“I Ain’t ‘fraid of No Ghosts!”
Sure, Ray Parker Jr., you may not be afraid of the goofy ghouls bouncing around Manhattan causing nothing more than minor (okay major) mischief in Ghostbusters (1984), but you clearly haven’t been in the neighborhood of some of the ghastly ghosts on this list.
There are literally hundreds of paranormal movies out there with many crossing several genres making audiences laugh, cry, shiver and even fall in love (pottery wheel from Ghost, anyone?) but this isn’t that kind of list. This list narrows down the paranormal activity to only the darkest of the dead, the twisted and tormented souls who would never gain entry to heaven and would be turned away at the gates of hell.
Be warned, fair reader, thar be ghostly SPOILERS ahead!
Here are the 10 Meanest Ghosts in Cinema;
10. The Conjuring (2013)
James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) introduced the famous demonologist/psychic duo of Ed and Lorraine Warren to a much wider audience in the ‘based on true events’ story that follows the haunting of the Perron family in the rural community of Harrisville, Rhode Island.
The spirit in question wastes no time in causing chaos and instead of throwing some furniture around or slamming a few doors, this nasty ghastly kills the family dog. Talk about hardcore. This specter, later found out to be the pissed off spirit of a witch by the name of Bathsheba, sets the bar high. So high that this incident happens only a mere sixteen minutes into the film. She should firmly have your attention at this point.
I suppose any story that has a character who is a Colonial witch who killed her firstborn as a sacrifice to the devil isn’t going to be all rainbows and unicorns and Wan spins a dark ghost story into an even darker ghost movie with one helluva ghost to scare the pants off of us. Anyone for a game of “hide and clap?”
9. Poltergeist (1982)
All anyone has to say is, “They’re heeeere” and immediately images of hungry trees, killer clowns and esophageal closets come to mind and that’s all thanks to Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist (1982).
While the paranormal activity starts off relatively harmless with creative chair stacking, flickering lights and the fun game of sliding the children across the kitchen floor, once the spectral crap hits the fan things become more life-threatening.
If a creep ethereal hand floating out of the TV set isn’t enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, perhaps a toy clown strangling the Freeling boy will. Or if that’s not enough for you, perhaps the otherworld kidnapping of the youngest, Carolanne Freeling will make you sit up and take notice?
No? Then there’s a paranormal investigator peeling his face off in the kitchen or Daddy Freeling fending off a giant ghoulish face that juts out of his daughter’s bedroom closet or Mama Freeling falling into a swimming pool fulling rotting corpses.
Yeah, you get the picture and just remember, if you’re ever re-zoning land to build a subdivision and you find that the land you bought is on an old cemetery… MOVE THE DAMN BODIES!
8. The Haunting (1963)
Based on the Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting of Hill House (Viking Publishing 1959), Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) follows a small group of people invited to investigate a purportedly haunted house.
This black and white classic uses the art of less is more and incorporates audio cues and clever camera angles to create a feeling of doom and helplessness instead of grand special effects and gimmicks. The relentless spirit that roams the massive house stalks the hapless group of not so skilled paranormal investigators is all but unseen through the runtime of the film. Making this spook all the more spookier in the minds of the audience.
Sure, there are a few silly visuals used in the film. A skeleton, a demented old hag but none touch the psychological effect that the sounds of moaning, the clanking of chains, the knocking on walls or the banging on doors that relentlessly force us to imagine just what might be on the other side, ready to snatch us up in the night.
7. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
I understand that this inclusion could be considered divisive one and that’s cool, we all have our opinions. But in the matter of Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick’s Blair Witch Project (1999), I’m a firm fan and found the wicked witch of Burkittsville, Maryland absolutely terrifying.
The Blair Witch Project didn’t spoonfeed audiences, and that’s why I loved this film so much. What we make up in our own imaginations could never meet our own expectations if shown it on-screen and the makers of TBWP seemed to know that. Of course, the lack of budget had a lot to do with what we didn’t see as well but it proved to be a wise choice as the witch and her spirit herself never make an appearance in the film.
Combine that with that fact that we never learn the fate of the three filmmakers Joshua, Heather, and Mike and it paints a picture of a ruthless, faceless spirit that will mess you up in ways you can only imagine should you venture into the Burkittsville woods.
6. Paranormal Activity (2007)
After The Blair Witch Project, it seemed the whole found footage thing exploded everywhere just like Louis Del Grande’s head in Scanners (1981). By 2007 we were all picking little pieces of found footage out of our hair and eyes just trying to find a morsel of legit filmmaking. While Orin Peli’s Paranormal Activity (2007) wasn’t the knight in shinning celluloid we all may have wanted, it did introduce us to one helluva haunting.
Meet Katie and Micha. They just bought a new house in San Diego, and as they move in they believe that they’re going to live happily ever! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Katie has had a spirit following her around since she was a kid. What could go wrong, right?
