1. The Shining
Jack Torrance only kills one person yet he is the monster of the film. No one ever questions Wendy, who not only repeatedly hits Jack over the head with a baseball bat, but also lashes after him with a knife, finally leaving him to die of hypothermia. Clearly the so-called “victim” in perpetrates more violence than her predator. Putting aside all violence, this is no ordinary horror film, boasting a brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson, an incredibly eerie score, beautiful cinematography and flawless direction. Not only is The Shining the best ghost / haunting film but it is the best horror film I have ever seen.
2. The Innocents
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad because most people haven’t – but just take my word that it deserves its rightful spot on any list of the greatest ghost movies. Co-written by Truman Capote, the movie has the most startling opening of any ghost film to date, quietly confirming that you’re in for a treat.. Add on an amazing performance by Deborah Kerr and two great child actors, and one of the most brave and devastating endings of any horror film and you get one of the greatest ghost stories of all time.
3. The Others
Some say The Others is very much like The Usual Suspects, The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense and once you know the secret, the gig is up. Regardless of its twist ending, one of the greatest in cinema, the film thus proves to be more than a one trick pony. In fact, I have seen this film multiple times and each time it scares the bejeezus out of me. Great atmosphere, a spooky vibe, stylish photography and a great cast. The plot is well thought-out and its secrets and mysteries are revealed in a slow and clever manner – and did I mention it`s scary as hell? Marking his English-language debut, Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, (Open Your Eyes) impresses with his ability to evoke the supernatural in a convincing manner.
4. Devil`s Backbone
Calling “The Devil’s Backbone” just another ghost story is unfair. As director Guillermo del Toro explains, “It’s a very moving and very dark fable about war. And within its walls is contained a ghost story.” ‘Backbone” is a supernatural allegory set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. A multi-layered tale, following ten year-old Carlos in a remote orphanage which provided him refuge from the horror of war but leaves him vulnerable to the supernatural. In a nutshell, it’s a ghost story with soul.
5. The Orphanage
Producer Guillermo del Toro and director Juan Antonio Bayona brought us a richly layered gothic horror movie that follows an HIV positive boy, Simon, who disappears after cavorting with ghosts. His mother Laura slowly uncovers answers to a deeper mystery involving the fate of all the children at the orphanage. Stylistically impeccable and organically suspenseful, “The Orphanage” was 2008’s hidden gem.
6. Poltegeist (1982)
Poltergeist has become remembered for three things: rumors that co-producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg took over as director, second that the story does for TV what Psycho did for showers, and third, that its young co-star Dominique Dunne was murdered just before the film hit theatres. I will always remember Poltergeist, however, as the film that left me sleepless for a week as a child. Hooper’s directing skill and a touch of gore, combined with Spielberg’s ability to make anything family-friendly, makes this a smash hit anyone can enjoy.
Honorable mentions: Session 9, The Frighteners, and Kwaiden.