Ten Fun Halloween Classic Movies

Halloween is a spooky time but it’s also a time of fun. Here are ten classic comedies that will send a chill up your spine and tickle your funny bone at the same.

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The Ghost Train (1941) Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch

After scheduling mishap, a group of travelers are stranded at an isolated station, fearing the arrival of legendary phantom train.

For whatever reasons, British director Walter Forde remade his own quirky supernatural comedy, based on a theater play, just ten years later. It was mostly a vehicle to showcase the talents of comedian Arthur Askey, whose Chaplin-like antics are definitely the highlight of the movie.

ghost train

Spooks Run Wild (1941) Leo Gorcey, Bela Lugosi

The East Side Kids (The Bowery Boys) are stranded in a small rural town camp for boys with a “monster killer” roaming the countryside.

If you’ve never seen any of the 40 plus movies starring the East Side Kids a.k.a the Bowery Boys, expect goofiness, hijinks and a bunch of laughs. Horror star Bela Lugosi joins the mayhem, playing a mysterious magician caught up in case of mistaken identity.

spooks run wild

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15 Scariest Black/White Horror Classics

Decades after their release, we still enjoy watching scary classic horror films. Some movies on my list are considered to be pillars of the horror genre, created sub-genres of their own and set the bar for generations of filmmakers to come.

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15. House on Haunted Hill (1959) Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart

An eccentric millionaire offers five strangers $10,000 if they can spend one whole night with him and his estranged 4th wife in a haunted house.

colorized house on haunted hill 1959 full movie Elegant Boys and Ghouls

Some actually consider this film comical or fun, but taking into account that audiences were not as knowledgeable about horror films gimmicks, as they are today, this movie was quite scary for its time. Director Williams Castle used camera tricks, shadows, ugly witches and skeletons to create the quintessential haunted house movie.

14. The Body Snatcher (1945) Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell

A ruthless doctor and his young student get into trouble with their murderous supplier of illegal cadavers.

body snatcher

Based on the short story of Robert Louis Stevenson, a fictional account of the real life surgeon Robert Knox and the murderous exploits of his corpse suppliers, Burke & Hare, this film was dark, disturbing and featured some fine acting from Boris Karloff. Some people even consider Karloff’s role as the Cabman and grave robber John Gray  better than his turn as Frankenstein’s monster. This was the last movie that Karloff and Lugosi would appear in together.

13. Nosferatu (1922) Max Schrek, Greta Schroder

An ancient vampire named Count Orlock leaves his home in Carpathian mountains by ship, terrorizes the crew, and eventually settles in the little town of Wisborg, where he sets his sights on the beautiful wife of his real estate agent.

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Unlike Dracula, Max Schrek’s vampire wasn’t suave or sexy. No, this creature was more like animal that prowled around in the dark before pouncing on victims. Like other German Expressionist films, this is a silent film, however, not original, as the filmmakers were almost sued out of existence by the Stoker estate for ripping off the Dracula story.

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Halloween Bucket List

Happy Friday! I wasn’t going to share a Halloween bucket list until early next month, but after thinking about it, October is only a few days away and there’s only 31 days to celebrate. So, here it is. Have a happy and safe Halloween season!

Halloween Bucket List4

 

Top 10 Back to School Horror Films

It’s that time again. Time for all the kiddos to go back to school. Hollywood has long picked on teens to sell their worst nightmares to the delight of horror fans all over the world. Just when you thought there was nothing scarier than teenage angst and rampant acne, here’s ten Back to School thrillers that will make you glad that you’ve already graduated.

Prom Night (1980)

Chance of being killed is absolutely a good reason to skip the prom.

Four high schoolers, who made a pact in grade school never to reveal their involvement in the accidental death of a friend, are stalked by a masked killer on Prom Night, the anniversary of the death.

prom night

Unless you’re a diehard Idris Elba fan (which I am), I suggest watching original over the 2008 version. With Halloween and The Fog under her belt, star Jamie Lee Curtis secured the title of Scream Queen with Prom Night. The movie’s disco soundtrack became more popular with fans than the movie itself, but a copyright lawsuit killed its chances of US release. Original soundtrack was only released in Japan, making it a rarity among collectors but bootlegs are easily found these days.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

No one sleeps through the night in this neighborhood.

