowing eyes floating about your living room you might need to seek professional help, but the film remains a rollicking ride well worth taking if you’re a fan of the genre.
2. The Innocents (1961)
If trying to be frightened by The Turn of the Screw while struggling through Henry James’ thick and rosy prose is too much for you (don’t feel too bad: there are English professors who hate it), fear not, it was adapted for the screen in 1961 as The Innocents.
A young governess (sort of like a nanny), played by Deborah Kerr, is employed to look after two children in a stately manor which is haunted by more than just its past. The children’s behaviour is odd and disturbing, and the bewildered governess soon comes to suspect that they are under the influence of malevolent spirits.
Master cinematographer Freddie Francis utilises his skills to create a eerie and disturbing mood seldom achieved in films today. There is one particular scene in The Innocents that will make you poop out your spinal column, but it shan’t be spoiled here, so you’ll have to see the film to know what happens.
3. House (1977)
Um… Well, House is about… The house which wants to eat the characters, and…
Ok, start again. House is a Japanese film made in 1977. A schoolgirl nicknamed Gorgeous and six schoolmates go to spend the summer at her aunties house. They offer the aunt a watermelon, a girl disappears into a broken fridge, household items attack, there’s a monster jar and there’s something strange about the cat.
There really isn’t much to say about House. Words fail to describe it. Don’t look it up on Rotten Tomatoes or Wikipedia, just go and get your hands on a copy. You really need to see it to get an idea of how crazy it is. It’s an experience you will not soon forget.
4. Mr. Boogedy (1986)
Kids who grew up in the 80’s might remember this one. It was that ghost movie your parents let you watch because it was Disney, so there couldn’t really be anything too scary in it, right? No, of course not. Disney movies never emotionally traumatised kids…
Mr Boogedy tells the story of a family moving into a haunted house. Not the most original premise, even then. This house has a few unusual ghosts in it though, notably a grumpy old pilgrim from the colonial era called Mr Boogedy, who, during his corporeal existence, enjoyed frightening children.
A perfect candidate for ghosthood really. If you saw it when you were a kid you probably don’t remember much about the family. They were a typical American 80’s sitcom family. A nice mother, an eccentric father, kids that are more switched-on then their parents. What you’ll remember most is the lo-fi TV visual effects, and that blue ghosts are good and green ghosts are bad.
While elements of Mr. Boogedy don’t hold up, it can be enjoyed for what it is: an artefact of the 80’s which is loads of fun and still has a few creepy moments in store for your inner child. If you can find it, check it out.
5. A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)
Different cultures have imagined ghosts in different ways. These differences are reflected in their storytelling. In some Asian cultures ghosts are much more dynamic than they are in the European tradition.
A ghost could knock on your door and ask for some wine. You’d never know that old hobo was a ghost, and there may even be a consequence for not doing what you were asked. These kinds of ghosts allow for much more creative storytelling than their European cousins.
In A Chinese Ghost Story, an awkward and shy tax collector Ning Choi-san takes refuge in a temple where he meets and falls head over heels in love with a beautiful young woman named Nip Siu-sin. The problem is she’s a ghost. Not only is she dead, she is bound by the power of an evil tree demoness who has no intention of setting her captive free.
The visuals and sound design of A Chinese Ghost Story are stunning, and the kung-fu fantasy action sequences are exciting. Do your eyes and ears a favour and give it a try.