Sunday, October 28, 2012

Movies about Ghosts, Hauntings, and the Beyond

Today's episode of Sounds of Cinema continued the month-long Halloween theme with a look at films about ghosts, haunted houses, and the supernatural. Here is a look at the films discussed on the show as well as a few others.

The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror is a film in which the picture itself was secondary to the phenomena around the movie. The Amityville Horror was based on the book of the same name by Jay Anson which purported to tell the true story of a haunting in Long Island. After the book became a success it was a source of controversy and lawsuits as the claims in the book were questioned and some critics suggested that the haunting was a hoax. The film was remade in 2005 and it was surprisingly good, in some ways better than the 1979 original.

Beetlejuice was one of Tim Burton’s early feature films and it remains among his better movies.

The Beyond (aka Seven Doors of Death)
Lucio Fulci’s mixes zombies and haunted houses together in this dream-like film. It is considered among Fulci’s best work.

The Blair Witch Project
This wasn’t the first found-footage film but it was the first movie of its kind that got a nation-wide release and it is the template for all found-footage films to come since. The Blair Witch Project also set up a marketing template for using the internet and social media, still in its infancy in 1999, to build a buzz for a new release.

Based on a short story by Clive Barker, Candyman tells the story of a graduate student researching urban legends and discovers one that may be real. The film is smart and scary and was one of the best horror pictures to come out of the 1990s.

Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi returned to his roots with a film about a bank loan officer haunted by a recently foreclosed—and since deceased—customer. This film came out at the start of the current supernatural trend in the horror genre and it got lost but it is one of the better horror films of recent years.

Evil Dead II
Evil Dead II was a sequel to the low budget shocker released in 1981. The sequel is really a remake of the original film, meaning that it can be viewed independently, and in most respects Evil Dead II is a better movie than its predecessor. Directed by Sam Raimi, who went on to make the 2002 version of Spider-Man and A Simple Plan, the film has become a classic that successfully combines horror with comedy in ways that are comparable to Ghostbusters.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist was shocker at the time of its original release and it became a cultural phenomenon. The picture evoked something very deep in the audience and following its premiere there was a huge increase in demand for exorcisms. The furor over The Exorcist was such that evangelist Billy Graham claimed that the devil was actually embedded in the prints on the film.

The Fog
The Fog was directed by John Carpenter, a filmmaker who was very influenced by the science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s and the influence of pictures like The Blob is evident in The Fog. This film was remade in 2005.

Ghostbusters remains one of the great combinations of humor and horror. It’s primarily remembered as a comedy but Ghostbusters has quite a few shocks to it as well.

The Haunting
The Haunting is a classic horror film. Because it depends on insinuation and suggestion, this film has aged very well and its influence can be seen in more recent films like The Others and Paranormal Activity.

Hellraiser was written and directed by Clive Barker. At that time Barker was primarily known for his novels and short stories but he is also an accomplished playwright and painter. Hellraiser gave the world the character of Pinhead, although he is barely in the first movie. As the series progressed Pinhead gradually moved to the center of the series.

This Japanese film was remade for American audiences as The Grudge.

Monster House
Monster House is a motion capture animation film and one of the earliest films to be entirely produced using that process. Despite a marketing campaign that made the film look like a children’s picture, Monster House gets quite intense but it is a smart and well-made haunted house film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
The second film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series combines the slasher film with the possession film. It is an uneven movie and isn’t very well regarded by the Nightmare fanbase, but the movie has some fascinating psychosexual content.

The Others
A moody supernatural mystery about a mother and her children plagued by supernatural activity. The Others is an impressive piece of filmmaking and it is a good example of how PG-13 horror can work.

Paranormal Activity
Although the series has since gone awry, the original Paranormal Activity is a very craftily made movie that uses limited resources to its advantage.

Poltergeist remains an excellent film that will scare its audience. It is also quietly subversive, suggesting that affluent suburban society is built on the dead.

This is the Japanese film that was remade for American audiences as The Ring. At the time it was the highest grossing horror film in Japanese history.

The Shining
The Shining was released in 1980 and in many respects it was the last gasp of big budget Hollywood horror films. After The Shining, the genre gave way to Friday the 13th and films like it, which tainted the horror label in the eyes of both mainstream critics and high profile filmmakers. The Shining was based on a novel by Stephen King but although King was initially enthusiastic that Stanley Kubrick was adapting his work the writer was disappointed with the final result, feeling that Kubrick missed the point of the novel. King wrote and executive produced a made-for-television adaption of The Shining broadcast in 1997.

The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense is a PG-13 haunting film and one that is probably for older viewers. This film goes get intense but the resolution leaves the viewer on a relieved note that softens the trauma.

Tales from the Crypt
Tales from the Crypt was a television show that ran on HBO from the late 1980s through the 1990s. The show was based on the EC Comics series of the same name and the show broke quite a few barriers at the time. Since it was on HBO the program was able to include bloody violence and explicit sexuality, something that was relatively new to television at that time. After its television run ended, Tales from the Crypt generated two theatrical features: Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood.

What Lies Beneath
This film has A-list actors in a story of supernatural intrigue with Harrison Ford cast successfully against type.

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