Four teenagers are stalked through their dreams by the vengeful spirit of a janitor, and alleged child murderer, who was killed by the teen’s parents, years ago.

nightmare on elm st

This film gave birth to one of horror’s most iconic killers, Freddy Krueger, played by the charismatic Robert Englund, and superstar Johnny Depp, in his film debut; and, it also saved New Line Cinema from bankruptcy, when the film made a killing at the box office. The screech of Krueger’s clawed glove is second most hair-raising sound in horror, the first being, the infamous chainsaw.

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Midsummer Scream 2018 Recap

Halloween lovers and horror fans (aka screamers) gathered over the weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center to kick-off the unofficial start of the 2018 Halloween season, as Midsummer Scream returned for its third year. This spectacular convention celebrates Halloween, haunts and horror. Here’s a recap of convention highlights:

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Hall of Shadows

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The Hall of Shadows was split this year between haunters, vendors, filmmakers and special effects on one side, and the interactive scare zone on the other, where SoCal’s top haunters previewed their upcoming spooky haunts for fall.

The Hall main stage featured everything from zombie burlesque to the classical quartet Nostalgic Nebula. The flexible and talented Decayed Brigade, SoCal Sliders, returned with a brand new show. My personal favorites were Murder House Production’s Trick ‘r Treat maze and The Haunt Store’s display of those awesome AtmosFX projections.

Six Flag Unleashed showed off their glow-in-the-dark world, with the most talented folks on stilts I’ve ever seen.

Warner Bros. Studio Tours showed off costumes and props from It and The Nun, in promotion of the upcoming Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights, starting in October.

The Show Floor

This year, there was an abundance of creepy and unique creations from some exceptionally talented artists and creators, where screamers could find everything and anything relating to Halloween and horror.

Screamers over 21 were able to get a blue wristband and purchase adult beverages at bar stations around the convention hall, or one of two cash bar attractions hosted by Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place and Slashback Video, courtesy of Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum.

SoCal Valley Haunters & Classrooms

Thinking of creating your own decorations for Halloween but don’t know where to start? Well, Midsummer Scream had you covered. On the Show Floor, SoCal Valley Haunters taught screamers how to create their own tombstones, carve foam pumpkins, make lanterns and village displays, with the help of Dept. 56. Down the hall, classes on Halloween floral arrangements, budget decorating, yard displays and more, inspired a whole new generation of Halloween designers.

Theater Macabre, Black Cat Lounge, Screaming Room and Second Stage

Screamers flocked to the upstairs second floor, where they could fall in love with rescue kittens in the Black Cat Lounge, or attend haunt shows and theater presentations from Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Urban Death, and many others. Inside the Screaming room, screamers could watch horror shorts and listen to spooky stories. A nice respite for weary feet.

The Grand Ballroom

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The Grand Ballroom, which seats about 2100 people, offered sneak peek presentations on this fall’s upcoming horror theme park and haunted attractions, and two very special panels:

On Saturday, screamers celebrated the 30th anniversary of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark movie, where they were treated to interview clips of cast of the movie and with amusing, funny and witty anecdotes from the Mistress of the Dark herself, Cassandra Peterson.

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On Sunday, screamers packed the room again for the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus and hear behind-the-scene stories. After an incredible live performance from The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus, the panel featured actress Thora Birch, who played Dani, producer David Kirschner, screenwriter Mick Garris, composer John Debney, production designer William Sandell and make-up and special effects artist Tony Gardner.

