Top 7 Supernatural Films That Haunt US
By Scott Hallam
April 7th, 2014
Mike Flanagan wowed audiences with his feature directorial debut, Absentia, a few years back. Now he returns with an even creepier tale of supernatural terrors in Oculus (review). To celebrate the release of Oculus, we bring you a look at the Top Seven Supernatural Films that Haunt Us.
The funny thing about a really powerful supernatural movie, at least those that get wide theatrical releases, is they usually transcend the theater and become the talk of the nation for a while. And many of them even hang around our psyches for years and years to come.
We'll begin, as always, with our honorable mentions, and you'll see that many of them also took the country by storm. Low budget, found footage movies like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project were absolutely larger than life during their theatrical releases.
However, bigger films can also reach out and grab you. Poltergeist and The Conjuring certainly come to mind. Some other haunting projects that are worth an honorable mention are Stephen King's 1408, a tiny indie called I Am a Ghost which had an incredibly freaky finale, cult favorite Session 9 that did for asbestos removal what Psycho did for taxidermy, and the ultra-creepy, ambiance-laden The Orphanage.
As you'll see, this list contains some legendary horror heavyweights because once you really scare us, we don't soon forget. Here are the Top Seven Supernatural Films that Haunt Us.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
The Amityville Horror kicks off this list not because it was so frightening or because of the slew of sequels and remakes it inspired, but the fact that this is a truly horrific mystery. For those who need a quick refresher, The Amityville Horror is based on a book written by Jay Anson which claims to be the true-life experiences of George and Kathy Lutz and their family after moving into the home at 112 Ocean Avenue. Just 13 months before, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., had shot and killed six members of his family. Anson's book and the original film are a representation of what happened to the Lutz family during their 28-day stay in the home... or is it? There has always been tons of speculation as to just what is real and what is fraud in the Lutzes' story, makingThe Amityville Horror a supernatural mystery of the highest degree.
The Shining (1980)
As tales of hauntings go, perhaps no one spins a better yarn than the great Stephen King. It's no secret that King has no love for Stanley Kubrick's vision of his classic novel, but somewhere between King's conjuring of the tale and Kubrick's mad scientist filmmaking techniques (not to mention a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Jack Nicholson), a masterful cinematic haunting was born. It's been nearly 35 years since The Shining was released, and even longer since the novel hit the stands, and still today it still stands as one of the most unsettling films of all time. This is another example of a truly excellent haunting being embraced by our culture. Sure, on the surface, The Shining looks like a slasher film to the uninformed eye. But a look deeper within the walls of The Overlook Hotel shows a much more haunted and supernatural environment. Great party, isn't it?
The Omen (1976)
Oh, young Damien. So cute. So innocent looking. But looks can be quite deceiving as Gregory Peck and company found out in this legendary Antichrist film. This was the original bad kid movie. Sure The Good Son and Orphan and plenty of movies featuring bastardly ankle-biters would follow, but Damien is the name that, to this day, is playfully reserved for those seemingly uncontrollable children we see at restaurants and shopping malls. And it's within this frivolity that the true haunting exists. It's because The Omen was such a powerful film, and it conjured the most terrifying of thoughts amongst parents, that still today the name Damien retains that power and The Omen remains such a haunting film.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Four little words ("…I see dead people…") and a twist ending that blew audiences out of their seats made The Sixth Sense an absolute phenomenon. With every rewatch of the movie, even already knowing the fantastic surprise ending, you can't help but get chills when young Haley Joel Osment utters that iconic line. Director M. Night Shyamalan became an overnight superstar as The Sixth Sense chilled viewers and, in an absolutely amazing climax, rocked audiences beyond belief. The Sixth Sense would go on to be an absolute box office juggernaut, as many truly frightening supernatural films do. And that's because it's a damn impressive movie that works. You see something you've missed before in every re-viewing and are still haunted every time you hear those four words.
The Ring (2002)
It's not often that we give credit to an American remake over the original film, but Gore Verbinski's reimagining of the Japanese Ring truly haunted American audiences who, for the most part, would have never made the effort to see the original movie so we can thank Verbinski for bringing a very nice retelling to the American public. That being said, Samara making her climb out of the television was indeed an iconic horror moment of the 2000's. The huge box office take and the fact that the mystery and eeriness of The Ring drew audiences in, and it continues to be a staple of horror, are a testament to the brilliant writing of the original movie and the quality adaptation of the American version. The Ring is one of the few times a foreign film has been redone and captivated and haunted domestic audiences so thoroughly.
The Exorcist (1973)
Haunting?! Sweet Jesus H. Christ, when you say "haunting supernatural movie," could there be another? Believe us when we say we do try to keep The Exorcist off these lists, but it fits so well on so many of them. If you want to talk about supernatural movies that still, over 40 years later, haunt us, then look no further than The Exorcist. Sure, we all still go back and give it a viewing once a year or so, but it's still with great trepidation that we press that "Play" button and expose ourselves to the horrors we know we're about to experience. The Exorcist hasn't lost a step in four decades. It's as effective today as it was when it opened in theaters the day after Christmas in 1973 (how fucking festive). It is indeed the one true haunting that we cannot seem to shake. Pazuzu dug his claws into us, and it doesn't seem like we'll ever get them out.
They keep trying to recapture that moment, that Carrie moment, but it just cannot be recreated. No offense to the beloved Angela Bettis (who is one of horror's most amazing assets) or Chloe Grace Moretz, but it can't be done. There was something magical between Sissy Spacek and director Brian De Palma in that original imagining of Stephen King's novel. In fact, Carrie was the first of over 100 television and movie projects based on or adapted from King's writings. So you know there was something incredibly special going on here. Carrie was the original tortured student. She was "Jeremy" as Pearl Jam sang of him. She was all the unfortunate friendless, directionless, antagonized souls we see lashing out at society today. Carrie is absolutely more pertinent now than it was when King wrote it or when the film was released. Indeed, this is an instance of foreshadowing that no one could have expected. Perhaps, with all that our society has become, Carrie haunts us more today than anything.