It hasn't gone unnoticed that I did not post a film review last Thursday and did not for several reasons. The most critical being that the review I did write for The Last House on the Left remake was more like a thesis and analysis of the film than an actual basic four paragraph review. It was difficult to edit within two days and I'm still not content with it. I will post it soon or later, maybe even a edited and an unedited version but I'm not sure when that'll be. I'd also care to note, as in the fashion of last years lists, I'm getting sick! The ills of October never fail to ensure. Regardless I will be back to posting my Paranormal Activity 3 review Thursday night, ill or not. And the usual: The grammar in this post is awful, blah blah.
There's an idiomatic to most ghost's films, whether they expose themselves as somatic or tediously as cerebral haunts; they scare the masses more than any other type of genre film. If you're struggling to see the cadence of my notion simply look at film's sister medium, TV. What more horror shows are we offered? There's a capacious list of ghost hunting shows, communications with the paranormal, and the haunted house experience than any other genre horror has to offer. Does Leslie Vernon have a TV show (I fucking wish), or what about a crime noir with giallo sub-settings? These don't exist because they don't effect the broad viewing audience, but the idea that the life after does. The idea itself works in the basis of other more complex fears (fear of God, discontent in death, the un-lived life, etc). What happens after death is by far the more disquieting of phobias as there is no clear answer. Hence for my second to last list of the month I picked one of the more redoubtable sub genre's of horror, My Top Five Favorite Haunted House Films:
#5 House on Haunted Hill (1959)
House on Haunted Hill is one of those films that contradicts itself in quality. Helmed as a classic the film, in my opinion, has immense plot holes, obnoxious characters of the suicidal variety, and a lack of sense. The film becomes balanced in that it is creepy; beyond bumps and noises the film uses strange 'what the fuck?' moments to capture the audience's fear. Particularly the scene with the maid in the basement. In its dated effects and murder mystery finale the film still manages to scare.
#4 Insidious (2010)
Insidious is the most recent film on this list, having only been out for a year but I did find it as a rather efficacious ghost story, with a unique re-imagining to the genre with the astral projection. Several scary and jumpy moments where you're terrified for the family. The film does suffer from an unsteady plot direction (the end result) but is scary throughout. Directed and written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who also created Saw, the film is aesthetically shot, well acted, rhythmically scored, and as said scary. And of course Lin Shaye (don't pretend like you didn't think I'd mention her, you should know me better than that by now) is in it so...it's awesome.
#3 The Shining (1980)
Here's the reason The Shining holds above other films, the ghosts in the Overlook don't hurt the family in throwing tables and flickering lights but they drive Jack Torrance to absolute insanity, granted that he wasn't all the way stable to begin with. Stanley Kubrick's removal of emotion by soundly capturing the emptiness of the hotel made The Shinning horrifying beyond compare. As a child I remember the scene that scared me the most was the woman in the bathtub, I was afraid to go near a tub for years because of her. The film was critically pissed on upon release (as was Carpenter's The Thing) but is now also regarded as a classic of the genre.
#2 Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity is the film that came out of nowhere. Having no chance at a release in a Halloween fashion it made it's way to into theaters by demanding viewers and achieved an audience. Slow for a start (nothing happens the first half an hour) but genuinely creepy with it's subtle usages, Paranormal is able to get under you skin. The found footage was past me, in truth, but not without trying. Micah and Katie feel real as well as their relationship problems. Not over playing the haunting made the film prominent for me.
#1 Poltergeist (1982)
The term poltergeist is generally used to describe the more physical ghosts that make rapping's and bang things about the house, but the film diverted it past that and into a much more terrifying embodiment of a haunting. There's a little bit of everyone's range of horror in Poltergeist, from closets to clowns, or trees the film continues to scare. I've always been in particular discomfort to the face peeling scene. The film is lead by a very wrenching bit of emotions from the characters who've lost their daughter in a the supernatural world, by which you become inclined and left inside the film with the family. Unlike others Poltergeist is able to effectively show the demon spirits without coming off too corny and also pairs with the translucent presence in moving the furniture. Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper (or not?) the film is an exceptional haunted house film, and my personal favorite.
Honorable Mentions: I was specific with this list by intent when I said Haunted House, there's phenomenal ghost stories like The Fog but I did not want to have the HM go on to unbearable lengths, as it already is. The Amityville Horror (1979), a family moves into a house where a grotesque set of murder occurred a year before, based on the horrifying true story. The Amityville Horror (2005), Ryan Reynolds in a very creepy performance in the stand alone remake of the same name. The Haunting (1963), a woman becomes more than a guest at a house when she realizes it wants her. The Innocents (1961), a woman treads a boundary of insanity and a haunting when she notices the little boy she's governess for is not so innocent anymore. Thir13en Ghosts (2001), a widower is relieved of money when he inherits his uncle's glass house only to be mislead when he realizes there's ghosts that lurk. The Grudge (2004), a house possess a violent spirit whose angst kills all those who enter it. Rose Red (2002), with its demolition nearing a house gets another chance to devour it's guests when a group of psychics stay the night to do paranormal research. Also to note I did have the full intention of watching The Changeling and The Legend of Hell House but was not able to due to an issue with the viewings. As an indirect recommendation every haunted house list I've looked up they easily make it and hold good placing.
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