I often get friends and family asking for movie recommendations during the Halloween season. More often than not, I’m asked to recommend movies that don’t feature excessive amounts of blood, gore, and extreme violence.
What follows is a list of the six best ghost movies that while being classified as horror films, could easily be labelled thrillers instead. But don’t be fooled, the following six movies will send shivers down your spine and come highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of the recent Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House and/or The Haunting of Bly Manor.
1. The Shining
Jack Torrance only kills one person in The Shining, yet he is the monster of the film. No one ever questions Wendy, who not only repeatedly hits Jack over the head with a baseball bat, but also lashes after him with a knife, finally leaving him to die of hypothermia. Clearly, the so-called “victim” perpetrates more violence than her predator. Putting aside all violence, this is no ordinary horror film, boasting a brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson, an incredibly eerie score, beautiful cinematography, and flawless direction. Not only is The Shining the best ghost film but it is one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
2. The Innocents
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad because most people haven’t – but just take my word that it deserves its rightful spot on any list of the greatest ghost movies. Co-written by Truman Capote, the movie has the most startling opening of any ghost film to date, quietly confirming that you’re in for a treat. Add on an amazing performance by Deborah Kerr and the two great child actors, and one of the bravest and devastating endings of any horror film and you get one of the greatest ghost stories of all time.
3. The Others
Some say The Others is very much like The Usual Suspects, The Crying Game, and The Sixth Sense— and once you know the secret, the jig is up. Regardless of its twist ending (one of the greatest in cinema), the film proves to be more than a one-trick pony. In fact, I have seen this film multiple times and each time it scares the bejeezus out of me. Great atmosphere, a spooky vibe, stylish photography, and a great cast. The plot is well-thought-out, and its secrets and mysteries are revealed in a slow and clever manner. And did I mention it`s scary as hell?
4. Devil`s Backbone
Calling The Devil’s Backbone just another ghost story is unfair. As director Guillermo del Toro explains, “It’s a very moving and very dark fable about war. And within its walls is contained a ghost story.” The Devil's Backbone is a supernatural allegory set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. A multi-layered tale, following ten-year-old Carlos in a remote orphanage which provided him refuge from the horror of war but leaves him vulnerable to the supernatural. In a nutshell, it’s a ghost story with soul!
5. The Orphanage
Producer Guillermo del Toro and director Juan Antonio Bayona brought us this richly layered gothic horror movie that follows an HIV positive boy, Simon, who disappears after cavorting with ghosts. His mother Laura slowly uncovers answers to a deeper mystery involving the fate of all the children at the orphanage. Stylistically impeccable and organically suspenseful, The Orphanage was 2008’s hidden gem.
6. Poltergeist (1982)
Someone once said Poltergeist is a story that does for TV what Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho did for showers, and I don’t think I’ve heard a better summary of Tobe Hooper’s classic. I will always remember Poltergeist as the film that left me sleepless for a week as a child. Hooper’s directing skill combined with Steven Spielberg’s ability to produce the best family-friendly entertainment makes this a smash hit anyone can enjoy!