Scary movies rely on the fear of the unknown, and the sheer concept of what lurks in the shadows is typically scarier than anything one might create up in their head. As a result, ghosts are the ideal enemy to linger in the shadows, showing just enough of themselves to frighten while leaving the imagination to construct the rest of their power and horror. Elusive and unpredictable, these spirits of the dead are frequently motivated by an unfettered purpose, making them a menace to the living and a source of fascinating dread in films.
Throughout the many decades of ghostly films, the production quality has ranged from a terrifying masterpiece to cliché and ridiculous. However, the high expectations that consumers have now placed on scary movies following the assault of ‘elevated horror’ have resulted in the emergence of an increasing number of horrifying tales with disturbing realism. Rather than depending just on shocks, many of these films have a profound psychological component that sticks with the viewer for years to come; they are, in a sense, haunting. As a result, let’s take a look at some of the scariest ghost movies that are sure to frighten you.
7. His House
Many asylum seekers are forced to forget who they are; nonetheless, this Netflix horror film depicting the migrant experience is indelible. His House, starring Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, and Matt Smith, recounts the struggles of a South Sudanese couple adjusting to life in England while simultaneously contending with a mysterious presence lurking within their house. Initially hiding their previous traumas, the couple’s memories slowly break through the walls, dominating the house and eventually their brains. Driven to insanity, Bol and Rial (Mosaku and Dirisu) are eventually forced to confront their suppressed memories, allowing them to finally feel regret for those who did not survive the perilous trek over the sea.
As a result, rather than denying their existence, those who were left behind, along with the thousands of refugees throughout the world whose stories have been sidelined, are now given a voice. While His House features many jump-scares that would frighten anybody, the true terror comes from experiencing the first-hand refugee experience, which is filled with injustice and bigotry. This film provides an educated yet amusing look at the struggle that migrants face in their search for a fresh beginning.
The outer world might be frightening, but what exists inside the mind is sometimes far scarier. Insidious, starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, depicts the story of a couple whose kid falls into a coma and enters an astral dimension known as The Further, where he becomes a receptacle for a variety of demonic forces. Tormented by the tortured souls that wish to escape from this sphere, Josh (Wilson) strives to return his kid to the real world before the evil spirits control him.
Insidious deviates from the conventional storyline of ghosts invading the world of the living by venturing into the unpredictable domain of the dead, creating the unnerving fear of being stuck in a place where evil holds the upper hand. With heart-stopping jump scares and unexpected revelations, this film concludes on a terrifying cliffhanger that inspired an Insidious sequel in 2013, as well as two prequels, Insidious Chapter 3 and The Last Key.
5. The Conjuring 2
Based on a true story, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who help an Enfield family suffering poltergeist activity. The Conjuring 2 contains even more terrifying scares than its predecessor, The Conjuring, and unravels the mystery of a demonic force known as the Nun, who terrorizes the family to the point of insanity. Because of this demon’s evasive nature, its presence becomes increasingly terrifying as the film proceeds, allowing its irregular activities to produce scares that lead one to jump out of their flesh.
With Lorraine’s terrifying visions and the persistent fear of possession, this supernatural horror thriller holds spectators’ attention until the very end, when the demon is eventually driven back into hell. However, as witnessed in the terrifying realm of the Conjuring universe, bad spirits do not remain silent for long, and this demon returned to cause havoc with the release of The Nun in 2018.
4. The Others
Ghost tales are already twisted, but The Others takes it to a whole new level. Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a pious mother during WWII who gradually loses her sanity as a mysterious entity begins to stalk her house. As mental health difficulties begin to seep through the gaps, this film asks who can be trusted when reality and fantasy begin to converge. The gradual increase in paranormal happenings creates a persistent sense of impending doom, and Grace’s initial effort to defend her family transforms into attacks on them as the mystery begins to expose who the “others” truly are in a delightfully unexpected twist. The Others established the bar for psychological horror in the twenty-first century, therefore it was no surprise that it was nominated for a BAFTA, a rare event for a horror film.
Hereditary, a film haunted by tragedy, follows a family who seeks supernatural intervention to deal with loss, only to discover sinister truths along the road. This psychological horror, starring Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, is a mind-bending tale full of spirits, possession, and cults that kills a family clinging to hope and instead uses them as a catalyst for a demon-king to roam the earth. The family’s thoughts begin to slip as the paranormal begins to alter reality.
With scenes of horrific brutality, including decapitation and even being burnt alive, this film does not shy away from extreme gore. While frightening, these scenes provide an eerie reality that eventually distinguishes the film from being a grindhouse or ‘torture porn’ film. Nonetheless, Hereditary strikes moviegoers with a cold that lasts long after the credits have rolled, as any sense of security and relaxation fades.
This Alfred Hitchcock classic demonstrates that ghosts do not have to be corporeal in order to haunt us. This gothic drama, starring Oscar winners Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, recounts the lives of a newly-married lady who is teased by the memories of her husband’s murdered wife, Rebecca. While Rebecca is never seen in the film, her strong presence affects the lives of people she once knew, such as the spiteful housemaid, Mrs. Danvers, and even claims a claim on Manderley, the house she previously occupied. As a result, jump scares would be unnecessary in this picture, as Rebecca’s presence is an unavoidable and relentless tormentor.
1. A Christmas Carol
Mrs. Danvers physically symbolizes her and sabotages the narrator’s relationship with her husband. Similarly, Manderley remains the same, replete with Rebecca’s personality and reminding the narrator that she would never live up to the prior woman. Eventually, it is only until the couple confronts Rebecca’s hold over them that they are finally liberated from her clutches, implying that the ghost of the past can never be avoided for too long before it is dealt with and let go of.
While films like Krampus portray harsh retribution for individuals who do not celebrate Christmas, A Christmas Carol invites introspection. This 1999 movie, based on the Charles Dickens novella of the same name and transformed into innumerable Christmas adaptations, stars Patrick Stewart as one of the greatest incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge, an ugly old man who is detested by everybody. In an attempt to mend his ways, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, each of whom depicts different eras of his life and the disastrous consequences of his selfish acts.