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!

 

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Top 10 Scariest Short Films

Yes, Halloween was a whole four months ago, but in my opinion it’s never too later (or early?) to scare yourself into an entirely new sleep schedule. Want to try it out?

I’ve scoured the Internet to find some of the most frightening and shocking short films out there. I found lots of gems, but I somehow whittled the list down to my top ten. And without further ado, here they are.

10. Slash-in-the-Box

Why it Made the List

Slash-in-the-Box had some classic horror elements that we all know and love. Okay, maybe we don’t all love a jack-in-the-box. In fact, I hate them. But that’s why this short made the list. Not to mention the fake-outs that made me tense and then snicker.

The Downside

The reason Slash-in-the-Box made number ten is not only do I not appreciate typing out words with too many hyphens in them, but the film also used a few cliché elements that I didn’t quite appreciate. The baseball hopping down the stairs was also out of place. And why did wifey not notice the huge puddle of blood in the kitchen?

9. Red Balloon

Why it Made the List

Because it was creepy. Plain and simple. The little girl was creepy, the rain was creepy, the house was creepy, and the breathing stuffed bunny was creepy! The camera work was superb and it definitely had an amazing ending.

The Downside

The babysitting horror thing is slightly out of date at this point. Coupled with the cliché jump scare dream, the film did it’s job with the creepy factor, but failed in originality.

8. Cat with Hands

Why it Made the List

Why wouldn’t it make the list? The stop-motion animation was fantastic and it made me not want to hug my cat for once. And the distorted face at the end just did me in. The creepy atmosphere and close camera angles made me feel uncomfortable as well.

The Downside

I can see how the switch from live action to animation would bother some viewers. While I didn’t mind it, it may have been an okay piece with CG.

7. Befellows

Why it Made the List

The shear thought of seeing your significant other call you on the phone while you swore they were next to you in bed is enough dredge up a cute little chill in your soul. I could feel it ribbon up my spine while watching this one. Not to mention the director does amazing work showing the viewers what’s going on while the woman has no idea.

The Downside

I am not a fan of jump-scares. In fact, I hate them. If there’s a way a filmmaker can scare me in my head without making my heart skip a beat I will be one happy camper. But the jump factor was not necessary in this short film.

6. Don’t Move

Why it Made the List

Aside from some chilling CG going on, this film was as claustrophobic as they come. This, folks, is what happens when you try to mess with demons. Move an inch and this monster goes on a face-ripping spree. I love seeing idiots get what they deserve.

The Downside

In my opinion, the less shown the better. The first few times the viewer spots the demon, he’s nothing more than black smoke curling through the air. However, at about 3:54 you get a good look at its face and… I wasn’t impressed. I’ll admit the effect was done well, but it was simply shown way too often.

5. He Dies at the End

Why it Made the List

I am a sucker for long drawn out shots of random objects. And this was directed quite well. Plus, I loved the subtitles to keep us from constantly watching the computer screen. And the tension was very well-built throughout the entire film.

The Downside

The ending. That is all.

4. Victim

Why it Made the List

Students films are either notoriously artistic or horrifyingly so. This strikes a balance between both. I like the close-up in and out of focus shots at the beginning and the sense of unease is well within its limits.

The Downside

It’s obviously a student film. A few too many shots that try too hard to be artistic with an end that seems to fizzle out visually.

3. Sleepover

Why it Made the List

This short film combined horror and comedy in a great way. Plus, it did something horror directors rarely move into–it brutally murdered a child. I have no idea why, but it made me love this film even more. It was directed well and starred Josh Feldman (Insidious), so it had a higher than normal budget for a short film.

The Downside

Having actors you recognize in a horror film can sometimes be off-putting if it’s supposed to be in a run-of-the mill setting smack in the center of suburbia (unless it’s Paris Hilton).

2. Click

Why it Made the List

Aside from no questions being answered as to why there is no one else around and it seems these kids are on their own, this film is simply brilliant. The establishing shots are perfect and the viewer has a sense of camaraderie with the kids. The biggest factor to me, however, is the fact that the viewer sees nothing. No monsters, no ghosts, no nothing. It’s just darkness. And nothing’s scarier than not knowing. 

