It’s that time of year when I have a special craving for ghostly films — thought I’d share the results of my recent binge-watch in case you were looking for a spooky flick for your Halloween festivities!
The Quiet Ones (2013)
When I first heard about this film, I thought it was tailor-made for me. Paranormal investigators working at Oxford University in the early 70s? How could it fail to entertain? Well . . . first of all, the characters spent about 10 minutes at Oxford before secluding themselves in a bland old house in the country. And though Jared Harris (as the chief academic) is one of my favorite actors, I never really understood his character’s goals or motivation. Furthermore, Sam Claflin (who was so engaging in Catching Fire) practically sleepwalks through this film. There were a few interesting moments, but overall I was deeply disappointed. I just wish they’d stuck closer to their purported source material: The Philip Experiment. (And BOO on the filmmakers for using fake photos in the closing credits to represent the real people who “inspired” this film.)
I’d read mixed reviews of this one, and now I understand why it might not work for some folks. This film takes risks–particularly with its representation of the paranormal presence–and the risks don’t always pay off. But I prefer a film that tries something different and partly fails to one that follows a tired old formula. In particular, I appreciated how this script explored the poignancy, fierceness, and even horror of the maternal instinct. I actually cared about the characters, and this fostered the slow build of dread as they fell deeper into peril. There’s more than a little hokeyness to be sure, and the male characters are pretty useless, but Jessica Chastain is fabulous, as are the girls who play her “adoptive” nieces. The ending made me cry.
A grieving daughter meets her uncle for the first time at her father’s funeral and is alternately intrigued and repelled by his behavior. This film leans more toward suspense than supernatural horror, but the characters are metaphorically haunted in interesting ways. I’m not certain the plot holds together, but I don’t really care because this isn’t a plot-driven movie. It’s gorgeously filmed and, best of all, gloriously Gothic. (One of my favorite scenes involves Mia Wasikowska’s character obsessing over a Victorian guide to funerals and mourning.) If you don’t like dark and twisted, this is NOT the film for you.
(BTW, I am soooo looking forward to director Park Chan-wook’s next project, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith set in early 20th century, Japanese-occupied Korea. Sounds like a winner to me!)
Lake Mungo (2008)
An Australian “mockumentary” about a family who might be haunted by their recently drowned daughter. This one won’t make you jump out of your seat like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, and that’s because it prioritizes emotional depth over shock value. Certainly there are creepy moments, but mostly I appreciated this spooky mystery for drawing me into the longing and vulnerability of its grieving characters.
If you have any suggestions for creepy/ghostly films, do please leave me a note in the comments! Also, check out this list of 40 Scariest Ghost Movies.