The Scary Movies List! Part 1: Spooky Spirits

by | Oct 29th, 2010 | 1:26PM | Filed under: Movie Lists, Movies

We’ve covered a lot of Halloween ground at redblog this year:

But here’s a not-so-secret secret: (whispers) Betsey and Erika are the first to admit they’re big ol’ fraidy cats when it comes to horror movies. So let’s send them out to buy trick-or-treat candy while the more stalwart among us sit down to discuss Truly Scary Horror Movies.

Up first are Evil Spirits, including Haunted Houses, Ghosts, Demons, Witches, and Curses. (You can also check out my Monsters list, and Psycho Killers list.) This is my favorite sub-genre as it often relies on spooky suggestion and the power of the unseen (and your nasty imagination) to creep you out. As a result, the scares stay with you longer, and the films hold up better over the decades.

In no particular order:

The Exorcist I & III (1973, William Friedkin; 1990, William Peter Blatty) — No argument, no competition. Always and forever near the top of any Scariest Ever list. The first film is a masterpiece of not just terror, but film making. And Blatty’s three-quel (we’ll ignore the EII: Heretic abomination) is smartly scary–especially That One Shot in That One Scene.

The Changeling (1980, Peter Medak) — No blood, no gore (and not to be confused with the unrelated Eastwood-Joli film), this is George C. Scott and the most terrifying child’s ball and antique wheelchair ever.

The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise) — You never knew faint sounds in the walls could be so scary. Based on Shirley Jackson’s classic novel The Haunting of Hill House and the creepiest line in horror lit: “Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Session 9 (2001, Brad Anderson) — Best-ever use of a real (very haunting) site: The abandoned and decaying Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, the mental institution that inspired Lovecraft’s Arkham Asylum.

The Green Man (1990, Elijah Moshinsky) — Adaptation of Kingsley Amis’ novel, starring Albert Finney as a jovial keeper of a haunted inn. Snappy, scary and well-worth tracking down.

Poltergeist (1982, Tobe Hooper, with an assist from Spielberg) — Nothing subtle or “suggested” here, but the Gold Standard for thrill-ride haunted-house tales. Scared the bejeesus outta me when I was a teen.

Ringu/The Ring (1998, Hideo Nakata; 2002 Gore Verbinski) — The Japanese original is plenty spooky, though the Hollywood version is solid as well, maybe even scarier–if relying a bit more on “gross face” make-up. (The Ring is available from redbox.)

Ju-on/The Grudge (2002, 2004, both Takashi Shimizu) — Like Ringu, the original squeezes plenty of scares out of white-faced girl and little boy ghosts, but the Shimizu’s remake of his own film keeps all the best chilling imagery (and sounds!).

Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 (2007/9, Oren Peli; 2010, Tod Williams) — They may have their flaws, but both get a lot of terrifying mileage out of what we imagine is slamming all those doors.

The Blair Witch Project (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez) — Again, it’s what you think the Blair Witch might look like and be out there doing in the dark that terrifies. And that final haunting shot.

Drag Me to Hell (2009, Sam Raimi) — Like Poltergeist, mostly devoid of subtlety, but a whole lot of over-the-top fun. (Still available at some redbox kiosks.)

The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick) — Stephen King never thought much of Kubrick’s chilly, deeply disturbing adaption, but he’s wrong. No, it’s not a faithful adaptation of King’s book, but it’s better–it’s a fantastic and very creepy film.

Evil Dead II (1987, Sam Raimi) — More outrageously hilarious than scary, but still a slapstick masterpiece of crazy gore-horror. In film school in the late ’80s a classmate of mine wrote a paper stating that over-the-top gore had no where to go after EDII. Of course 20 years later we know he was completely wrong, but that doesn’t make Bruce Campbell’s physical comedy of undead errors any less brilliant.

Hellraiser (1987, Clive Barker) — If in the ’70s King grounded his horror in familiar places and experiences folks could relate to, in the ’80s Barker turned it back inside-out into baroque, transgressive weirdness. With Jason, Freddy, and Micheal Myers all back in vogue, isn’t it Pinhead’s turn?

Okay, let’s hear it in the comments! What’s your pick for scariest “Spooky Spirits” movie? What’d I criminally overlook? (No Shining pun intended.)

And don’t miss the other Scary Movie lists:

8 Responses to “The Scary Movies List! Part 1: Spooky Spirits”

  1. Sparky
    Posted on October 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    The Exorcist without a doubt, and Rosemary’s Baby. I’m sorry you just don’t “mess” with the Devil.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Jeremy F.
    Posted on October 29, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    for ghost movies…for sure Poltergiest…that movie scared the bejesus outta me when i was a kiddie…to this day i have to sum up every tree outside a window to know it weakness! lol

  2. Jody
    Posted on November 2, 2010 at 7:36 am

    The Exorcist was the scariest. Recently I think that The Collector and Babysitter Wanted were very scary. The Collector had me on the edge of my seat; it was a very good horror movie and fingernail biter. I’m hoping for a Part 2. Babysitter Wanted was also very scary. Unlike the Saw movies both of these had my full attention. Saw has been Sawed too many times.

  3. pharmacy tech
    Posted on November 5, 2010 at 1:34 am

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  4. Casey
    Posted on July 14, 2011 at 10:43 am

    It’s not serial killer movies that scare me, it’s the supernatural movies that get to me!

  5. HarryPotter
    Posted on July 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

    The Omen – I remember being absolutely terrified in that movie. (I had even read the book first but I was still scared when I saw the movie.)

    Also Alien – I saw it the first night it opened (in the theater) with no advance promotion to warn how scary it was. I nearly messed myself it was so terrifying. :-O

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Posted on July 19, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Of course The Exorcist and Poltergeist are two of my favs when it comes to old school hauntings… But if I had to choose a more recent movie about scary spirits then I have to choose “A Haunting in Conneticut”. Loved every suspenseful moment of it, and I also loved the fact that it was based on true events….

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Posted on July 19, 2011 at 8:48 am

    A Haunting in Connecticut is one of the freakiest movies that I have seen in a while. P.A. I&II really weren’t that scary.