Ghostbusters (1984)

Part 11 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween

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  • Directed by Ivan Reitman
  • Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
  • Written by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
  • Comedy
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 45mins
  • 8 June 1984

Synopsis

Three friends who study the paranormal come together with plans to start a business around catching and removing ghosts for the residents of New York City. Along the way, they meet a woman whose building is built in such a way that it might resurrect a god and bring about the end of the world.

How’s the Story?

It’s a fun story that’s very amusing. This movie is a classic. A bunch of friends trying to catch ghosts for people, how much of a distance from the usual ghost story? It’s just fun.

How’s the Acting?

It’s pretty good. Typical acting for each of these lovely comedic actors. Sigourney Weaver is my favorite performance in this one. But then again, Sigourney Weaver is always my favorite in basically anything. She’s just really good.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I love how clever the comedy of this movie is. It’s very loud and in your face sometimes and at other times subtle and quietly amusing. It’s the perfect mix of over the top comedy and an endearing measure of wit.

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s dated in this day and age, but I’m sure at the time, it was very impressive. I, for one, really love the gross dog monster things. So creepy and gross looking.

Is It Worth Watching?

C’mon, it’s Ghostbusters. How can anybody say it’s not worth watching? It’s a classic, and by classic I mean ‘everybody has seen this movie’. So honestly, why bother asking if it’s worth watching when everybody has already seen it?

My Rating: 8/10

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Crimson Peak (2015)

Part 10 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
  • Starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowski, Jessica Chastain
  • Written by Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins
  • Fantasy, Horror
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 59mins
  • 16 October 2015

Synopsis

A young woman has been haunted by ghosts her entire life. However, when a mysterious man and his sister enter her life, the ghosts seem to become more frequent than ever before. After the death of her father, Edith marries Thomas, her mysterious lover, and moves back to England with him and his sister, Lucille. What she finds there is even more sinister than what she left behind in America.

How’s the Story?

I’m biased, as I’ve said in several of these reviews now, but I love Gothic genre, and this movie is absolutely, without any comparison, the quintessential Gothic romance film. It is a lit-nerd’s dream. It has every element of that eerie yet romantic, creepy yet charming, scary yet sexy Gothic genre style going on and it’s all so good. I love this story, and I think that the reason so many people disliked it is that they were expecting a straight up horror movie and instead got a Gothic romance horror movie.

How’s the Acting?

Mia Wasikowski has never done a bad performance that I’ve seen, and this is just another good one from her. She as Edith is so believable and lovable and you want good things for her. Tom Hiddleston also can hardly ever do any wrong in my eyes. He brings such humanity into his characters, good and bad, so there is no straight up ‘good or bad’. Thomas isn’t a villain, he’s a dark anti-hero. We want him to pay for his wrongdoings but we also don’t blame him for them. Jessica Chastain, however, is the real star here. She is a scene-stealer in the best way. I love how subtly terrifying she plays Lucille. It’s just fascinating to watch and so, so good.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie is very much a Guillermo Del Toro movie. The man knows how to write a love story within a greater picture. Everything about how this movie is written sucks you in. The small moments bring you so deep into the characters lives that you don’t realize it has happened at all. That’s good writing and directing right there.

Also, side note: Guillermo Del Toro knows how to write women. I haven’t seen all of his work, but in everything of his I have seen, women aren’t just shoved in the story, they are people. He makes them complex, very interesting characters and this is very much a movie about two women. Thomas is not relegated to a sexy lamp, but he is the ‘object’ in this one. There’s very little more satisfying than a movie where a woman makes her own choices, her own mistakes, and essentially is the maker of her own destiny a dozen times over. It’s just so refreshing to see a movie written and directed in such a way that the main character who is a woman feels like a real woman. I would honestly believe a woman wrote and directed this movie, that’s how realistic Edith and Lucille are.

How’s the Cinematography?

Again, it’s a Guillermo Del Toro movie. He’s all about working with cinematographers who are great at using vibrant colors and extravagant visuals and this movie is no exception. The use of shadow and light is so good here, not to mention the boldness in everything red. It only ups that ‘creep’ factor and is a nice departure from the normal dark and drab style used in so many horror films.

One scene in particular that just thrills me to death is the scene where Edith’s father dies. The water and the steam and the blood swirling around, it’s all just so reminiscent of something like Hannibal with its cinematographic quality of making the macabre beautiful. It’s just such a pretty film to look at.

