Haunting Ghost Stories for These Autumnal Nights
October 29, 2013
October is once again upon us, and it brings with it our annual entrance into the world of ghosts and ghouls. To get into the spirit of Halloween, I have been looking at the films that I have seen that feature the dearly departed who ended up sticking around. Everyone should see a good ghost story this time of year, but people often have a different opinion about what makes a good, scary story. The thrills and chills that we expect from these tales can come in several forms, and the most popular these days seems to be the Horror genre.
Horror films have always been crowd pleasers. Their plots usually revolve around some psychotic maniac who goes around dismembering people in various ways (usually people of the beautiful female persuasion), only to be defeated in the end. Until, of course, you have the tacked on ending showing that the villain is not actually gone and will be back to kill again in the sequel. These extremely bloody films are often touted as perfect viewing for a Halloween night. However, when I look at my absolute favorite spooky stories on film, it is not the dead that are the things to be frightened of. It is the living. So, if you are looking for a good ghost story with actual ghosts of the see-through kind, I have a couple of suggestions perfect for these lengthening October evenings.
The Amazing Mr. Blunden is based on a book called The Ghosts by Antonia Barber. Set in England, the story follows Lucy and Jamie, whose father has perished in World War I. Their mother is having a difficult time making ends meet until a mysterious lawyer named Mr. Blunden suddenly shows up with a job offer. His firm is responsible for an abandoned estate, and it needs a caretaker. After moving into a small cottage on the grounds, Lucy and Jamie soon begin to hear strange voices in the burnt-out main house. A tragedy occurred there 100 hundred years earlier and rumors abound that it is haunted. The children will find this out for themselves when they encounter these "ghosts" face-to-face. Not everything is as it seems, however, and the two will be taken on a journey across time where the mystery of Mr. Blunden will be revealed. This is an interesting ghost story with a wonderful twist at the end.
The Lady in White combines a female ghost that haunts the seaside cliffs of a small New England town that has an ongoing series of child murders. The ghost, the aforementioned Lady in White, is in a never ending search for her lost child. Young Frankie, who will himself be a near victim of his town’s child predator, discovers that the daughter that she yearns for is herself a ghost. The first victim of the serial killer, the little girl is cursed with having to relive her death every night until her killer is brought to justice. Frankie realizes that he must help to catch her killer so that she can reunite with her mother and finally move on. The movie creates the perfect atmosphere of an autumn in a small town in the early 1960s. Its classic Halloween feel is great for everyone who remembers trick or treating when it was still done after dark.
Ghost, a mystery and supernatural love story, is told primarily from the point of view of the deceased. When bank executive Sam Wheat is killed in a random street robbery, instead of going into the light, he stays behind in order to remain close to his love, Molly. It turns out to be a good decision, because Sam discovers that his murder was far from random, and Molly’s life could be in serious danger. With the help of a fake psychic named Oda Mae Brown, who is stunned to discover that she can in fact hear the dead, Sam must learn how to get used to his new ghostly state if he has any chance of saving Molly from those responsible for his death. This is a powerful statement of how love remains even after people have passed on, as well as a great who-dun-it. And while this may sound like a chick-flick, I think that men can enjoy it, too.
Then there is my favorite ghost story of all time. It has now been almost 15 years since it was on the big screen, so it is a perfect time for it to be discovered by a new generation. It will also explain where the phrase, "I see dead people," came from. Of course, I am talking about The Sixth Sense. This famous movie follows a child psychiatrist trying to get to the bottom of a boy’s strange behavior. When the child reveals that he sees ghosts, the doctor is at first unbelieving. However, when evidence begins to appear that even the psychiatrist can’t ignore, he realizes that he must help the boy to reach out to these spirits in order discover what it is they need from him. Subtly scary, it can still make you jump out of your seat. And while the ending is so well-known, it may not be a surprise to even first time viewers, this film is still a perfect choice for those who don’t want a night of blood and guts.
The above movies don’t demonize the ghosts that are wandering around. They are not out to get revenge or hurt the living. And yet, despite this, these stories all have a tremendous amount of suspense and thrill. Yes, it is easier to scare people with those ax-wielding maniacs. However, you can also create goose bumps without a lot the blood. I would love to see more of these types of ghost stories come out of Hollywood. MCPL has many great ghost movies, and this Halloween season is just the time to check some of them out. (There is horror available for you ax-lovers as well.)