A ghost of a chance

The Woman in Black comes out on video today.  I loved Susan Hill’s original novel and the earlier television version of it but the new version made by Hammer Studios and starring Daniel Radcliff is a superb ghost story and is filled with old-fashioned chills.

I started thinking about other ghost movies that I would recommend and came up with a list of my favourites.

Here they are, in no particular order…

THE UNINVITED – is a really effective 1940s shocker starring Ray Milland.  It has all the classic elements, an old house by the sea and the vengeful ghost of a wronged woman.

THE CHANGLING – George C. Scott tangles with the ghost of a young child who was the victim of the worst kind of crime.  Lots of genuine chills.

13 GHOSTS – the early 1960s version.  Here’s what I had to say about it in Cinefantastique a couple of years ago.

THE SHINING – you either love it or you hate it.  Kubrick’s version was his greatest comedy after Dr. Strangelove, however, it had very little in the way of chills.  On the other hand, the seldom-seen television version remained mostly faithful to King’s novel and is a great ghost film.

THE EYE – is one of my all time favourite ghost films.  This is not the silly American remake starring Jessica Alba but the original Chinese version directed by the Pang Brothers.  After seeing this film I guarantee you will never ride in an elevator alone again.

THE RING – I liked the Japanese original (RINGU) a lot but I really loved the American remake.  This version actually makes some sort of sense.

VERTIGO – while technically not a ghost film, still had strong hints of the supernatural.  Hitchcock played with his audience with the tantalizing  possibility that there might be forces beyond the grave at work.  Also, many episodes of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS featured ghosts including my favourite THE GENTLEMAN FROM AMERICA in the show’s first season.

DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) – was a British anthology of ghost stories with a linking story.  The story of the ventriloquist’s dummy coming to life is especially chilling.

LADY IN WHITE – is a lesser known, but really great film from the late 80s.  It combines elements of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE UNIVITED and creates a really wonderful story.  It also features some very scary moments.

THE INNKEEPERS – Ty West created a compact little thriller, set in a New England Inn on the final weekend before it closes forever.  The strong characters more than compensate for the thin story and it has some really scary moments.

THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE – director Guillermo de Toro (HELLBOY) set this ghost story in an isolated orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.  Again, as he did in PAN’S LABYRITH de Toro using the fantastic to reveal the real horrors of a world gone insane.

THE SIXTH SENSE – he saw dead people.

INCIDIOUS – has some genuine shocks, but does become predictable at the end.  I especially love the special ghost appearance by Tiny Tim.

And that’s my list… I know that I left off films like THE HAUNTING (which I find depressing) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (which put me to sleep) and many other notable ghost stories, however, this list is long enough to give you a good selection of thrills and chills.

Sleep tight.

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