Paranormal Talk-tivity – What’s the Best Ghost Film?

So, how about we do some paranormal talk? Well, first I suppose we should establish some ground rules. I’m talking strictly ghosts here. Other realms of the paranormal such as UFO’s and Cryptozoology can wait. I want to go into what makes a good ghost film (story).

First, I’ll give a little background on myself. About five or six years ago, I founded a paranormal investigation group. Yes. Yes, I did. Honestly, I’m not  a heavy believer (I’m more interested in what science can explain), but it was fun running around in dark places in the middle of the night trying to get scared.

Of all the experiences I’ve had and all the locations I’ve explored, my favorite was the Brookdale Lodge. Aside from it being the first and only public place we investigated, it was thrilling because it had been featured on television. A lot.

I’d like to tell you that we saw a bunch of shadows, caught a bunch of voices on tape, and saw a real live ghost on film, but I can’t. The visit was rather lackluster aside from a random piece of equipment we’d been using starting to malfunction. The only thing I couldn’t explain was listening back on the tape and hearing something odd.

Both of our male members were alone in a small room above the bar in the main part of the building. This was probably around 7pm on a weekend. The bar was full, but the door to the room cut off almost all of the noise. We’d previously “misplaced” another member of our group who I’ll call Pam. One investigator asked, “Where’s Pam?”

While listening back on the tape, I was surprised to hear someone else respond, “Who’s Pam?” And it was not a voice I had ever heard before. So, that was slightly unsettling.

However, the goal of this post is to figure out what makes a good ghost movie. To start, there are so many different aspects of the genre. We have harmless entities, spirits out for revenge, possession and living houses. Okay, let’s grab the best from each category.

1. Harmless Entities

Beetlejuice (1988)

Why it Made the List

Beetlejuice, aside from being my favorite film and starring one  of my favorite actors (can you guess?), is this top pick because it’s a movie I can watch over and over again. Say his name three times and you’re in for a world of trouble (did you catch that? I didn’t say Beetlejuice again because it… Damn it). Even though Beetlejuice can be considered a villain in the film, the ghosts are pretty harmless. And I give this classic props for the outstanding imagery and downright frightening spirits.

Honorable Mentions

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Ghost (1990)
Field of Dreams (1989)

2. Spirits Out for Revenge

Ghost Story (1981)

Why it Made the List

Ghost Story is probably one of the most visually-striking revenge ghost films. Fred Astaire’s last movie was a gift to all viewers. Alma Mobley was murdered by four men. And her spirit lies in wait until they are successful, elderly and comfortable. Then, she prays on their sons. As I said before, the visuals in this film were brilliant. All I have to say is melting eyes and I get shivers.

Honorable Mentions

Poltergeist (1982) – This was a very very close second
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Stir of Echoes (1999)

3. Possessions

The Exorcist (1973)

Why it Made the List

As you already know, I’m a sucker for long drawn-out shots and visuals. The Exorcist was directed incredibly well and made the viewers feel continually uncomfortable. Based on the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, the film centers around preteen Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn). Regan begins acting very strangely, and Chris exhausts all medical avenues and is eventually left with exorcism. The film does an excellent job at characterization and the director even uses a film style that’s much like the writing in the novel.

Honorable Mentions

The Conjuring (2013)
Insidious (2010)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

4. Living Houses

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Why it Made the List

Based on (supposedly) true events, The Amityville Horror centers around the Lutz family as they move into a new and very cheap house in the suburbs of New York. Of course, the house was famous for the murder of an entire family. George, the father, becomes increasingly agitated and is eventually overtaken by the anger the spirits have left behind in the house. The film is brilliant because the carpets look so comfortable. No, I’m kidding. The Amityville Horror is genius because it truly scared me. Whether it was the red eyes outside the window, George dreaming of axing his new wife, or the swarm of flies on that poor priest, it got me good.

Honorable Mentions

The Haunting (1999)
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Monster House (2006)

What’s your favorite ghost film? I’d love to find out!