There comes a point in every paranormal movie when the beleaguered residents of the haunted house have to admit that their amateur efforts to keep the spooks or demons at bay have failed, and it’s time to bring in the experts.  These characters, although sometimes short on screen time, are often the most memorable, being involved in the high drama of seances, exorcisms and the general clash between good and evil. These characters have a varying success rate though – so if there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who should you call? 

 

10. Father Delaney – The Amityville Horror (1979)

Poor Father Delaney has one of the more tragic arcs of any cinematic paranormal expert.  Called to bless the home of Kathy and George Lutz in Amityville (site of gruesome murders a few years beforehand), he is met with fierce resistance by the supernatural forces dwelling there.  In a pretty one-sided battle with evil, he is plagued by flies, has his hand burned, his car crashes mysteriously and he is blinded.  Unable to get any further spiritual assistance, with the walls of their house bleeding around them and George seemingly possessed, the Lutz family have no choice but to flee the house.  In this case the final score is definitely Evil – 1, Catholic Church – 0.

 

9. Betelgeuse – Beetlejuice (1988)

In a neat twist on the genre, the house in Beetlejuice is haunted not by ghosts, but by the human Deetz family who are making the (after) lives of the spectral Adam and Barbara Maitland a nightmare. When the Maitlands find themselves unable to muster up any effective scares, they turn to “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse to frighten away the unwanted occupiers. 

Unfortunately, the maverick Betelgeuse ends up causing even more problems for his clients, causing general chaos and pursuing his own agenda to return to the world of the living.  In dealing with him, the residents of the house (living and dead), come to realise that co-habiting might not be so bad after all.  They unite in banishing Betelgeuse to the eternal bureaucracy of the afterlife waiting room, and learn to exist in harmony with each other to the music of Harry Belafonte.   A win for everyone except the bio-exorcist himself!  

 

8. Heather Donahue – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

She may not have the EVP recorders or exorcism rites of other investigators, but for sheer commitment to her subject Heather Donahue deserves the title of paranormal expert as much as anyone. As she and her crewmates, Mike and Josh, interview the Burkittsville locals and film some scenes for their documentary, it’s clear that Heather’s done her research on the legend of the Blair Witch.  Even as things start to go wrong, and the filmmakers become lost, tired (and hunted), Heather’s dedication to recording their experiences rarely wavers – she evens insists on staying around in the sinister clearing full of creepy stick figures long enough to get some 16mm footage.

Although the crew meet a terrifying end, the actual filming had gone quite well up until the supernatural terrorising began, and Heather would have had a great investigative documentary – if it wasn’t for that pesky witch.


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7. Seylan HOST (2020)

Seylan tried her best, she really did. The medium in Rob Savage’s quarantine hit HOST is a calm and reassuring presence, helping to guide and soothe the participants in a virtual seance over Zoom.  But while you can lead tequila-fuelled people to the astral plane, you can’t make them take it seriously.  When a demon is inadvertently summoned, it proves too powerful to be dismissed with Seylan’s visualization techniques, leading to sticky ends for the seance attendees.  However, we never see Seylan again after the midpoint of the film, so she may well have remained in comfortable isolation, protected from demonic forces by a shoddy internet connection. 

 

6. TanginaPoltergeist (1982)

poltergeist movie 1982

Sometimes we’d all wish for the self-assurance of Tangina Barrons, the inimitable clairvoyant from Poltergeist.  Summoned by the Freeling family when their daughter Carol Anne is transported to another dimension through the TV set, the psychic assesses the situation with confidence – Carol Anne has gone to a different spiritual plane, but she knows how to get her back. After successfully using a system of ropes to send Diane Freeling through the portal to retrieve her daughter, Tangina speaks the famous last words –  “This house is clean.”   But pride comes before a fall, and soon afterward the evil spirits are back in force and Diane is dragged into a skeleton-infested pit outside.  The family manages to escape, but the house itself is sucked into the portal.  While Tangina may not have delivered on her psychic house-cleaning claims, her aviators-and-pearls ensemble has cemented her legacy as a true style icon. 