The Downside

It was a tad drawn out in spots where quicker shots would have been more effective.

1. One Last Dive

Why it Made the List

Obviously I’ve talked about this film before, but it is my number one because it just sets such a dynamic scene. The lighting and tension are perfect and the ending is shocking and scary. I can forgive the jump scare in this one because it was more realistic than simply being there for shock value.

The Downside

There isn’t one.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven – A Review

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process).

Yes. That is a book title—a book written by Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour. When I first heard about it, I didn’t know what to think. An overloaded title for an over-egotistical rock star. But when I heard what it was about, I realized I wanted to read it.

Click for link to Amazon.

Made Peace with the Paranormal. What does that even mean? When my fiancé told me the title, I just looked at him like a cat does when you’ve been baby-talking to him for four minutes straight. What? No one else does that? Anyway… He explained it to me this way:

“It’s the lead singer of Slipknot.”

“Okay.”

“It’s his second book.”

“Okay.”

“It’s about his experiences with the paranormal.”

“I’m in.”

And that’s all it took. We started listening to the audio book that very day. Taylor narrates himself which, in a way is cool. In another way it’s slightly an ego thing, but if my titles were ever made into audio books, I’d either want myself or James Earl Jones to read them.

Now, on to the substance of the book. Aside from Taylor’s many random, pages-long tangents about religion, exorcisms, “arm-chair science” and ginger ghosts (yes, you read that right), it was quite interesting to hear about his adventures with friends, band mates and fellow paranormal investigators. Like any rock star you’d imagine he had a lot of fun. The book is written quite well aside from a few redundant words and a bit much of the thesaurus from time to time.

I do have a gripe, however. I’d never say this to his face (right, like I’d ever meet him in person or he’d ever read my lonely blog), but his experiences were…lackluster. And in the book, he says each one is the scariest thing that’s ever happened to him. Among these experiences include:

  • Seeing a vagrant homeless man in an abandoned house (which he believes was a ghost);
  • Hearing whistling in a hallway where no one claimed to be;
  • A vase being pushed off the ledge of a counter;
  • Being shoved from behind;

Note that during each of these experiences, he was either fatigued or distracted. The other instances I did not mention were those of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis can be quite scary. A feeling of being unable to move or breathe. Some people even experience seeing shadows dart around the room. I’ve even heard stories about one male friend of mine who said an old woman would sit on his chest at night while another said someone constantly screamed in his face while falling asleep. One time (after a lengthy few days of playing Silent Hill in the dark), I had an experience where I woke up and saw three mannequins standing by the closet. I thought, “Huh…” I turned over, tried to shake my fiancé awake to no avail, then looked again and noticed they were just jackets hanging up. Needless to say, the closet stayed closed the rest of the time we lived there.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not demeaning Taylor’s experiences at all. I’m simply saying that there are quite rational explanations for them. I dabbled in paranormal investigation for years (I’m even certified), and I try to come up with rational explanations for everything I’ve experienced. These include:

  • Someone blowing air right in my face when no one was there;
  • Feeling as though someone was grabbing my arm (we took a photo later and it was all red);
  • Hearing gunshots in an empty room;
  • Feeling someone wrap their arms around my legs.

    ls

    I wish I still had all the pictures…

All I’m saying is that we can’t trust a lot of technology to record ghosts or spirits. Audio devices have static and artifacts, video is never clear in the dark, and even our own senses betray us at times. If you stand near a circuit breaker box long enough, you’ll feel paranoid or sick because the electromagnetic field around it is messing with your waves. And let’s not forget when you go somewhere or do something expecting to be scared and running around in the dark… Come on. Our minds play tricks on us.

All that being said, it was a fun book and I recommend it. And I promise I’ll go into all my paranormal experiences in a later blog post, so stay tuned!

What are some paranormal experiences that have happened to you? Enquiring minds want to know!