As Spring advances toward Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, seasonal transitions lead to dynamic weather and it isn’t uncommon to spend an evening at home surrounded by lightning, thunder, and rain. As a life long horror fan, this is the perfect time to gather up some friends and turn on a favorite flick.
As a horror fan who’s paranormally minded, I’ve spent a great deal of time combing through the horror stacks to create a list of horror titles with a paranormal bent. Now before you start reading this list bear in mind that I know that it’s Hollywood and as such they’ve put a lot of flash on these stories, even the ones based on fact. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sitting back and watching a great flick with friends with a paranormal slant.
Here’s my top nine picks in no particular order. Let us know your favorites in the comments!
I can hear the groans, now, but go with me on this. This is a terrific movie that not only deals with spirits and crossing over, but it’s also got\ one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen of a medium coming into their abilities in a fantastically funny way. Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg star in a film that is funny, romantic, and intensely terrifying all at once.
#2 Poltergeist (1982)
Written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor and directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist centers around the Freeling family who begins to experience paranormal activity in their home. As the activity ratchets up and their youngest daughter goes missing, they bring in a team of investigators including the brilliant Zelda Rubinstein in the role of clairvoyant medium Tangina who steals every scene. And the big bonus here is that there are two more and you can watch all three back to back for an entertaining terror trilogy evening!
#3 The Conjuring
Ed and Lorraine Warren (played beautifully by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) answer the call to help the Perron family in rural Rhode Island. They’ve been under assault by a horrifying entity whose attacks have escalated to violence. As they delve deeply into the locations past, they find connections to an evil woman whose spirit has been causing death for centuries. Director James Wan creates amazing tension from one scene to the next as it builds to its redemptive end. Pop some popcorn, light some candles, and settle in for a paranormal thrill ride with this amazing film.
#4 The Haunting (1963)
Directed by legendary director Robert Wise, The Haunting centers around Eleanor (masterfully played by Julie Harris) who leaves the comfort of the only home she’s ever known to attend an experimental weekend at Hill House led by Dr. John Markway who is determined to prove the paranormal exists. Slowly, Eleanor descends into madness and the audience is never sure if it’s simply her own diseased mind or sinister supernatural powers at work. This film is a masterpiece of storytelling that leaves you hajunted without the single appearance of a one ghost.
#5 The Others
Alejandro Amenabar’s beautiful film surrounds Grace Stewart and her children, Anne and Nicholas. Grace’s husband is off fighting in the war and she’s been left taking care of their children in a house that is far too large for them. They’ve all begun to suffer a bit of cabin fever when strange things begin to happen. The curtains open and close on their, doors never seem to stay locked, and the piano has begun to play on its own in the night. One of the best ghost story films of the 2000s, The Others has a great cast who never quits until the final twisted moments.
#6 Paranormal Activity
Of course it’s on this list. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this film and the terror that grabbed me in those final moments. I’ve never NEEDED to leave a movie theater so much in all my life, but it was so well done that it gripped me to my seat. Micah and Katie have begun experiencing paranormal activity in their homes and in a bid to get to the bottom of the activity, they begin filming their everyday lives. The first film in the franchise especially had such exquisite tension, building from one moment to the next so that by the time you see a door move slightly on its own, it seems like a big deal. Watch this alone if you dare.
#7 The Conjuring 2
In many ways even superior to the first in the franchise, The Conjuring 2 sends us out once again with Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time, they head to England to aid a young single mother and her children. James Wan once again proves himself a master of pacing, stretching out certain scenes until the audience’s breaking point, and his demonic antagonist in this film is particularly harrowing.
#8 The Haunting in Connecticut
Kyle Gallner is facing the battle of his life. Cancer is eating away at him and his mother, at her wits end, rents a home closer to his treatment center so that they don’t have to travel quite so much. Little does she realize that their new home is a trap for hundreds of lost souls ensnared by a wicked man almost a century before. With an impressive cast including Virginia Madsen and Elias Koteas, the story is based on a real case and the scares are genuine. If you’ve never seen it, put it on your list!
#9 Insidous Chapters 1-3
OK, I know it’s cheating to add three for the price of one, but the story here beautifully advances from one film to the next. Lin Shaye, Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Barbara Hershey star in the tale of a family that is haunted by its own psychic abilities. By the third film, the franchise had changed its focus to settle on Elise (Shaye), a psychic medium who spends her days and nights helping people combat the dark forces that surround them. Once again, the franchise is spearheaded by James Wan with Leigh Whannell writing.
BONUS #1: Grave Encounters
A found footage filmed based around a paranormal investigation team that heads into an abandoned asylum to film for a television show, Grave Encounters is one of those independent films that really should have had a wider release. The crew who often fakes reactions and activity on their show has no idea the monsters and madness that await them inside the walls of the old asylum and soon they’re running for their lives.
Bonus #2: Nightlight
What happens when a group of teenagers head into a wooded area known for its popularity as a site to commit suicide to spend the evening playing flashlight games? All hell breaks loose, of course. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Nightlight is one scary thrill ride with an interesting catch. The film is shown from the perspective of the flashlights each of the young people carry. So wherever the light points, that’s where we see. Unique and interesting, Nightlight is perfect for a late night viewing.