The couple soon find out that this ain’t no Casper the Friendly Ghost as all hell literally breaks loose. I mean, Katie’s possessed, the house (yes the entire house) is attacked, there’s a Ouija board, demonologists, something living in the attic.. It’s mass hysteria at this point and the one causing it all, Toby as we learn in future installments of the series, loves every soul-shattering moment of it.
5. The Ring (2002)
Samara Morgan, the little girl ghost in Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) is probably the most tragic phantom on this list. Born an orphan, she was adopted by the Morgans but once they discovered her psychic ability to imprint images into her their brains, she soon went from a pitiful foundling to vengeful hellion ultimately driving her mother to suicide. But not before Mama (Anna) Morgan suffocates Samara and dumps her body in the well.
You’d be pissed too if your old lady did that to you (regardless of the fact that you psychologically tortured her every waking hour), but that brings us to the Ghost of Samara Morgan. And what hell she brings with her. There’s no telling what her actual body count is since they tape she “recorded” has been in circulation for an undisclosed amount of time, but the deaths we know about totals six. That’s just the immediate story that we are watching. The fact that this tape is the stuff of urban legends means there are probably many, many more bodies to add to Samara’s resume.
4. The Amityville Horror (1979)
Welcome to 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. This house has only been on the market for a year, but as you can see it offers wonderful waterfront property and plenty of room for the kids to play. While the price is somewhat of a steal, I am obliged to inform you that the property did have a death or six. Don’t worry, the cops caught the guy that did it and he’s tucked safely away in prison.
Inside you’ll find that the house has a cozy feel, almost like someone is watching you. This room here comes complete with a swarm of blinding flies. Upstairs, if you ever get tired of the ocean view, you can always expect to encounter our resident demon, Jody, who likes to peer into the house with his glowing red eyes. If you’re worried about moving into a house with its own entity, don’t fret, Jody is mostly only violent around 3:15 a.m.
You’ll also notice that this house has the unique feature of bleeding walls, something that no other house in the neighborhood offers and of course, the piece de resistance, your very own portal to hell located conveniently in the basement! And all of this can be yours for the low, low price of… your soul.
3. Insidious (2010)
James Wan could easily have his own list, and there’s a reason he shows up more than once on this one. Insidious (2010) features a particularly a-hole ghost who focuses on a young boy so that said a-hole ghost can exist outside of its astral plane. Heady stuff, right? That doesn’t mean that the film is light on the scares and this entity is truly frightening.
Lurking shadows, voices over the baby monitor, a sleepwalking kid, a strange man in the children’s room at night are all just precursors of what’s to come because this spirit isn’t about to let its playthings get away. Even when the family moves to a new home, this thing hitches a ride and continues its torment.
The creepy dancing boy aside, the red-faced demon lurking behind Josh, the ransacking of Dalton’s room, more demonologists and The Further all lead to a sadistic creep that enjoys what it does to mere mortals, thus landing it solidly in the top five of this list.
2. The Others (2001)
When a film has this much mood and atmosphere there is no way it can’t scare the ever living crap out of you but add a WWII setting, Nicole Kidman and a twist ending, well sir, get ready for a jaw-drop to go along with your goosebumps.
Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others (2001) certainly deserves a place on this list. Despite the films slow burn, there is just enough malevolence from its apparitions painted into their character’s canvas to know that I certainly wouldn’t want to have to share any home with them, English country home or otherwise.
Did I mention the twist ending? Yeah, it’s quite amazing what grief and solitude can drive a person to do.
Speaking of which, that brings us to number 1 on the list…
1. The Shining (1980)
Leave it to Stanely Kubrick the breathe twisted life into one of Stephen King’s finest novelizations and that is exactly what he did in 1980’s The Shining. And it’s with this masterful work that he lands at number one on our list.
Everyone knows the story of the Torrance family. Hired to babysit The Overlook Hotel during the off-season. As the isolation and a troubled past slowly eat away a Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicolson) psyche, the ghosts of the Overlook take advantage and worm their way into in his fractured reality.
While the film doesn’t rely heavily on grand FX and over-the-top scares, it masterfully plays with audiences wits by combining hypnotic camera-work with subtle imagery. Once Mr. Torrance finally goes off the rails and starts stalking his family with a fire ax, it hits us like a Louisville Slugger being swung by Shelly Duvall.
The ghost Grady and the others hang on the walls on the Overlook like a thick, suffocating tapestry and their manipulation of a fragile Mr. Torrance is as masterful as it is sinister. And while there are a couple of would-be heroes in the woodwork, like Dick Halloran and Mrs. Torrance herself, they prove to be no match for the Overlook and its resident revenants.
Like the poster says, it’s a “masterpiece of modern horror” and the ghosts in this one truly haunts you well after the final frames have faded to black.
The End Is Nigh!
And that, as they say, is that! Our top ten picks for the meanest ghosts in the film biz. What did you think of it? Do you have anything you would add, take away? What would your Meanest Ghosts in Cinema Top 10 list look like? Let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages!