Autumn is my most favorite time of year. The cool weather, the beautiful colors and that desire to curl up with some eerie books and creepy movies. Today is my exciting tour stop on the Halloween Trills & Chills event hosted by The Midnight Garden and I’m featuring a guest post from Jonathan Stroud where he shares his favorite horror films. Having just read The Screaming Staircase and being currently in the middle of The Whispering Skull, I completely trust his opinion on anything creepy. His series is a fantastically fun mix of mystery and creepy that you won’t want to miss the chance to enjoy.
In addition to this guest post, you will have the opportunity to win a box of horror novels that you’ll get just in time for Halloween! Be sure to check out the full list of all the other stops on this thrilling tour for more chilling posts!
Top 5 Classic Ghost Films
1. The Innocents (1962)
Absolutely my favourite ghost film, an exquisite and near perfect adaptation of Henry James’ classic The Turn of the Screw. Deborah Kerr plays a young governess who comes to teach two adorable children in an idyllic country house. All seems set fair, but it isn’t long before she begins to suspect that Miles and Flora are being haunted by two recently dead servants, who have come back from the grave to corrupt them. Scripted by Truman Capote and John Mortimer, and featuring wonderful performances by the child actors and Kerr, it maintains the ambiguity of the literary original. Is the governess seeing wicked ghosts, or is she barking mad? Either way, it’s scary and unsettling.
2. The Haunting (1963)
The original, not the dodgy remake. Another classy black-and-white adaptation of a literary classic, this time Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. A disparate group of psychic researchers arrive at a house of ill repute, and supernatural forces set to work. Soon one of them in particular, the vulnerable, repressed Eleanor, is being targeted. It can’t end well. Terrifically atmospheric and genuinely frightening.
3. Dead of Night (1945)
A classy portmanteau movie, with several ghostly tales told by guests at a party in a country house. Most famous is the final segment, with Michael Redgrave terrorised by a possessed ventriloquist’s dummy, but most of the other sections have been very influential. By turns comic (the golfing story), poignant (a Christmas encounter with the ghost of a murdered child), and eerie (the haunted mirror), it’s all tied together neatly by an excellent slingshot ending.
4. The Devil Rides Out (1969)
Can I include this? Does it actually have any ghosts in it? There are demons, afrits, cases of Satanic possession… and various ghostly things turning up to menace the heroes as they cower in their protective pentacle at the finale, so… yes, I reckon it’s in. Hammer Studio’s best film, written by Richard Matheson, and with Christopher Lee and Charles Gray on the top of their form, it’s gloriously lurid and excellent fun.
5. Night of the Demon (1957)
You have to ignore the first couple of minutes. In fact, best close your eyes for some of it, since the studio insisted on adding a redundant shot of the demon in question, when it would have been infinitely better to save it for the end. But the rest of Jacques Tourneur’s film is terrific, a spirited and atmospheric adaptation of M R James’s classic ‘Casting the Runes’. The kind of film (like several of these choices) that gives B-movies a good name.
Top 5 Modern Ghost Films
1. Ring (1998)
Hugely successful, the Japanese movie Ring spawned a plethora of movies featuring creepy girl ghosts with a lot of long dark hair. What I love about it is its fusion of classic folklore (it’s ultimately derived from an old Japanese tale about a servant girl thrown down a well), and modern urban legend. The idea of a cursed videotape that kills the viewer snaps this vengeful spectre instantly into the present day (though I guess you’d need to make it a cursed app now). It gives her immense potency. For a film with such a scary reputation, it’s also highly restrained, relying on slow-build of atmosphere rather than Grand Guignol effects.
2. The Orphanage (2007)
There’s nothing like ghost children to pack an emotional punch. In fact, I almost didn’t put this Spanish masterpiece in my list, because I personally find the outcome so distressing! But it’s a cracking ghost story, beautifully produced and filmed, and derives its power from the seamless meshing of old and new tragedies, the repercussions of past evil, and the remorselessly logical build-up of its supernatural elements. In all of this, it mirrors the very best classic literary ghost stories.
3. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Who couldn’t include this in a list of recent ghostly classics? Just occasionally a movie comes out where everything seems to work just right, and M Night Shyamalan’s debut is one of them. That ending aside, there are just so many brilliantly scary moments here, mainly involving the terrific Haley Joel Osment and what he sees when he’s alone at night. And Bruce Willis is fab too. A film that demands to be seen a second time, straight over, just so you can marvel how clever it is.
4. Stir of Echoes (1999)
Adapted from a book by genre great Richard Matheson (author of best-vampire-novel ever I Am Legend), this gets my nod for Kevin Bacon’s great performance as the ordinary Joe suddenly beset by creepy psychic visions. So many ghost stories have at their heart a vulnerable protagonist, isolated from everyone else by their sensitivity to occult forces. Quite often this protagonist is female (see Nos. 2 & 5 in my list) or a kid (No.3); here, refreshingly, it’s a big burly guy. Plus we get ghostly voices heard through a baby monitor, the possibility of which always used to freak me out when my kids were small. (We did once hear some strange voices, as it happened, but hopefully we were just picking up another family down the road…)
5. The Others (2001)
What is it about Spanish directors and great ghost movies? This one, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, is up there with The Orphanage and Guillermo del Toro’s Devil’s Backbone as a modern classic. Consciously playing with themes familiar to us since The Turn of the Screw – big mansion, vulnerable kids, uptight isolated woman, oppressive forces homing in – it strikes all the right notes thanks to a pitch-perfect performance from Nicole Kidman. It’s also got the great Eric Sykes it as a sinister gardener, which is a bonus in anyone’s book.
Thrills and Chills: Halloween Event Tour with Jonathan Stroud, Hillary Monahan, and Laurie Stolarz
Wednesday, October 1 The Midnight Garden 5 Questions with Jonathan Stroud
Thursday, October 2 The Starry-Eyed Revue Into the Spooky Swamp Setting of Mary: The Summoning
Friday, October 3 Supernatural Snark Rules for Surviving a House of Horrors (guest post by Laurie Stolarz)
Monday, October 6 Xpresso Reads Deleted Scene from Mary: The Summoning
Tuesday, October 7 Love is Not a Triangle 5 Questions with Laurie Stolarz
Wednesday, October 8 For the Love of Words 10 Great Horror Films with Jonathan Stroud
Thursday, October 9 Winterhaven Books How I Became a Horror Fan (guest post with Hillary Monahan)
Friday, October 10 YA Romantics Quiz: What Dark House Character Are You?
Monday, October 13 My Friends Are Fiction Fashion Accessories for Ghosthunters (guest post by Jonathan Stroud)
Tuesday, October 14 The Flyleaf Review 5 Questions with Hillary Monahan
Wednesday, October 15 Books with Bite Top 10 Items to Survive The Dark House Amusement Park
Win a Thrills and Chills box of horror! Includes copies of the following new releases:
The box will be delivered just in time for spooky Halloween reading!
Open to US and Canadian residents, see complete rules on entry form.