Elvira, Mistress of Midsummer Scream

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Photo ©NBC

The fabulous Cassandra Peterson spent two days signing autographs at her booth, where Elvira’s Boo-tique and Sweet Hollywood were selling candy, clothing, novelty items and other amazing Elvira wares. I swear this woman has done a deal with devil or something because she does not age! This past year, Cassandra retired Elvira from doing Knott’s Scary Farm and I heard she’s cutting back her schedule, possibly to work on an autobiography?  In any event, it’s so great to see her at Midsummer Scream. I hope she returns next year!

That pretty much wraps up my experience. I’m sure I missed a ton of stuff because there’s just so much to do and see.

Midsummer Scream is now my favorite  horror convention. I have a feeling this show is only going to grow and get better. Highly recommended for Halloween and horror fans.

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Some of the goodies I bought at the show.

 

Best Summer Horror Movies

Summer camp, beach vacations, cook-outs, pool parties, lemonade, fireflies, hot temps and endless sand, these are the things that make summer memorable. Halloween may be right around the corner, but summer is still in full swing. So, if you’re stuck inside during the heatwave, here are 10 great summer horror flicks to watch.

It Follows (2014)

There’s no mention of summer in this movie. It just feels like summer. Boredom often leads to casual sex, which leads to fear and paranoia, and eventually, leads to the suffering of life-long consequences. One of the creepiest things about this movie is watching the mundane life of Michigan teens.  Writer/director David Robert Mitchell never really explains the origins of it is but whatever it is, it’s hella scary.

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Summer Camp (2015)

Taking jobs in exotic locations is all the rage during summer. Four Americans sign up to be camp counselors in Spain for the summer but a rage-inducing virus turn the young compadres into blood-thirsty fiends. From the teams that made the mega-hit The Conjuring, and Rec, the wildly successful Spanish zombie films, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie film. No spoilers, but let’s just say, these aren’t your typical “undead” folk.

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I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Who doesn’t love a good summer by the water? When teens return to the scene of the crime from the previous summer, they are haunted (or hunted) by a mysterious stranger. This by-the-book slasher film starred all the biggest 90s super teen queens and heartthrobs of the time. Besides that, nothing special here unless you like watching snobby teenagers get their comeuppance.

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Piranha (1978)

Just when you thought it was safe to go tubing down the river… genetically altered piranhas attack summer resort residents. After the success of Jaws, 1970s Hollywood cranked out a slew of numerous man v. nature horror films. This Roger Corman production was a direct rip-off but not quite as spectacular as Jaws. It did, however, help cement the hungry little fishies’ legacy as devilish man-eaters. The movie spawned a sequel and two remakes including the 2010 all-star gorefest, Piranha 3D, which is porn stars, piranhas and Elizabeth Shue, no seriously.

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The Lost Boys (1987)

Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old and never die, sounds like a great summer motto, right? Two teens move to Santa Clara, the murder capitol of the world and find vampires. This movie made two Coreys famous and solidified Kiefer Sutherland’s villainous David as one of pop culture’s greatest vamps. Director Joel Schumacher hired acting heavyweights Dianne Wiest, Ed Herrmann and Bernard Hughes to offset the movie’s camp. Horror movies really shouldn’t be this fun. Now what was that main character’s name again?

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Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Going away for the summer takes on a whole new meaning. After witnessing a tragic accident, Angela goes to live with her crazy aunt, who eventually sends her off to a summer camp being stalked by a serial killer. After Friday the 13th hit it big in 1980, a slew of low-budget slasher camp-themed movies followed. This is probably the best of the bunch. This cult classic’s cringe-worthy kills still pack a punch and a shocking twist ending, on par with Hitchcock’s Psycho.

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Tremors (1990)

Summers are hot and dry like a desert. A small town is terrorized by bloodthirsty sand creatures. Tremors is fantastic homage to the old Sci-fi monster movies of the 50s and 60s. The charismatic pairing of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward lead an all-star cast in a perfect blend of action and comedy. None of 5 sequels that spawned afterwards quite live up to the originality of the first one, but they’re all still good b-movie camp.

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Friday the 13th (1980)

Camp counselors, the unsung heroes of summer, and horror films. Cursed Camp Crystal Lake enlists the help of several young adults to prepare for the opening of summer camp but brutal killer arrives first. Jason Vorhees, the iconic killer drives the first film’s plot but his actual appearance doesn’t happen until the very end. No matter, he gets plenty of screen time in the other eleven movies following. It’s the second highest grossing horror franchise at $773.4 million, following behind The Exorcist. Rumor is the film series will end at lucky 13. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath while waiting for legalities over film rights to get sorted first.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Sometimes, summer is an unbearable scorching hell. In August 1973, after picking up a bizarre hitchhiker, a van full of young people stumble upon a house of terror. Considered a horror masterpiece, it was shot in Texas, during summer, in 115-degree heat, so the sweat dripping off the actor’s faces is real. The killer and several of the film’s details were based loosely on real life cannibal Ed Gein, but that’s as true as it gets. Writer and director Tobe Hooper did manage to coax some the authentic acting and screaming from its unknown cast. It’s the only movie on this list to be banned in several countries around the world (reasons vary, everything from the graphic violence to use of power tools in the title). Leatherface went on to become a horror icon and the mere sound of a chainsaw revving up, still sends chills up the spine.

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Jaws (1975)

“You’ll never go in the water again.”  Summer of fear. A giant great white shark terrorizes the beach community of Amity Island over 4th of July holiday. Based on Peter Benchley’s novel, Hollywood’s first known summer blockbuster, Jaws is more a study in fear than it is about a man-eating shark. It’s about personal fear, communal fears, societal fears, mass hysteria, imagined fear, projected fear, and of course, fear of sharks. It’s nearly the perfect thriller that continually builds suspense throughout the whole movie. Amity Island’s colorful characters jump to life, thanks to excellent casting choices and the brilliant script has snappy dialogue, including one of the greatest monologues ever written for film, performed by the mesmerizing Robert Shaw.  It’s all backed by John Williams’ unforgettable score, which is now burned into the mind of every filmgoer who puts a toe in the water. Many people claim their fear of sharks and swimming in the ocean was born after their viewing of Jaws. No other film in history of cinema has had the impact on our society in the way that Jaws has. It is the ultimate summer horror film.

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Honorable Mentions:
The Burning  – Another summer slasher camp movie with Cropsey (yes, that Cropsey)
Blood Beach – Beach blanket bingo with monsters
The Hills Have Eyes – Don’t break down in the desert
Turistas – Don’t break down in a foreign country
Club Dread – Don’t let serial killers stop your party

 

 

Halloween Cartoons in Public Domain

According to US law, all motion pictures made and exhibited before 1923 are in public domain, but copyright law is seriously complex and since other countries have different copyright laws than the USA, it can be downright confusing when trying to get correct information. Shepherded works from golden age of American animation typically fell into public domain due to registration failures, clerical errors, or a variety of other personal and business reasons. Recently, I was researching Halloween cartoons in public domain and I thought I’d share my research on three of the most commonly misidentified Halloween cartoons.

  1. Disney’s Silly Symphonies Skeleton Dance, 1929

Despite what you may have heard or seen online, the Skeleton Dance is not public domain, likewise, neither is Mickey Mouse’s Haunted House. Due to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (CTEA), copyright protection was extended 95 years from the publication date for any works published before January 1, 1978. That meant, any films released in 1923, which would have entered public domain in 1998, were scheduled to enter on January 1, 2019. Due to extensive lobbying, the Walt Disney Company was granted more extension for their works, therefore, all early Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as Steamboat Willie, won’t enter public domain until 2023. Keep in mind, there’s a very good chance that Disney will be granted another extension. Thus, why some people refer to CTEA as the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’.

It’s important to note, that all Disney characters are not only copyrighted but also trademarked and that lasts for forever, so long as the owners continually use the trademarks commercially. Bottom line, Disney characters may NOT be commercially used whether they’re part of the public domain or not.

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  1. Betty Boop’s Halloween Party, 1933

Betty Boop’s Halloween Party is not in public domain. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyrights are automatically applied to a work and last the entirety of someone’s life, plus 95 years after creator’s death. Before 1976, however, companies needed to register and re-register their works to ensure copyright protection. In the case of Betty Boop, after a few company mergers and failure of the original owners, Fleischer Studios, to re-register the copyright of many of Betty Boop’s earliest cartoons, many fell into public domain. Unfortunately for fans, Halloween Party is not one of them.  Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of Betty Boop’s cartoons and indicates which ones are public domain.

For the record, it appears that the character of Betty Boop is owned by Paramount, the Betty Boop name itself is owned by Fleischer Studios, and the right to distribute the cartoons (those not public domain) are split between three different companies, Trifeca Entertainment & Media, Olive Films and Melange Pictures.

betty boop halloween party

  1. Casper, The Friendly Ghost, 1945

Casper’s very first movie The Friendly Ghost is public domain. In the 1950s, when Harvey Publications purchased Casper the Friendly Ghost and bunch of other cartoons from Noveltoon, lawyers failed to inform Harvey that they needed to register copyrights for the first works of the character, thus, The Friendly Ghost and four other Casper titles (There’s Good Boos To-Night, A Haunting We Will Go Boo Moon, and Spooking About Africa) all wound up in public domain, however, these are the only works that are public domain. Because Harvey trademarked Casper and continued to make newer cartoons, they retained ownership of the character of Casper and all subsequent Casper works. These days, Universal Studios holds ownership over Casper and all films except for the five mentioned above.

Here are a few more spooky cartoons in public domain:

Felix the Cat, Switches Witches 1927
Swing You Sinners 1930
Bimbo’s Initiation 1931
The Mad Doctor 1933
The Headless Horseman 1934
Cobweb Hotel 1936
Popeye, Fright to the Finish 1954

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This is one of the very few Disney cartoons they let slip into public domain. It’s considered too dark and violent for their programming

I’m not a legal expert, so please don’t assume any of this is legal advice. Please seek out your own legal counsel and do your research before posting potentially copyrighted or trademarked material on websites.

If you’re interested in more animation films in public domain, check out TV Tropes and Wikipedia, which both have a pretty comprehensive list of films.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PublicDomainAnimation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animated_films_in_the_public_domain_in_the_United_States

 

12 Great Ghost Flicks

Best thing about ghost movies is you can watch them any time of the year. Ghosts and haunts will never go out of style and you do get extra points for watching in the dark, alone. Below is a list of my faves.  Let me know some of your favorite ghost thrillers are in the comment section.

12. The Haunting

Based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, this is the original haunted house movie that set the bar for all others. Directed by Robert Wise of West Side Story and Sound of Music fame, Mr. Wise made good use of camera tricks and special effect devices to achieve the claustrophobic feel and distort images.  Truthfully, this should be number one, but it’s always on all the top ten lists of favorite horror films. Just trying to mix it up today.

the haunting

11. Lady in White

Lukas Haas plays a bullied new kid in school who accidentally witnesses a ghostly murder of a little girl, who haunts him until he helps her solve the mystery of who killed her.  This classic ghost story is based on a real urban ghost myth of the Lady in White in Rochester New York. Perfect for Halloween time.

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  1. The Orphanage

Guillermo del Toro helped produce this creepy tale about ghost children haunting a woman after her own child disappears in her old childhood home. Lights out, subtitles on, trust me you’ll be hiding under the blanket.

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  1. Paranormal Activity

Take one yuppie couple, one yuppie California track home, one yuppie camcorder, and mix in a bad spirit, it’s scary goodness for those who don’t watch Ghost Hunters on a weekly basis. There are a few genuine freak-you-out moments that will stay with you long after the movie is over.

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  1. The Devil’s Backbone

Another brilliant Spanish language thriller from Guillermo del Toro. This isn’t necessarily a horror story so much as it is a drama with horror elements. Set after the Spanish Civil War, the film has lush cinematography, great acting and a unique story about greed, lust and revenge, topped off with things that go bump in the night.

