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Great Black and White Ghost Movies Worth Watching

Updated on June 17, 2015
A still from "Carnival of Souls"
A still from "Carnival of Souls" | Source

With the film industry being flooded with nearly endless amount films every year, it is sometimes difficult to find something to watch that would makes one feel entertained without the need to scream "I want my money back." This especially applies to the genre of horror movies, where the amount of bad productions is higher than demands of the audience. The current list of carefully chosen ghost movies from the black and white era of the cinema would appeal to the choosiest movie lovers. After all, the black and white era was the period of rise of cinema, when even a horror film was often a highly intellectual piece of art.

Rebecca (1940)

The story: a young and beautiful lady marries a rich mansion owner and moves to her new home. However, she soon realizes that her husband's previous wife Rebecca, who tragically died, is the topic of everybody's discussion in the house. As days go by, more details of Rebecca's death are being revealed.

Film review: one may argue that Hitchcock's Rebecca is a thriller, a detective story or even a drama, but definitely not a ghost film. This may be truth when we discuss the visual storytelling that does not reveal Rebecca to us, but if we carefully listen to the dialogues, there is always her presence in the words and actions of the characters. At some points in the movie we feel as if Rebecca is occupying everyone's thoughts despite being dead. In the small house near the sea, where the accident took place, Maxim confesses to his new wife that there may be no happiness in their relationship because Rebecca is going to win. The mystery of the dead Rebecca remains the core of the story until the very end, so is this a ghost movie? I will leave it up to you to decide. Typical of Hitchcock, there is enough mysteries for every viewer to solve.

"Rebecca" Trailer

Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
Daphne Du Maurier (novel)
Franz Waxman

The Uninvited (1944)

The story: Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald bought for themselves a seashore mansion for a very affordable price. They thought that they would be able to start an idyllic life in a remote house with magnificent sea view, but the reality appeared to be different when they discovered that it is haunted by the ghost of a woman who fell off the cliff. Roderick, Pamela and Stella, the previous owner's granddaughter, summon the ghost in order to learn more about the accident.

Film review: this film did not seem to be as scary to me as some of its counterparts. It is hard to say why. Maybe it is the romantic score that softened the visuals. It was a scary sequence with a woman crying at night, but most of the time the music made the film look rather like a fairy tale than a horror story. The ending was also not as brutal as it could have been, in my opinion. Otherwise The Uninvited is a film worth watching. It has its good side as a horror movie, so see it and decide for yourself how scary it was for you.

"The Uninvited" Trailer

Directed by
Lewis Allen
Dorothy Macardle (novel)
Victor Young
"The Innocents" film logo
"The Innocents" film logo | Source

The Innocents (1961)

The story: Miss Giddens, a new governess of a huge estate, starts seeing ghosts of dead people inhabiting the house and its surroundings. She tries to understand if it is only her that sees the ghosts or the children also see them but refuse to confess to her.

Film review: The Innocents reminded me of British ghost novels that I used to read at the university. It is a very elegantly filmed piece of art, based on a ghost novel The Turn of the Screw (1898). It does not abound with special effects typical of Hollywood horror movies - the ghostly appearances are minimal and take place only as distant visions or reflections, but this is what makes the film unique in its own way. It is scary only when it is supposed to be, and not more, while the rest of the story is a very careful observation of the relationship between the new governess and the children. We spend most of the time trying to figure out whether the two little innocents are involved in the conspiracy with ghosts or it is all only the heroine's visions, but this is exactly how it is supposed to be. Watch it and try to guess yourself!

"The Innocents" Trailer

Directed by
Jack Clayton
Henry James (novel)
Georges Auric
Screenshot from "Carnival of Souls"
Screenshot from "Carnival of Souls" | Source

Carnival of Souls (1962)

The story: Mary Henry (played by Candace Hilligos) survived a tragic car accident, but a week later became haunted by the visions of dead people. No matter how hard she tries to escape them, they are becoming more frequent until they finally capture her.

Film review: Carnival of Souls somehow reminded me of Hitchcock. I even think that the film could have been directed by him. There is everything in it to make it a valuable film with a great deal of mystery and suspense and it is one of those films where you cannot tell everything without spoiling it. Despite the low budget,Carnival of Souls delivers everything the viewer would expect from a good horror movie. Even the acting is more natural than in many other films of the genre, especially in our days. In addition, the visuals are nicely wrapped in church organ music which sounds soothing in the beginning and gets more disturbing towards the end, making us more and more involved in the story that is constantly balancing on the edge between real life drama and a spiritual journey. A must see!

"Carnival of Souls" Trailer

Directed by
Herk Harvey
Herk Harvey
Gene Moore

"The Haunting" Trailer

The Haunting (1963)

The story: a scientist invites two female assistants to a lonely house on the hill which is believed to be haunted by evil. Numerous rumours say that all the previous owners of the house died under mysterious circumstances. Dr John Markway (the scientist) is planning to spend several weeks in the house with the purpose of exploring the nature of the paranormal activities, however, after their arrival, one of the assistants starts losing her mind.

Film review: after watching several pseudo ghost movies that had nothing to do with the genre, I was finally satisfied when I came across The Haunting. It has everything a horror film of the black and white era should possess, with the cinematography being one of the greatest achievements of this masterpiece. Davis Boulton did a great job of daring to play with camera angles and movements to show us all the wickedness of the haunted house. Combined with extreme sound effects, the visuals create an unforgettable cinematic experience called The Haunting.

Directed by
Robert Wise
Shirley Jackson
Humphrey Searle

Which of the films did you like the most?

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