Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This post is haunted

The haunted house film is one of my favorite cinematic sub-genres. I love the atmosphere they create. It’s one of tremendous fright and unease, but also of great mystery. And the idea that you might be imagining everything–the conflict between wanting and not wanting to accept what you experience as real. It fucks with your psyche, and that is scary in itself. And I love the idea of it all happening where you live. The place where you are supposed to be safe. Horrifying.

I personally don’t believe in ghosts because I’ve never had an experience with anything like one. But I’ve heard a plethora of stories from friends and I love to hear them. One of my best friend’s house is supposedly haunted, and he can tell some mean ghost stories. I’ve slept there numerous times and have never experienced anything, but many other people have. I really want to have an experience just so I could believe...but I’d probably shit myself with terror if anything ever really happened to me. Ghosts are scary.

So, here’s my list of my favorite haunted house movies. For the sake of this list, a house may include anything a person lives in that is haunted haha. I’m only going off of the movies I have seen...If there are any great ones I haven’t seen or included, let me know! Brandon and Jason, since you are horror fans you guys probably know better than I do. This list would have been better timed around Halloween, but oh well. Instead it's a nice Easter haunted house list.

1. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980) - I wrote a little about this recently in response to Lisa. But I will reiterate. Still the scariest thing I ever saw as a kid. And the greatest horror film of all time. I’m a little biased with my unconditional love for Kubrick, so there is a only slim chance that a film of his woudn’t top any genre list I am making. Regardless, the reason this is the best haunted house (more haunted hotel but whatever) film is because of its menace and peerless sense of atmosphere. Kubrick was a genius at manipulating space. Every shot feels evil. It’s terribly unsettling to watch. And I’ve always loved the idea of a house/hotel being able to possess and inflict real harm (à la Amityville Horror and Burnt Offerings). Ghost stories are awesome, but once they become physically endagering they are terrifying. And Jack Nicholson is already crazy as it is...possessing him is just a recipe for disaster.

2. The Haunting (Wise, 1963) - Probably thee definitive haunted house movie. One the great horror films too. For the time this came out, it’s incredible how scary and effective it is. It creeped the hell out of me when I saw it only a few years ago. Brilliant camera work and terrifying use of sound. How absolutely creepy is that stairwell? Yikes...

3. The Changeling (Medak, 1980) - Totally fucking scary. The seance scene gets a lot of attention and rightfully so. But the scariest moment in the entire movie comes when John listens to the seance recording. When Joseph’s voice starts kicking in frantically and the camera starts moving through the halls of the house....I shudder just thinking about it. Perfectly executed haunted house movie, relying heavily on atmosphere and the imagination. Wonderful steadycam work. Just don’t watch it alone unless you want to be up all night.

4. The Innocents (Clayton, 1961) - A great adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Gorgeous and eery cinematography. A very unsettling and great picture. Kids are always creepy, am I right?

5. Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982) - Maybe I thought less of E.T. when I saw it because I identified more with this other Spielberg production from the same year. This a really fun movie with some awesome horror scenes and genuine scares. The clown scene used to get to me. Love the decomposing face in the mirror and the single take movement of the table set from floor to ceiling. The VHS box of this used to terrify me when I’d see it in the video store as a kid.

6. Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988) - Not really scary, but awesome and fun. I remember liking this as a kid even if I thought it was scary at parts (I was scared of everything as a kid). It’s still pretty great. Our first full length treat to Burton’s now iconic gothic style.

7. The Devil’s Backbone (Del Toro, 2001) - One of the better horror films of the last decade. Works because it is creepy, actually scary, and interested in other stories and historical themes along with the ghost story. Del Toro, as with Pan’s Labyrinth, does a great job balancing genres to make a beautiful film.

8. The Others (Amenabar, 2001) - One of the better horror films of the last decade too. A really well executed ghost story, and an interesting take on the haunted house concept. Why do we rarely get a film like this and have a new Saw film shit out every year instead?

9. The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979 - Probably doesn’t live up to the real stories behind the house, but still a solid depiction of one of the most iconic haunted houses in America. This one’s pretty well known, so what more is there really to say. Didn’t see the remake.

10. The Legend of Hell House (Hough, 1973) - Basically the same premise as The Haunting, but a great companion piece to go along with it. Weird, atmospheric and filled with wonderful sets. It’s a fun movie despite it’s kind of lame ending.

Oh, no! I forgot to make room for The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy!

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