 

5. Dr Lin Pascoe – Ghostwatch (1992)

Stephen Volk’s TV drama Ghostwatch takes the format of a faux-live TV broadcast from a haunted house, with accompanying studio discussion led by real-life presenter Michael Aspel.  The character of Dr Lin Pascoe is the consultant-for-hire in the studio, and while initially there are few paranormal occurrences to face, she does have to deal with Aspel’s patronizing manner.  As the haunting starts to manifest, Pascoe’s expertise comes to the fore, as she notices that the ghost Pipes has taken over the live TV feed, and realizes that the entire show is functioning as a “national seance”, energizing the malevolent spirit.  Although her theories are vindicated, she can’t be considered a truly successful investigator, as the spiritual health of the UK is by then likely in extreme jeopardy. At least Aspel gets his comeuppance, left alone and possessed in the now haunted TV studio.  Silver linings!

 

4. Dr Fredrichs – Paranormal Activity (2007)

Dr Fredrichs is called in by Katie to help with all the paranormal activity in Paranormal Activity.  To his credit, he is full of good advice –  moving house won’t help, don’t try to engage with it, DEFINITELY don’t do a Ouija board, call this actual demon expert.  All of which is then resoundingly ignored by Micah. When called back for a second visit, Fredrichs senses the demon’s strong displeasure with him being there and sensibly backs out of there, barely setting foot in the house.  While this may be a little harsh on Katie and Micah, it does mean that he lives to commune with friendlier spirits another day. 


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Moral of the story: Don’t let your stupid day trader boyfriend try to solve your occult issues when you’ve just been given the phone number of a perfectly good demonologist.

 

3. Ed and Lorraine Warren – The Conjuring (2013)

With The Conjuring and its sequels spin offs now officially deemed a Cinematic Universe, Ed and Lorraine Warren are now the most recognizable paranormal investigators in horror. In the first Conjuring film, we’re introduced to the Warrens and their massive basement of creepy stuff (including homicidal doll Annabelle) when Carolyn Perron contacts them for help with a haunting in her family home. 

In this film and the sequels, the Warrens are presented as super-investigators, solving mysteries, doing some freelance exorcism and generally busting spooks with aplomb.  While their real-life cases such as the Amityville and Enfield hauntings have been largely debunked, the fictionalized Ed and Lorraine are certainly an investigative force to be reckoned with. However, with Annabelle‘s spin-off films and a rumored recent escape, perhaps the doll has now gained the upper hand over her captors…

 

2. Father Merrin and Father Karras – The Exorcist (1973)

As the title suggests, the roles of the exorcist-priests are at the heart of the 1973 classic, and both Fathers Merrin and Karras deserve equal credit for the eventual salvation of the possessed Regan.  


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The exorcism itself does not go well Merrin becomes physically weakened by the ordeal, and Karras‘s crisis of faith is exploited by the demon. In a quiet moment during a pause in the ritual, the priests discuss the nature of the evil, Merrin noting that its purpose is “to make us despair”.  Things seem bleak as Karras is driven from the room by the demon’s taunts, returning to find Merrin dead. However, he finds the strength to draw Pazuzu into his body, then throwing himself through the window to the steps below.  Although both priests become casualties in the fight against the demon, their sacrifices are not in vain, and through the eventual salvation of Regan there is a victory over despair.

 

1. The Ghostbusters – Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters 1984 proton pack

Things don’t start out well for our titular heroes in Ghostbusters.  They’re chucked out of their university department, cut off from funding, and their first freelance gig comes with a hefty side order of ectoplasmic slime.  However, the team demonstrates that with determination, technical know-how and deadpan admin support, any obstacle can be overcome.  Facing off against the officious bureaucrats of New York as well as its various spooks, the Ghostbusters eventually get to deservedly bask in the city’s adulation after their triumph against inter-dimensional demi-god Zuul.  The ultimate paranormal consultants, the Ghostbusters have it all – a catchy slogan, TV ads, snazzy gadgets, a sweet ride, a fire station HQ and a theme song. Who else are you gonna call? 

 

Who do you think is Horror’s best paranormal expert? Who would you call if your house was overrun with ghosts? Let us know over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!