Is It Worth Watching?

This is one of my favorite movies. Full stop. One of the best of 2015 by far. Honestly, I think this movie is a love-it-or-hate-it and I’m so far on the ‘love it’ side that I cannot comprehend not loving it. I know taste is subjective, but Jesus, this movie is just so, so good.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Part 9 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Rob Minkoff
  • Starring Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Nathanial Parker
  • Written by David Berenbaum
  • Comedy, Family
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 28min
  • 26 November 2003

Synopsis

A real-estate agent and his family go to view a mansion someone wants to put on the market and get rained in and have to stay the night. They learn of the tragic history of the mansion just before things start to get a little creepy…

How’s the Story?

Based off the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World, this movie has a really solid story, in my opinion. I was shocked to discover that this one is so widely hated, because I like the story! Long ago, the master of the manor planned to run away with the woman he loved the night of a masquerade ball but instead, she took her life. After losing her, he took his own and, in doing so, cursed all the staff and guests to walk the earth as ghosts until the day he and his beloved should be reunited.

What a compelling backstory. I honestly find it heart-wrenching and the end of the movie (no spoilers) makes me tear up every time. The story is about a family becoming closer through the adventure in a haunted mansion with a haunting that’s based on a tragic event, and it’s just a really fun story.

How’s the Acting?

It’s okay. There’s nothing to write home about, but nothing is terrible. I like most of the actors in it, as cheesy and over the top as the characters are, and that’s a good thing! It’s a kids movie, not an Oscar contender.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The same as the acting, it’s good enough. Nothing special but nothing bad. It’s a fun movie told in interesting enough ways. It’s moving enough to make me tear up, so that means it’s not the worst written or directed movie, and has to be at least pretty good to get that much of a reaction.

How’s the Cinematography?

While the CGI is dated, this movie has some really cool practical effects. The thing with the door is always terrifying. I also really love the way the camera moves in this one. It makes it feel like a ride at times, which is obviously an appeal to the Disney World lovers out there.

Is It Worth Watching?

Definitely worth watching. It’s fun, funny, moving, and pretty much a Halloween staple in my house. We own the DVD and it gets watched in July half the time, when we’re all Jonesing for that sweet Halloween vibe. It’s not the best movie ever, it’s not the most important movie ever, but it’s a hell of an entertaining movie, and after all, isn’t that what film is about?

My Rating: 7/10

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The Shining (1980)

Part 8 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Stanley Kubrick
  • Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
  • Written by Stanley Kubrick
  • Horror
  • Rated R
  • 2hr 26mins
  • 13 June 1980

Synopsis

A man gets a job as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a remote hotel high in the Rocky Mountains. As he and his family settle in to their isolated home, things around the hotel start to get strange.

How’s the Story?

Based on Stephen King’s best novel – my opinion, maybe not a fact, but I’m saying it – , The Shining is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Again, as you will notice is a trend with my favorites, it’s another that really fits that gothic lit mood, with the slow-burn build up to a truly spectacular and fast climax. I love this story, because again, it’s scary as hell but in an eerie way. While this one does have some blood and gore and gross stuff, it is still scary because of the anticipation and the inability to be sure what’s happening. Honestly, this one could easily be argued to not be a ghost movie, because that’s part of what makes it great! The question of is it or isn’t it? Is it haunted? Are they just seeing things? Is it all in Jack’s head? Nobody knows, but there’s a compelling argument for ghosts, so it fits!

How’s the Acting?

This movie has legendary acting. It’s partially because the actors are good and partially because the direction is sketchy as hell. But honestly, this is the most iconic Jack Nicholson role there is. Obviously, the acting is good. That goes without saying.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing is good if you don’t know the original. I’m not a stickler for “THE MOVIE HAS TO BE LIKE THE BOOK!” but the movie goes out of its way to change some shit for the worse, not the better. I don’t generally compare books and movies, but I prefer movies change things to fit a story told better in a film because that’s the whole point of adaptation, to tell the story best in film version. However, there are things from the book that would have worked better than what they chose to do in the movie, and I really find that annoying. However, at face value, it’s a well written film with a lot of really intricately woven plot points that make it a very uncomfortable film in the best way possible.

