Friday, January 13, 2012


         Like most of us who enjoy being frightened by things that go bump in the night, I appreciate a good ghost story.  When I was young, my Uncle Hank used to bring my cousins and me together while he told us ‘scary stories’. I don’t recall much about the stories themselves other than the fact that they served their purpose and probably scared us half to death.
          Do kids still enjoy being frightened in that way?  I think so. Books like R.L. Stine’s Goosebump series are popular for good reason. What adults often forget is that there is a magic to be found not only in reading these stories but in having someone read them to you.
           I used to bring a book of scary stories into my son’s fifth grade classroom on Friday afternoons.  I’d turn out the lights, and accompanied by a lit candle, I’d proceed to read spooky stories.  Years later, a young man approached me and told me that he was in that class and that those stories encouraged him to read. (Some suggestions of which spooky books kids enjoy?  I'd offer up any of the collection of 'true ghost stories' or a classic like Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes".  On Halloween, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is always a favorite.)
          It stands to reason that one of my favorite movie genres is the supernatural thriller.  I’m not speaking now of the ones that fall into the category of horror films, such as The Omen, but those in which the supernatural elements are often tied to a mystery and, frequently, a murder. 

Listed below are 10 of my all time favorite supernatural thrillers, in no particular order of preference:

1.     THE UNINVITED (1944)  Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Gail Russell, this is about as good a ghost story as you’re going to get. A composer and his sister purchase an old house, dirt cheap, along the English coast. The reason it’s such a bargain, of course, is that it’s haunted. What makes this movie so unique is that it was the first film to treat the subject of ghosts in a non-comical way and it does not have a copout ending.
2.     GHOST (1990) This film had so many elements going for it: a good, suspenseful story, a love so strong, it survived death (Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore portraying Sam and Molly), a brilliant comic performance by Whoopy Goldberg, all backed by the haunting song, Unchained Melody.
3.     THE GIFT (2000) Not only was this a quiet gem for this genre, it boasts an incredibly talented ensemble: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinear, Hilary Swank, Michael Jeter, and Gary Cole. Well worth getting a hold of.
4.     WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000) The wife (Michele Pfeiffer) of a university professor (Harrison Ford) thinks that she is either going insane or that her Vermont home is haunted. Something sinister is definitely going on – and she doesn’t know the half of it!
5.     THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) Famous line to come out of this movie, “I see dead people”.  A movie many viewers went to see twice, though saying why would spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. I don’t think M. Night Shyamalan’s subsequent movies ever came close to this one.
6.     GHOST STORY (1981) Based on Peter Straub’s novel, Ghost Story tells the tale of the ramifications of having covered up a 50 year old murder.
7.     SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) This Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCapprio was set in 1954.  Solid story with, I think, a good twist ending though some found it to be confusing.
8.     THE DEAD ZONE (1983) Based on the Stephen King novel, this movie starred Christopher Walkin and Brooke Adams.  Like all Stephen King stories, the plot is carefully worked out. An especially creepy performance by Martin Sheen as a corrupt politician.
9.     STIR OF ECHOES (1999)  Written by master storyteller
     Richard Matheson, Stir of Echoes tells the story of Tom
Witzky (Kevin Bacon) a man who, having been 
hypnotized, begins to get disturbing flashes of an 
unsolved murder.
10. FALLEN (1998)  Starring Denzel Washington and John
 Goodman and directed by Gregory Hoblit (I knew Greg
 back in the days when he worked on Hill Street Blues).
 Terrific story about the transference of evil and a very 
 effective and eerie use of the Rolling Stones’ 
“Time is on My Side”.

Thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled and have a great weekend,


No comments:

Post a Comment