5 Ghost Movies Perfect For Any Time of the Year
You thought scary stuff was just for October? Think again. Ghost stories have been around for forever, since humans began telling stories. So of course, when movies were invented, there was almost immediately a huge desire to see the macabre on screen. We like to be scared, and one of the best (and safest) ways to feel that emotion is through a ghost movie.
There are many types of horror movie. But nothing can beat the good old fashioned ghost story. Let’s look at five that never fail to scare, amuse, and entertain.
Careful what you say. Bloody Mary. Candyman. Beetlejuice?
This one’s always a good choice. It’s a lot funnier than most horror movies, and many would probably characterize it as a mere comedy. Yes, Beetlejuice is a comedy, but it’s also got some chilling visuals and bizarre special effects. Any child who sees the stretched and contorted faces of Adam and Barbara will never get over it. And that’s a good thing — if you’re a horror fan.
The strengths of this film lie in its sharp, original writing and its world-class performances. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis shine as an ordinary couple who meet an untimely death and now haunt their former house. A young Winona Ryder also delivers the strange and unusual as a goth girl who moves into the house with her rich family.
But Michael Keaton is the crown jewel as Betelgeuse, a very annoying (and hilarious) poltergeist whose antics end up being much more sinister than those of the ghost couple. His mannerisms are the stuff of legend, earning the character a high spot on any list of movie villains.
Plus, the idea of the afterlife having a waiting room and operating like an inefficient corporation is pretty funny.
4. The Haunting
Next on our list is The Haunting, a 1963 film that is said to have terrified its initial audience. Nowadays, some might find it a bit dated, but it’s easy to see how it could have scared audiences back then.
However, some viewers might still find it scary, or at least creepy. That’s because it’s all about atmosphere — the film plays with psychological fears and mental illness, wrapping it all up in a classic ghost story. Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (unrelated to the House on Haunted Hill movies of 1959 and 1999), the film focuses on a group of people invited to a haunted house by a paranormal investigator.
The movie was praised by directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. It was also remade (badly) in 1999, and reimagined as a Netflix series in 2018 with a follow-up series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, in 2020.
3. The Conjuring
While there are countless ghost movies, not many of them can claim to be part of an expansive cinematic universe worth hundreds of millions. But The Conjuring can.
Released in 2013, James Wan’s film was one of the scariest movies of the last few decades. The ever popular jump scares were still there, sure. But the best elements were its pace and suspense, which easily create a feeling of dread in the viewer.
Based on the supposed real-life experiences of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the movie features a family absolutely smashed by a merciless house haunting. The main supernatural entity, Bathsheba, is a witch that killed her baby, cursed the land, and then killed herself. She’s genuinely terrifying, and the actors portraying the Perron family give a convincing performance of utter terror and desperation. The performances of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson were also highly praised.
2. The Sixth Sense
M. Night Shyamalan is known for his quite original and unconventional storytelling, especially in his early films. The one that really launched him into the horror hall of fame was a little gem called The Sixth Sense. The film had compelling characters, a well-structured story, disturbing images, and a really great twist ending that hasn’t yet been outdone.
Released in 1998, the film centers on a psychiatrist who is shot and wounded by one of his patients. Over the next few months, his life falls apart as his marriage goes sour and his sense of purpose drains away. But then he comes across a young boy who needs his help.
Cole Sear is an 11-year-old outcast. Most people think he’s as strange as they come, and they don’t even know his weirdest secret. The boy reveals to Dr. Malcolm Crowe that he can actually see dead people walking around. The ghosts he comes across are frightening, both to the characters and the audience (two child ghosts are particularly scary). They’re messing up his already strange life, and only Crowe can help him.
Except Crowe is a ghost too.
If we’ve spoiled it, sorry. But surely, you’ve seen it already. After all, The Sixth Sense was and is a pop culture phenomenon.
It’s tough to define what Candyman, the character, actually is. He’s a dream. An urban legend. A demon. A complex personification of death itself.
He’s also a ghost, and that’s what lands this movie in this list. The original Candyman film is about a young graduate student named Helen Lyle who digs a little too deeply into an urban legend. The Black community of Cabrini-Green tells the story of a vengeful spirit whose physical life was cut short by bigots. He now waits to appear to anyone with the courage to utter “Candyman” into a mirror five times.
Complete with a fearsome hook, a fur coat, a commanding yet somehow assuring voice, and a swarm of honeybees, Candyman is a fantastic character. He’s also expertly portrayed by Tony Todd in one of the best performances of his career.
Based on the work of Clive Barker, the original film version of Candyman morphs itself into several movie types — horror, thriller, noir, and experimental art piece. It also boasted multiple themes that include psychology, death, and race. The racial element was further explored with Nia DaCosta’s 2021 sequel.
While the original film has its problems, some fans consider it a beautiful exploration of mortality. Candyman represents death, which Helen initially fights against and then accepts like a lover. Some fans think it’s one of the most beautiful horror films ever made.
Ghost stories force us to confront the very things we wish to hide from — death, the past, even dinner parties. Remember that the next time you feel a cold spot slide across your shoulders.
What’s your favorite ghost movie? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow.