Dying is not something humans like to think about, but at one point or another, we’ve all wondered what is in store for us when we finally kick the bucket. Horror movies are rife with dead people and depictions of the afterlife, some of which are a little more terrifying than others. One thing is for sure, the horror genre believes that ghosts exist and that there are opportunities to live on after we leave this mortal coil.
So whether they prove reassuring or leave you slightly sweaty with dread, here are some of the best depictions of the afterlife in horror.
10. Insidious (2010)
Insidious may be a haunted house/haunted kid movie with some creepy-looking demons thrown in, but it also gives us a pretty good depiction of the afterlife with ‘The Further.’ When the Lambert family discovers their son, Dalton, is being haunted by a red-faced demon, they decide to call in psychic Elise Rainier to assist them. In order to save Dalton, Elise shows his father, Josh, how to crossover to ‘The Further’ and bring Dalton back.
‘The Further’ is a dark, shadowy, and somewhat foggy place full of the creepiest creatures, ghosts, and demons you can imagine. While only the bad guys get to grace ‘The Further’ once they cross over to the other side, it’s certainly a place you don’t want to get stuck if you do pop in for a visit.
9. Idle Hands (1999)
If you could turn down the chance at Heaven to hang out on Earth with your friends and smoke weed, what would you do?
When Pnub and Mick are murdered by their friend Anton’s possessed hand, they decide the walk towards the bright light is a little too far, and they’d rather spend their afterlife how they spent their actual life – high and eating burritos. This leads to their brutally murdered bodies reanimating so they can assist Anton and hopefully prevent him from joining them. Luckily for Pnub and Mick, they do get another chance to cross over to Heaven and decide to take it this time, where they are given the job of becoming Anton’s guardian angels.
8. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The second entry in The Conjuring (2013) universe shows us that even being a ghost isn’t enough to save you from the evil entities out there. When the Hodgson family starts experiencing paranormal activity in their house, they quickly come to the conclusion that the old tenant, Bill, is to blame. However, the Warrens show up and eventually discover that Bill is being manipulated from beyond the grave by a much more powerful entity, Valak. In The Conjuring universe, it seems as if all the bad and good ghosts are mixed together, meaning even death won’t save you from a spooky encounter.
7. The Shining (1980)
Sometimes the place you die affects where you end up when it comes to the afterlife, and that’s certainly true for anyone who dies in the Overlook Hotel. If you die within the hotel’s grounds, you are absorbed by the hotel’s evil energy and end up haunting the corridors for the rest of eternity.
When Jack and his family become winter caretakers for the Overlook, both Jack and his son, Danny, are quickly affected by the hotel’s evil presence. While Danny manages to fight against the spirits, Jack’s already fragile mind is quickly overtaken. When Jack freezes to death in the hotel’s hedge maze, his spirit joins the undead group already haunting the Overlook, who will work together to add more to their number in the future.
6. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The way you die can very much affect what your version of the afterlife looks like, and no one knows that better than Jack from An American Werewolf in London. After he and his friend, David, come to England for a vacation, the pair end up getting attacked by a werewolf. Jack dies in the attack, with David slowly succumbing to his new wolfy way of life.
However, because of his death’s violent nature, Jack’s spirit is trapped on Earth, appearing to David as a slowly rotting corpse. Unless the bloodline of the werewolf who killed him, which now includes David, is ended, Jack is cursed to stay on Earth. The more people that David kills, the more ghosts start haunting him, trying to convince him to kill himself so that they can all cross over to a nicer afterlife.
5. Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
Thirteen Ghosts gives us a world where ghosts roam around us all the time, but unless we’re wearing special glasses, we’re not able to see them. More terrifyingly, it also gives us a world where serial killers can carry on killing long after they have died.
Cyrus has plans to capture twelve ghosts who all died in violent circumstances and use them to power a machine/house, which will make him the most powerful man in the world. With the help of psychic, Dennis, Cyrus traps all the ghosts behind glass containing spells, so he can use them as he wishes. Even at the end, when Cyrus’ plan is foiled, the ghosts are freed from the house and run back into the world, presumably to continue causing unseen havoc.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
If we’re talking about horrible deaths affecting your version of the afterlife, then Freddy Krueger is definitely a great example of that. The parents of Springwood murder Freddy after he escapes prosecution for child murder on a technicality. A violent death teamed with the need for revenge on those who wronged him prevents Freddy from crossing over to the other side. It also gives him the supernatural ability to haunt teenagers in their sleep.
People who encounter Freddy frequently think they have murdered him or managed to send him to Hell, but Freddy manages to keep his place in the dreams of the living and continuing murdering from the afterlife.
3. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
The Overlook Hotel isn’t the only evil building that enjoys consuming the souls of those who die within it, as Hill House in The Haunting of Hill House proves. When the Crane family moves into Hill House, they quickly start experiencing some weird phenomena, which eventually leads to the death of their mother, Olivia, and sees the family leaving the house.
Much like the Overlook, if you die in Hill House, that’s where your soul will spend the afterlife, haunting any unfortunate members of the living who happen to enter the house. The house uses the spirit of Olivia to help draw the remaining members of the Crain family back so it can finish feasting on them as well.
2. The Frighteners (1996)
Much like Idle Hands, The Frighteners shows us what happens when the dead decide to or are prevented from crossing over to Heaven and are left to spend their afterlife in the living realm. Frank Bannister is a psychic who developed his powers after a car accident that killed his wife. While he has genuine talent, he uses his ghost friends, Cyrus and Stuart, to help fake hauntings so that he can make a living.
Frank has made friends with some ghosts, but most of the local spirits seem to spend their afterlife hanging out in the cemetery, chilling in their graves. While Cyrus and Stuart do eventually make it to Heaven, we also see what happens when evil ghosts cross over, as Patricia and Johhny are dragged to Hell as they try to return to Earth to continue their killing spree.
1. Beetlejuice (1988)
Beetlejuice takes the term ‘death’s waiting room’ quite literally when it shows how bureaucratic the afterlife can be. After married couple Barbara and Adam die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck in the afterlife. While they’re quite content to spend the afterlife in their beautiful country house together, their plans soon go off the rails when the Deetz family buys their home.
Beetlejuice shows off the technical side of haunting, of learning to adjust to being dead, and how it’s essential to stay in the vicinity of where you died, or you’ll get eaten by Sand Worms. Newly dead people get a handbook and even a caseworker to help them through the transition, but overall, Beetlejuice gives our ghosts a happy ending when they finally become friends with the Deetz family.
Which afterlife would you prefer to “live” in? Let us know where you’ll be kicking it for eternity over on Twitter, in the official Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!