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  1. Stir of Echoes

Even the undead can be connected to Kevin Bacon, who plays a man haunted by the ghost of a young woman after being hypnotized by his sister-in-law. Instead of asking to be re-hypnotized to forget everything, like normal people, this guy decides to go in search of the mystery that is plaguing his mind. Careful what you ask for. This story will scare the pants off anyone, but mostly homeowners.

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  1. The Others

Nicole Kidman hides her photo-sensitive kids in the dark while waiting for her husband to return home from WWII off the coast of England. Strange noises and occurrences are only the beginning of their troubles. This is a classic ghost story with brilliant cinematography and a unique twist. Ms. Kidman even garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

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  1. Poltergeist

Not as scary as the others on the list, this blockbuster directed by Tobe Hopper and produced by Steven Spielberg, lays down the classic laws of all house hauntings and manages to send a strong socio-political message as well. Don’t f*** with Native American burial grounds. The tragic untimely deaths of several of film’s young stars in years following its release, only cemented Poltergeist’s spooky legacy.

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  1. The Sixth Sense

This movie put M. Night Shyamalan and his trademark plot twists on the map. By now, everyone knows the twist of this one and that’s a shame, because it’s a damn fine ghost story if you overlook the gimmicks and allow yourself to be invested in the relationship between the characters. Seeing dead people has never not been scary.

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  1. Session 9

Remember all the movies David Caruso made after leaving his brilliant-on-fire TV career? Neither do we. He did make one hidden gem, however, and this is it. Abandoned mental institutions are not places to screw around with. They’re filled with otherworldly rage, sadness, violence and pain. If you decide to take job pulling out the asbestos in one, make sure you’re in good mental health, or you never know what else you might pull out.

session 9

  1. Ju-on a.k.a. The Grudge

This might be my favorite on the list. Ju-on or ‘curse grudge’ is basically the belief that when a person dies with a deep and powerful rage inside them, a curse is born. The curse doesn’t stay in one place, instead it spreads by killing anyone who encounters it. That’s right, a never-ending ghost story. You can watch either Ju-on, the Japanese version, which is told out of chronological order and might be slightly confusing, or the American version, The Grudge, with Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar. Both are equally terrifying because filmmakers brilliantly decided to use the same actors to play the vengeful spirits in both films. There are sequels and such, but only the first movie lives up to the hype.

Ju-on

  1. The Shining

What evil weird things happen in creepy hotels, stay in creepy hotels—for like, an eternity. This is perhaps the greatest movie to show that there’s a fine line between the supernatural and insanity. It’s very, very thin line. Luckily, if your kid has a psychic gift, a.k.a., the Shining, you’ll know when to bail on room service before you get checked out for good. From the lush cinematography to its wildly metaphorically indulgent story, Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece is my pick for the scariest ghost story ever presented on celluloid. Good to watch with friends or all by yourself, if you dare. It’s a MUST watch in the dark.

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Notable Mentions:
Blair Witch Project – Before there was paranormal activity in the suburbs, there was paranormal activity in the woods.
Audrey Rose – Marsha Mason, Anthony Hopkins and reincarnated children. Creepy.
The Changeling – George C. Scott and an old spooky haunted house. Nuff said.
The Entity – Barbara Hershey can’t escape this sadistic ghost, based on real events.
Trick ‘r Treat – Trick r’ treat demon reminds us of the real spirit of Halloween, which includes of course, a lesson in not messing with the dead.
The Eye – The reason against reusing other people’s perfectly nice organs. The original Japanese version is much better than the American version.
1408 – Another haunted hotel, this time with fancy special effects and the always dependable John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson.
Ghostbusters – Not scary, but totally funny and it does have lotsa ghosts. A real fun time.
Thirteen Ghosts – If you like ghosts who cut victims in half, this is the movie for you.