We’re celebrating A Haunting on Film Street this month, which means we’ve broken out our EMF meters and our EVP recorders in an effort to find and explore stories about all manner of ghosts, revenants, apparitions, and specters. The tales and films we’re examining feature many reasons for a spirit to linger on this Earth after death, but the most common is unfinished business. The most pressing form of  that of course comes  when a  person is struck down suddenly. These types of ghosts often experienced violent deaths which means their spirits are angry and the business they’re after is vengeance. So, in order to put them to rest and survive, the living must uncover the mysteries behind these angry and often murderous spirits.

In this piece, we’ll look at 10 films featuring these types of ghost stories. It’s a varied list that includes horror classics, remakes, and films set in  haunted estates, cursed towns,  and even a Japanese home.

 

10. The Haunting (1999)

he haunting

I could write a short article about the things that do not work for me in director Jan de Bont and writer David Self’s cinematic adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, but what I’m going to do instead is focus on the things I like about it and why it’s on this list.

The first thing I like is the sinister back story given to Hill House. There’s an intriguing and creepy mystery behind the ghosts and why they’ve been stirred up. The second major element is the set. The filmmakers drew inspiration from the real-life Winchester House and just ran wild. They created a fantastic, spooky, and fun estate that has to be seen to be believed. The chance to wander through it is worth giving the film a shot or a rewatch.

 

9. Haunt (2013)

This film where a teenager (Harrison Gilbertson) and his new neighbor (Liana Liberato) team up to investigate the ghosts that haunt his new family’s home features charismatic leads with good chemistry, solid jump scares, and a mystery with some shocking twists and turns. Unfortunately, it opens with a narration that telegraphs some of the surprises and a large part of the plot revolves around an “EVP box”; a fantastical radio for talking with the dead. No explanation is offered for its presence in the film, and the convenience of it just being there takes away from the story. Those are two minor complaints though in an otherwise solid angry ghost movie.

 

8. The Ring (2002)

the-ring-movie

Director Gore Verbinski’s remake of the 1998 Japanese horror movie Ringu is actually two mysteries in one. The first part is an investigation into a cursed videotape that seemingly kills viewers after they watch it. The second, and the reason it makes our list is that it’s also a hunt for answers about a spectral little girl.

The film has a lot going for it; a creepy visual style, an intriguing plot, and some great jump scares. The reason I didn’t rate it higher is because of pacing issues. The premise of the movie comes with a fatal countdown clock so I wanted it to move faster than it did.

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7. What Lies Beneath (2000)

This film about an empty nester housewife (Michelle Pfeiffer) who becomes ensnared in a ghostly murder mystery plays like a Lifetime Original movie, but an incredibly well-executed one thanks to direction by Robert Zemeckis, a solid screenplay by Clark Gregg, and a fantastic performance by Michelle Pfeiffer. Harrison Ford is also good in his own unique, low key was as Pfeiffer’s husband.

The movie also has a lot of effective and creepy elements to it. There’s a great fall atmosphere, and they use their ghost sparingly and very well. The few times you see it are very unsettling.

 

6. House on Haunted Hill (1999)

house on haunted hill 1999

In this great remake of director William Castle’s 1959 film you find out right away why the ghosts of the titular estate are angry. The deeper mystery though is why have a group of strangers suddenly have been invited to a party hosted by a theme park tycoon. who’s like a combination of Walt Disney and a Vincent Price character (Geoffrey Rush), and his wife (Famke Jansen)? And who poses the bigger danger to them? The angry ghosts or the machinations of their scheming hosts?

This movie also features a great production design, charismatic main characters, and a very cool and creepy backstory for the house


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5. The Fog (1980)

new episode of nightmare on film street horror podcast the fog the mist (5)

In director John Carpenter’s underrated classic an entire town is under siege by murderous ghosts. How they died isn’t a mystery, but their motivations are. The investigation into what’s driving them is not as immediate or engaging as some of the other films on this list, and this movie is very much a slow burn horror tale with the ghosts not arriving in town until the third act.

There is quite a bit of payoff though. You spend most of the movie getting to know the townspeople who are made up of a collection of fan-favorite horror actors like Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Adrienne Barbeau. Plus, when the ghosts arrive they are creepy and great looking. You don’t see them in great detail  because they’re shrouded by fog, but that adds to their ominous mystique. On top of that, the film features one of Carpenter’s best scores.

 

4. We Are Still Here (2015)

The ghosts in this engaging movie from writer/director Ted Geoghagen are very angry. They haunt the newly purchased home of parents (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) who are grieving their late son. As the story unfolds  the parents will be drawn into the mystery surrounding their new home.

The scope and scale of that mystery is  shocking, and features some clever twists and turns. Plus ,the burned up designs of the ghosts are incredible. The film has some great kills and some over the top gore especially in the final act, which is full of action and revelations. Larry Fessenden delivers a stand out performance as a friend of the grieving family who has some expertise in metaphysical matters, and so does Monte Markham who plays a neighbor with a wealth of knowledge about the couple’s new home and the town surrounding it

 

3. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

the grudge

There is a mystery about the angry, murderous spirits of a Japanese home in writer/director Takashi Shimizu’s 2002 film, Ju-On: The Grudge, which inspired the American Grudge series, but the movie is more concerned about how the house and its angry spirits draw in and consume a number of different people throughout Tokyo. This gives the film an extra metaphorical punch because it illustrates how one seemingly unimportant act of rage and violence can have disastrous consequences for an entire neighborhood.

There a number of great elements that make Ju-On: The Grudge so unsettling. The first is its placement of ghosts in a frame. They pop up out of the corner of your eye giving the viewer the same sense of, “what was that!?” as the characters. The next is the deformed shape of the ghosts and the guttural noises associated with them. This film features a stair descent on par with Regan MacNeil’s in the original The Exorcist. The final bit is Shiro Sato’s score. His music, which relies heavily on vocal choirs, adds a power and fierce intensity to  the moments when the ghosts appear.

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2. The Changeling (1980)

This film from director Peter Mendak where George C. Scott plays a grieving father and widower that investigates ghostly happenings at the estate he’s rented is renowned for being a fantastic haunted house tale, but it’s also a compelling detective story. In fact, quite a bit of the plot echoes some of the themes of the best private detective fiction.

So it’s got a great story, top notch acting from Scott, and it’s pretty scary. The final sequence is especially chilling and powerful.

 

1. Crimson Peak (2015)

Crimson Peak

This lush, beautiful, and incredibly eerie film from director Guillermo del Toro, and written by del Toro and his co-writer Matthew Robbins is a gothic masterpiece. It features great characters, a shocking mystery, and some scary, and fantastic looking phantasms. It’s one of del Toro’s most underrated films.

The love everyone has for  gothic ghost stories shines through in the performances of the entire cast and crew; especially the three leads: Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Tom Hiddleston. The lavish production design and special effects are astounding. The titular home is a fully realized and fascinating world full of creepy and compelling details

 

Who are your favourite evil spirits? Which angry ghosts are you most terrified to find haunting your halls? Share your fears with us on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!

 

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