Tag Archives: Paranormal Activity

Horror Movie Primer: Ghosts

Movies about ghosts, spirits and the like can really be separated into two categories: Haunted Houses and Everything Else.

I’m not the biggest fan of haunted house movies. If one’s house is haunted, one simply moves to a new house. Problem solved and there’s no reason to have fifteen movies based on one goddamn house.

Still, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Poltergeist is a creepy and funny movie, directed by Tobe Hooper (director of Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and produced by Stephen Spielberg, it’s got a good pedigree and it’s a good choice for those who scare easy.

The Changeling is another classic, starring George C. Scott, though not one of my personal favorites. A bit too slow and draggy for my tastes. Haunted house movies are almost always slow to build up the tension, which might be good for some folks.

Moving on from the haunted house, your options are far more varied and much more interesting. For your comedic needs, there’s the obvious choices of Ghost Busters and Beetle Juice. There’s also Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners which you need to check out if you haven’t already. Michael J. Fox plays a conman who pretends to exorcise ghosts from houses, except he’s the one who put the ghosts there. Creepy and funny, it’s Peter Jackson while he was still in his horror period and not making movies about little people with hairy feet.

For something scarier, you can always go for recent entries like The Sixth Sense and Paranormal Activity. The Japanese have also been importing their supernatural horrors for the last fifteen years now with movies like The Ring (Ringu), The Grudge (Ju-On) and Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara) with varying degrees of success. My personal favorite bit of East Asian horror is Shutter. It’s a combination of a mystery and a supernatural thriller with a slow build at a pace that never lags. And the payoff was actually creepy and unsettling.

And that’s the best I can do with ghost movies, since ghosts don’t scare me so much.

Next up will be something I care more about.

Something….dead and shambling.

Dylan Charles

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Not Scared of a Steadicam

I haven’t been scared by a book or movie in a long time. Oh sure, I’ve managed to scare myself by walking in the woods at night while bears rustle around in the underbrush, but that’s not the same thing. If you have to put yourself in danger to scare yourself, it’s not as much fun as watching Friday the 13th and accomplishing the same thing.

The most I can generally hope for is a case of the willies. Paranormal Activity creeped me out (up until the last fifteen seconds), but that’s the first movie in a long time.

It accomplished it by acting like the real thing. I’ve always been fascinated by books or movies that strive toward authenticity. Whether they claim to be based on true stories or if they claim to be the diary or last known footage of the victim. The Blair Witch Project, Quarantine and Paranormal Activity are all movies that actually affected me. They were actually able to scare me, because I wasn’t preoccupied with thoughts about the special effects or how they got that one shot. They blurred the line between fantasy and reality.

It’s this blurring that interests me: the ability for the filmmaker to make me believe, for a second, that the horrifying thing I’m seeing is actually real: that there are ghosts, that there is a witch in the woods. If fantasy can convince me it’s reality, if only for a second, then it’s gone above and beyond the call of duty. And that’s worth something to me.

Sure I have nightmares and I start avoiding dark places, but that’s a cost that I’m more than willing to pay if I can be scared, if only for 90 minutes.

Dylan Charles

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