Ghost Story Movies
A Horror Buff Seeks A Good Scare
I admit it. I am a horror movie buff. I love a good scare. Sometimes, a little too much. Truth be told, sometimes I even scare myself so much, I can't stand to be alone in the dark. Yes, I am a grown adult who scares herself silly watching horror movies, reading Stephen King books, and other scary stories, to the point where I can't bear the darkness. I am not afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of what might be lurking there.
In all seriousness, I do love a good scary story or movie. This love of the dark and sinister has led me on a quest to find some of the best horror movies out there. It's a joint effort between my sister and I. We watch scores of horror movies and recommend the best of what we find to each other.
But, this hub isn't about the strange obsession with the macabre that I share with my sister. It actually started with my parents. They introduced us to the world of scary movies at a fairly young age. I think the first horror movie I remember watching was a classic slasher flick called, Motel Hell. It was bad, and wonderful all at the same time. Thankfully though, over the years she has led me to many of the best movies I have found. More on that in another hub. Maybe a "Terror Sisters Best of List". This hub, however, is about ghost stories. Three movies I have seen in the last year that have frightened me, angered me, disturbed me, and just plain gave me the creeps. One, you may be familiar with, the other two, maybe not. You might be surprised as to which ones I liked and which one I didn't.
Paranormal Activity or Paranormal Entity?
There is a strange obsession with death that binds most people together, though some are less inclined to admit it. We all think about death, how we will die and when?, where we go after death?, is there a heaven or a hell? These questions run through all of our minds, so it's relatively normal that stories of ghosts and supernatural happenings should be a part of our culture. Ghost stories have been around since time began.
Unfortunately, the movie industry rarely does the genre justice. Two movies come to mind. Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity. I am sure you are all familiar with the former, but what about the latter?
Paranormal Activity got a great deal of attention with it's ads that refused to show the movie, choosing instead, to show the audience reactions. I am convinced, after having wasted good money seeing it in the theaters, that they only captured the reactions of the last scene in the movie. It was touted as the scariest movie in years, and "audience members" gave testimonials saying they were scared to death, and wouldn't be able to sleep. I watched it, was practically bored to tears, and slept fine.
Maybe all my years of scaring myself silly has left me slightly jaded. Maybe it wasn't that good. Both Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity follow the same basic theme; a house is haunted, strange stuff happens that is all captured on cameras set up in the house by the occupants. Similar in style to The Blair Witch Project. While The Blair Witch Project wasn't a great movie, it was ground-breaking in it's approach. It was a complete break with normal expectations of a horror movie, less seen, small budget, "real footage" found in the woods. They even posted a fake website, to make it seem as if all of it was true. Say what you will about the movie itself, it did break quite a few rules, and made quite a lot of money.
Paranormal Activity involves a woman (filmed by her oh-so-caring boyfriend) who herself seems to be haunted. The unlikeable characters left me rather disinterested as to their fate. He films what happens, sets up night vision and captures the strange things that happen. I won't ruin the movie by giving away too much. I will say that, like Blair Witch, the last scene in the movie is the only really scary part of the whole thing. I left the theater angry, feeling as if I had been ripped off, vowing to never waste my money seeing a horror movie in theaters again.
I hold to that. And, thanks to the wonderful DVDs that come in my mail box, and on my game console, I don't need to. A small fee every month, and I can watch horror movies until I swear that there is someone hiding in my closet ready to attack me with a kitchen knife, or a crazed madman lurking in the bushes with a chain saw. This is how I came across Paranormal Entity.
A Light at the End of the Dark Tunnel
All horror movies are not created equal, and media attention and a big budget is not always the recipe for a great horror movie. Similar in style and approach, Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity could not be more different. At last, a good movie to curb my insatiable appetite for the truly scary.
Paranormal Entity follows the same formula as the other movie, but it was done so much better. The scares were better, the story was better, and you actually cared what happened to the characters. The end was far more disturbing than I had ever imagined. Without giving too much away, or getting too graphic, think of the most disturbing scene in the movie The Exorcist, and you will be pretty close.
Paranormal Entity follows a family; mother, son and daughter, about a year after the death of the father. The mother tries to make contact with the deceased father, only to make contact with something far darker and more depraved. The events start out fairly tame, and escalate from there. The story is disturbing and chilling. Far better than I had hoped for. Truthfully, I expected the same crap I got from the other movie. I was never so happy to be wrong. As I said, the ending is very disturbing. A bit more than even I cared for. It left me chilled to the bone, and I don't scare easily. In a way, I love movies that do that. They remind me of how precious life really is, how fragile it all is. I know none of it is real. I know it's all a story, but having seen some of the things I have seen, a part of me will always believe in ghosts, even if the ghost I see in the film is a fake.
True or False?
The most recent ghost story movie I have seen is a strange one. It left me questioning the truth of it. The movie is called Death of a Ghost Hunter. Again, like the first two, it is somewhat of a "filmed by those it happened to" sort of movie. Though they do involve external, obviously camera crew shot scenes. It is touted as a film depiction based on the journal of a real ghost hunter who died during a paranormal investigation.
The ghost hunter, Carter Simms, along with a camera guy, a journalist, and a member of the family's church, assemble at the Masterson House in Queen Creek, AZ, to investigate the existence of paranormal happenings after the tragic deaths 20 years prior of the entire Masterson family.
What first intrigued me about the movie was the location. I know someone who actually lives in Queen Creek, and the house in the movie is very similar in style to their house. I kept looking at it, trying to tell if it WAS their house. But, I quickly gave that up, and got sucked into the story. The story is very compelling, chilling and very entertaining. The acting isn't great, but the plot and scares make up for a lot of that. It is a fairly typical ghost story, something tragic happens in the past, the energy stays in the house, causing bad things to happen in the present. But, it's a good story. It has a few twists and turns that you don't expect, and the main character exudes the passion that carries the movie quite far.
Like I said, the movie was supposed to be based on the journal of a real ghost hunter, investigating a real haunted house. Sadly, none of it is true. No such person existed, the house isn't real, and while the story is similar to several accounts involving potentially real haunted houses, it is a work of fiction. Queen Creek is a real, and very beautiful place, but there is no Masterson House. I checked. I checked online, and even talked to my friend. It is a clever trick to make a movie seem more real, more believable, and give a better scare. All, in all, still a better movie, and I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg, sit in a theater with jerks who can't stop talking on their cell phones, and got to watch it in my pajamas. I still stand by my vow. I will never spend good money to see a horror movie in the theaters ever again.
© 2010 Anna Marie Bowman
More by this Author
Horror movies are often bad, some really bad. Some are good. The movies on this list are the worst of the worst. A list of some of the worst horror movies of all time.
Countless hours of research has led me to these 20 awesome horror movies from just the past few years. All of them are well worth watching.
A list of some great, lesser-known horror movies. Some of the best horror movies are from smaller, independent studios that are willing to take risks.