To celebrate the release of The Woman in Black, an adaption of Susan Hills chilling novel about a vengeful spirit, and starring Daniel Radcliffe we take a look back over some of the scariest ghostly encounters in cinematic history.
Director: Tobe Hooper (produced by Steven Spielberg)
Set in a suburban Californian town, Poltergeist tells the story of the Freelings, a typical middle class family haunted by a host of malevolent beings that plague havoc in their home and abduct their youngest daughter Carol Anne. Bizarre events begin to occur soon after Carol Anne starts sleepwalking and having what appears to be a one-sided conversation with a television that is switched on but has no reception. At first the spirits play seemingly harmless tricks on the family, who witness glasses breaking, forks bending and chairs moving by themselves. However, the activity soon becomes more sinister and escalates out of control when the Freelings realise that they‘re actually up against a vengeful demon known as ‘the beast’ who has taken Carol Anne into another dimension! The realistic portrayal of your average family plagued by an array of ghosts, shot in trademark Spielberg style, means Poltergeist has to be awarded pole position as the scariest haunted house film of all time!
Director: Gore Verbinski
The Ring is a Hollywood remake of the 1998 cult Japanese horror film Ring and is centred on Rachel, a young journalist played by Naomi Watts who is investigating a cursed videotape that may have caused the deaths of four teenagers including her niece. Rachel watches the tape herself and soon after begins to experience disturbing nightmares and receives a phone call in which a child’s voice says ‘seven days’. Presuming she now has only seven days to live Rachel is left distraught when she finds out that her young son Aiden has accidentally watched the tape too. Rachel then goes to great lengths to investigate its origins and attempt to break the deadly cycle. The Ring is a slick, modern horror and the scary visuals of the ghost girl Samara really make your skin crawl! This film will definitely give you nightmares for weeks!
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Shining is a psychological horror set in an old isolated hotel where writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) has taken a job as out of season caretaker. His young son Danny possesses a psychic gift known as ‘the shining’, allowing him to experience terrifying premonitions about the hotel, as well as see the numerous ghosts that inhabit it. The family become trapped in the hotel following a snowstorm and under the influence of an array of evil spirits Jack goes on a murderous rampage, attempting to kill his wife and son. The Shining has to go down in history as being one of the scariest horror films of all time, as well as having had a huge influence on the development of the horror genre and popular culture.
Director: Daniel Myrick / Eduardo Sanchez
The Blair Witch Project is pieced together from amateur footage and tells the story of three student filmmakers who disappear whilst on a hike in the depths of the supposedly haunted Maryland woods, where they are filming a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. The three students become hopelessly lost in the woods and are left petrified by crackling sounds at night and waking to see ritualistic headstones built around their tents. The Blair Witch Project crossed boundaries in independent filmmaking and the studio’s clever use of internet marketing to suggest the film was based on real events helped boost box office sales to an estimated $140,539,099 – a true nail biting classic!
Director: M Night Shyamalan
The Sixth Sense tells the story of a troubled nine year old boy named Cole Sear (Haley Jole Osment) who can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits who don’t realise they’re dead - and equally afflicted child psychologist, Dr Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who tries to help him. Crowe suggests Cole should try to use his ability to help the ghosts he sees with their unfinished business on Earth, but Cole is absolutely terrified of them! It’s safe to say that the film is best known for its surprise ending – if you’ve seen it then you’ll know what I mean! The film opened to rave reviews from critics and the tagline: ‘I see dead people’ soon became a popular catchphrase!
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Read our review of The Woman In Black.