All Hallows' Eve has arrived, so what better time to snuggle up and watch a ghost movie?
So few of these films are made and even fewer actually have the power to scare. So without further ado, here are my picks -- one a day at a time leading up to Halloween -- for the scariest 28 ghost movies ever ...
No. 1 'THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT' (1999)
The scariest ghost movie of all time ... is about a witch? Well as it turns out, yes it is! "The Blair Witch Project" is not only the scariest, most original, groundbreaking and profitable films ever made.
It's also the best pure horror film of all time.
Shot for next to nothing with three unknown actors who improvised their lines, "The Blair Witch Project" is the first "found footage" film made, and it remains the best of the now familiar format. The technique works wonderfully for horror because when done right it adds a level of realism seldom found in traditional narrative work.
The plot is relatively simple -- three film students get lost in the woods while making a college documentary on the Blair Witch, a legendary woman who is said to have murdered several children in the 1700s, and who's ghost is still said to haunt the woods. Within hours of entering the woods, the students get lost. As night falls, they realize that they are not alone ...
Part of the greatness of this film is that it works as a survival film -- the characters get so lost that they might die even without supernatural intervention. Of course, they might have gotten so lost because of the ghost's interference -- we never find out. It's just one of the nice little wrinkles this film has.
Like all the movies in my top 10, the terror in "The Blair Witch Project" grows and grows and grows until the final, absolutely terrifying scene/shot. When the day light fades on each successive nightfall, the dread that follows is literally palatable. The characters (and the audience) know nothing but evil is going to happen to them, but are powerless to stop it. Like all great horror movies, the characters aren't at fault -- no manner of smarts, or firepower, or "right calls" would save them. Trapped, hungry and cold, they are simply damned.
In the end, this film stomps on just about every tender psychic sore spot human beings have.
This film has its critics: the camera shakes too much, the producers tried to hard to make original movie goers think it's real, it's too slow, yada. Most great ghost movies (and horror movies in general) are slowly paced because if you don't care or believe the characters, you won't be as scared. Like "The Shining," this film is slow ... until it's not, when all hell breaks lose. And who cares how the movie was originally marketed? That was 13 years ago -- literally a lifetime ago for younger viewers.
Speaking of young viewers, as the years pass, I think young people will accept this film for what it is -- a masterpiece of a film using a ground breaking technique. I was lucky enough to see it at home long before it was in theaters, long before it became a cultural phenomenon, which is the way to see it. Seeing it on a huge screen with lots of teenagers is probably the worst possible way to view this film ...
No, instead go up North to your family cabin, turn down the lights, grab a glass of Scotch and fire up that ancient VCR that still somehow works and start playing "The Blair Witch Project." I guarantee you that you'll lock the doors that night. Better yet, watch in a tent.
By the way, if you own the DVD, be sure to watch the companion featurettes "The Curse of the Blair Witch" and "The Blair Witch Legacy," which are both quite good.
So the next time it's a dark and stormy night and you want something to do, you could do worse then watching one of the 29 scariest ghost movies ever made.
Editor: Help Rabid Doll writer John Vincent launch his next horror film "Xenomorph," which needs only $1,000 to move forward. Support independent horror! Visit the "Xenomorph" page today to donate.
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