Our reviewer goes for a walk with some flicks that might live forever
By Dan Tebo
Vermont Country correspondent
It’s fall in New England, and the trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go. At least that’s what the foliage calendar I bought at the Northshire Bookstore tells me, anyway. A Vermonter’s euphoria at the arrival of autumn is matched only by the existential dread at the inevitable slide into the barren landscape of winter. Still, we’ll wrap ourselves in fleece and aggressively peep leaves and crush pumpkin spice lattes until the death of the season comes for all of us.
As fall is the season of transitions, we thought we’d take a look at some films that deal with folks from the other side. Of course, it hardly needs to be said that autumn is the perfect time to hole up on a brisk, pitch black evening and scare yourself absolutely witless. The ghosts profiled here aren’t all strictly malevolent; there’s sexy ghosts and buddy ghosts and ghosts who are kind of just hanging around to see what happens next. Would you want any of these ghosts to attack you in your bathtub? Maybe not.
“The Shining” (1980): Stanley Kubrick’s unsparingly brutal adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is still a master class in macabre. If the sight of those butchered twin sisters doesn’t scare you, then you are unable to be scared.
“Poltergeist” (1982): When Steven Spielberg linked up with the director of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the result was one of the hardest PG-rated films ever released. The Freeling family moves into a home built on a haunted cemetery. Things go from terrible to quite terrible when their youngest daughter Carol Anne is eaten by their television. Shudder.
“Wings of Desire” (1987): Wim Wenders took top directing honors at Cannes for this aesthetically breathtaking glimpse at the ghosts who walked among the citizens of Cold War-era West Berlin. A film perhaps best known for having inspired a fleet of ‘90s alternative rock videos and one schmaltzy American remake with Nic Cage and Meg Ryan.
“Ghost” (1990): In this runaway blockbuster, real-life ghost Patrick Swayze plays a dead lawyer and sexy pottery aficianado who is trying to contact his fiancee via Whoopi Goldberg to let her know he was murdered by Samuel Goldwyn’s grandson. He can also walk through any and all walls, which is still nifty.
“Candyman” (1992): Everything about Bernard Rose’s gothic modern classic — from the Chicago locations to Phillip Glass’ chilling score to Tony Todd’s towering performance as the world’s most terrifying urban legend come to life — is designed to inflict maximum trauma on the viewer. These are good things.
“Casper” (1995): For those who prefer ghosts of the friendly variety, there’s always the frighteningly innocuous Casper. While the film suffers from its reliance on primitive CGI, it’s buoyed by a strong performance by Christina Ricci and cameos from two-time “Ghostbuster” Dan Aykroyd and actual ghoul Mel Gibson.
“Blair Witch Project” (1999): Three film students with piss-poor camera steadying skills disappear into the Maryland wilderness while making a documentary on the titular Blair Witch. A genuine cultural juggernaut that launched the found footage horror genre, this film is exclusively frightening to people who were between 16 and 25 years old in 1999.
“Sixth Sense” (1999): Bruce Willis is murdered by Donnie Wahlberg in the first five minutes of this movie and spends the next two hours completely unaware that he has died. You know who else was unaware? Millions upon millions of paying moviegoers, who all flocked to this flick in droves to see what the big twist was all about. I’d apologize for the spoiler but … it has been 23 years.
“Session 9” (2001): An underrated New England fright fest that follows a construction crew as they slowly succumb to mania while working in the abandoned remains of the hulking Danvers Mental Hospital. Even more terrifying are the generic condominiums that currently sit on the site of the now-demolished hospital.
“A Ghost Story” (2017): In this mournful indie tone poem, a deceased musician (Casey Affleck) is banished to his former home, where he is forced to spend centuries standing silently in a corner with a sheet over his head. This film runs 92 minutes, four of which involve watching Rooney Mara eat a pie until she barfs. Spooky.
Dan Tebo — is an amateur blogger and unserious film critic. He lives in Boston.