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.