The directing is pretty sketchy, honestly. It’s very effective, but psychologically torturing your actors into giving you the performance you want is some of that sketchy old Hollywood bullshit (that isn’t really ‘old Hollywood’ at all, that stuff still happens) and I’m not into that. Kubrick made good films, but the guy was abusive as hell. Kinda sucks that it worked so well, because I hate enjoying the results of employee abuse.

How’s the Cinematography?

This film is stunning. The use of long-takes, long shots, and open areas makes the idea of isolation apparent from the very beginning. The long, ominous drive shown from overhead really builds on the very gothic theme of isolation and being far away from help, and it’s just sooo good. This movie is more atmosphere than anything, and I looooove it. There are shots in here that are more terrifying for their feel than for what’s in them.

Is It Worth Watching?

Oh come on. It’s The Shining. Of COURSE it’s worth watching.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Others (2001)

Part 7 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar
  • Starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann, James Bentley
  • Written by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar
  • Mystery, Thriller
  • Rated PG-13
  • 1hr 44mins
  • 10 August 2001

Synopsis

A woman and her children live in a dark, isolated mansion where there is no electricity and no sunlight, because her children have an allergy to the sun. When the new help arrives, they discover that there’s something up with the mother and children and it might just involve some supernatural residents living among them.

How’s the Story?

Duuuude, this story is really good. I love creepy stuff like this. The type that isn’t scary, but is creepy. This story is very family-friendly Crimson Peak meets Turn of the Screw. It’s that Gothic vibe that I love so much as an English nerd. I can’t go into much detail about the things I love without spoilers, but let’s just say, though it’s not the most SHOCKING plot twist ever, it’s still a heck of a good one. I had ideas something was up, but it was still enough ‘is it really, though?’ that I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

How’s the Acting?

Nicole Kidman is really good here, but the little girl is the best. Creepy children that aren’t over the top are hard to find and this girl has just enough ‘i’m a normal child’ to not be SUPER creepy. It’s kind of funny one of my movies in this review series was The Innocents, which had a very similar vibe. Really great recommendations for this series, huh?

How’s the Writing/Directing?

There’s some stuff that’s a little over-dramatic, but it works well enough. I would say that this might be my favorite new-watch of my Halloween review series. Not the scariest by far, but I’m not a fan of being super scared, so this one was just the right amount of creepy.

How’s the Cinematography?

I’m a big fan of pans, which is something you don’t see very often just because it can be cheesy in the wrong situation, and this movie has a sequence that’s full of camera pans to show light flooding a space, and maaaan, I love it. It’s so good. I love the atmospheric way this one is shot. It’s all cool colors and dimly light settings and it’s just that nice feeling of eeriness. It’s just a very nice film to look at.

Is It Worth Watching?

Definitely! This movie is especially good if you’re like me and don’t like to be scared, just a little creeped out. It’s a great PG-13 Halloween pick for those of us who are of the oversized-poultry-inclined variety. Giant chickens are gonna love this kind of thing. Giant chickens who are fans of the gothic horror lit genre will really love this one. It’s got good acting, an interesting plot, it’s pretty to look at, and it’s just fun. I absolutely recommend it.

My Rating: 7/10

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Beetlejuice (1988)

Part 6 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Tim Burton
  • Starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton
  • Written by Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson
  • Comedy
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 32mins
  • 30 March 1988

Synopsis

A couple dies and is stuck in their home, bound to watch as a family from the city turn their beloved home into something they hate. They seek help from a trickster who promises to help them rid their home of the Deets family only to turn around and make things worse for them.

How’s the Story?

Beetlejuice is a fun story. The ideas of the afterlife as told in this one are very different from the usual ones, and it brings a little bit more humor than usual into the idea of death. The classic Tim Burton style shines through very much in the kind of dark-yet-not-really approach to comedy that is presented in this film. There’s, of course, darkness to the fact that they’re dead, but they seem pretty okay with being dead until their home starts being destroyed by the obnoxious Deets family. Also, death is hilarious. One thing I find so funny and probably true: Hell is a waiting room where your number is waaayyy down the line.

How’s the Acting?

I mean, come on, it’s Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, and Alec Baldwin…. what more can I say?

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I love how this movie is written. There’s a lot of witty things going on here that I love. You can’t really help but be charmed by Lydia, Winona Ryder is just too adorable. She’s written with such sharp wit next to her ditzy/crazy parents, and it’s just totally fun. Even crazy ass Delia is just a delight with how funny her crazy is.

How’s the Cinematography?

