Halloween is one of my favorite times of year, if for no other reason than I get to sit down and have a non-stop fright fest movie marathon. There are countless subgenres to choose from within horror: zombie, vampire, and slasher to name a few, but my favorite are ghost movies, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.
The Changeling (Rated R, 1979)
This classic stars George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere (Scott’s real wife off-screen). It is the story of John, a grieving widower who loses his wife and child in a tragic accident. To escape his heartbreak, he relocates to Seattle and rents an old mansion owned by the historical society. The mansion harbors a dark past. A child spirit haunts the desolate mansion and makes contact with John, who soon is on a mission to uncover the secrets hidden within the house.
This movie tops my list for best ghost movie, and is in my top-ten list of personal favorite films. It is hard to find — even my local specialty video store owner was unfamiliar with it — but it is worth tracking down on DVD via Netflix or purchasing on Amazon.
Reel Mama’s Rating: 14 and up. The film’s R rating would likely be a PG-13 by today’s standards. The movie does have some intense subject matter, including a highly disturbing scene depicting the murder of a child. The scene is not graphic, however, and leave much to the imagination. I’m certain that the film received the R rating due to this scene. There is some mild language and several other intense scenes. The movie is also slowly paced with subtle storytelling, and so the film will best be appreciated by young people with a mature sensibility, but the chills are worth the wait.
The Others (Rated PG-13, opened August 10, 2001)
This cerebral postwar chiller stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a religious young mother living in yet another desolate mansion, this time in the Britain. Her children are ultra sensitive to sunlight, and desiring to protect them, they live in a perpetual state of darkness. Grace is awaiting news of her husband, who went missing in the War, and she lives in a constant state of fear and paranoia, especially when her daughter, and then she, begins sensing the presence of the supernatural in the house, that is, the Others.
This movie is loosely inspired by Henry James’ classic “The Turn of the Screw.” In that book, two children residing in a British country estate believe they are being haunted by the ghosts of two servants who died mysteriously. If you are a fan of that book, then this movie is a must-see for you. The real power of this movie is what is left unsaid and not shown, leaving much to the viewer’s imagination. Filmmaking masters such as Hitchcock and the director of this film, Alejandro Amenábar, knew that such an approach is the best way to tingle the spines of their audience.
Reel Mama’s Rating: 14 and up. This is another film with spooky subtleness. The film contains some intense scenes, but no overt language or violence.
The Sixth Sense (PG-13, 1999)
This is not only one of the best ghost movies ever made, but one of the best movies ever made. The movies contains one of the most famous movie quotes ever: “I see dead people.” “The Sixth Sense” centers around a young boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osmont) who possesses a gift for seeing dead people: those who have passed on, but who cannot find eternal peace because of unfinished business. Cole is being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis), himself deeply troubled as he was the victim of a violent crime when he was shot by one of his former patients. Together Cole and Dr. Crowe set out on a mission to complete some of the ghosts’ unfinished business, and help the spirits to their eternal rest.
Reel Mama’s Rating: 14 and up. The movie has some grisly scenes and deals frankly with death and disturbing topics such as murder and suicide.
The Orphanage (R, 2008)
A disturbing film from Spain taking place in our favorite setting, a large and spooky haunted house with a dark
past. This estate was once a home to orphans, as suggested by the title, and a happy place until things went terribly wrong. Like “The Sixth Sense,”“The Orphanage” also centers around a child. His name is Simon (Roger Príncep), and he seeks to discover the truth about the house’s dark past when imaginary “friends,” ghosts of children who once resided in the house, begin communicating with him. In the process, Simon up discovering secrets about himself and his own past.
Reel Mama’s rating: 15 and up. The film is subtitled, so younger children may not have the patience to read as well as watch. There are some gross images, and the disturbing subject matter of children’s death and murder likely brought about the R rating.
Rebecca (Not Rated, 1940)
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is about a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who marries a distinguished older man (Laurence Olivier) and moves into his sprawling estate. Her life becomes difficult because she can’t escape the presence of her husband’s late wife, the beautiful and mysterious Rebecca, everywhere she turns. While the presence of Rebecca as a ghost is only subtly implied, her influence of her memory over the household is overwhelming. Rebecca’s haunting presence is in evidence, qualifying it for my list of awesome ghost movies.
Reel Mama’s rating: 15 and up. This is a film for movie lovers. Younger viewers will enjoy it if they have an appreciation for classic black and white films. There is no over sex, violence or language, but adult themes like adultery are discussed.