This movie has so much going on, and by far the best part is the use of straight lines and right angles. Out of all the stuff going on on the screen in this movie, the best part is the way that lines and angles are used to draw attention to the scenery. Yes, every house has right angles, but not to the extent that they’re featured in this movie. Straight lines and right angles aren’t natural, so when they’re emphasized, it draws out eyes to them and makes what we’re looking at more ‘involved’. There are so many shots in this movie, such as the exterior decorations that the Deets family adds, the model table, the afterlife, and even just inside the house after the redecoration that overemphasize the lines and angles of the space. Next time you watch it, really take a look. It’s brilliant.

Is It Worth Watching?

Obviously it’s worth watching. It’s one of the most popular Tim Burton movies and it’s something basically everyone has seen.

While I don’t love it quite as much as some people, because I do get bored watching it multiple times in a year, it’s still a very fun movie.

My Rating: 7/10

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The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Part 5 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
  • Starring Heather Donahue, Michael C Williams, Joshua Leonard
  • Written by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
  • Horror
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 21mins.
  • 30 July 1999

Synopsis

In what could be considered the real beginning of the ‘found footage’ craze, The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three film students who go into the woods to film a documentary about a local haunting legend and disappear, leaving behind only the footage on their cameras.

How’s the Story

The story is actually something revolutionary. Nowadays it isn’t so odd to come across a ‘found footage’ movie, and there are whole TV shows based on the idea regarding like Bigfoot eating campers or whatever, but in 1999 when this film came out, it was something so new and different and absolutely awesome.

As for the actual story, it’s pretty fun. Three young folks go into the woods to plan a documentary, they get lost, they get ‘got’. Simple but really fun.

How’s the Acting

It’s weirdly good, but in college film classes I heard that there’s a reason for that. I mean, there are a few parts that seem a little over the top from the guys, but the girl especially REALLY sells it. Like, DAMN dude. It really doesn’t seem like acting in some spots and I loved that.

How’s the Writing/Directing

The way this movie was made is what I commented on above in the acting section, and that is that the direction was largely done remotely with direction notes left in places for the actors to find. However, the direction notes for each actor were different, and the idea was that basically, to get a realistic level of frustration and discomfort, the actors all think they got the same notes so they’re performing to those notes, and then the other ones are ‘refusing’ to perform the same way. Since they can’t break character, it causes true emotional tenseness. Of course, obviously this is highly shitty, because it’s basically psychological torture of actors to get them to perform, but hey, it was effective! Very, very smart way to do it.

How’s the Cinematography

I mean, it’s terrible, it’s meant to be found-footage and done at night on amateur equipment, so about 30% of the movie is a black screen and just ambient audio of people screaming and fighting, but that’s what makes it special, right? If everything was shot like a Dawkins job, it wouldn’t work as a ‘believable’ found-footage movie. But the best choice they make regarding cinematography, in my opinion, is the fact that you never actually SEE anything.

You hear scary shit, you see them reacting to scary shit, but other than some hand prints on a wall and a bloody cloth for a second, it’s so effectively creepy because you don’t SEE what’s so scary, you just see their fear.

Is It Worth Watching?

YES!

I honestly thought this was going to be something soooo stupid, because in 1999 I was 8 years old, and obviously I heard the hype but didn’t see it, and the idea alone sounded pretty dumb. I didn’t even know it was about a haunting at all until this year when I was looking for Halloween movies about ghosts and this was on the lists. I figured it would be cheesy and stupid, but I actually loved this.

It was scary as hell to my ‘I don’t like horror movies’ ass who decided to watch it in the middle of the night, alone in my room, with no lights on. Just…. damn, dude. I took my cat with me to go brush my teeth and get ready for bed. That’s how heightened my senses were after watching this one.

This is just a good scary movie that isn’t gross or too traumatizing, and I think that’s the reason it’s so scary: the fear is the thing that makes it scary, not the thing. I’ve been lost in the woods. It’s one of the most uncomfortable things ever and I was lost while carrying a gun in the middle of the day knowing that, somewhere within a few miles, my dad was waiting for me. They’re helpless, which is far more terrifying than any monster or murderer. They’re alone, in the woods, with something stalking them, no weapons, and their navigational tools are gone or failing them. And it’s terrifying.

This is just a really effective movie for me. The only gripe I have is how abrupt the ending is, but if it weren’t abrupt then the whole ‘found footage’ thing would fail miserably, right?

 

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