I have a bit of an obsession with ghosts, as anyone who has read my books knows--I've written two novels featuring a haunting as well as a romance, and more are on the way (HAUNTED SOULS just released as of June 2016!). I've made lists before of my favorite ghost stories in terms of books, but I do enjoy the movies as well...whenever my sister comes to visit, we usually have a marathon watch of creepy films. Anything paranormal will do, but the ones with a spooky and convincing ghostly presence get top billing. Over the years, a few have really resonated with me, and helped inspire my novels. Keep in mind, I'm no movie critic...I just found these films to have at least the solid backbone of a believable ghost story, with a decent mystery behind the haunting, as well as a lack of the plot holes I find in so many others. The suspense kept me guessing, and certain scenes gave me serious chills. I'll try to throw a little blurb out there for each one without revealing too many spoilers, in case you'd like to give one a try!
The Changeling - 1980 - George C. Scott stars as a widower who moves into a spooky old house in Seattle in the beginning of this film. The ghost of a young boy inhabits the house, and the tragedy that befell him will eventually expose a cruel plot. Now, the ghost wants justice, and Scott's character, plagued by scary surprises and terrifying noises, begins to investigate the mystery. Admittedly, it's an oldie...and at the risk of dating myself, it was one of my favorites when I was in middle school. In fact, my best friend had an upstairs bedroom that opened upon an attic that bore a spine-tingling resemblance to the one in the movie...late at night, we'd scare ourselves silly imagining that ball bouncing down the stairs.
A Stir of Echoes - 1999- a film starring Kevin Bacon, loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson (also the author of Hell House and I Am Legend, among others). Bacon's character, Tom, has a son who seems to possess the ability to speak with the dead...and there is something in their house that wants to be heard. After being hypnotized at a party, Tom begins to experience visions as well, of a violent altercation which is tied to a neighbor's disappearance. Clearly the desperate spirit wants its body found, but there are others with a vested interest in making sure that doesn't happen.
What Lies Beneath - 2000 - starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford (two of my favorites!) Claire (Pfeiffer) and Norman (Ford) are a married couple living in Vermont; Claire is suffering from a memory lapse due to an accident. When strange occurrences begin plaguing Claire, she investigates a possible killing in the neighborhood. There is a ghost trying to communicate with Claire, but it's not who she first believes it is...and the spirit is not the only one hiding dangerous secrets. (Update: a reader recently left a review of my debut novel SILVER LAKE, saying if you liked What Lies Beneath, you'd like this book. I was thrilled with the comparison!)
The Orphanage - 2007 - a Spanish film set in...yes, a closed orphanage...along the Spanish coast in 1975. My sister and I watched this one with subtitles, but I believe a remake is in the works. This movie is dark, but full of creepy atmosphere and amazing cinematography. The basic plot involves a couple and their adopted son returning to the orphanage where the mother once lived. The family's plan is to reopen the old building as a home for disabled children, but their son soon claims to have befriended a boy named Tomas. Terrible things happened here, and the truth will come out before the spirits can rest.
In all of these movies, there is a common theme: a desperate spirit who cannot rest because of unfinished business. The ghost seeks revenge or justice, or wants its story told or its remains found. Barriers to communication make this difficult, but not impossible. These are all ideas that inspired my two novels, SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR. Of course, there are many other ghost movies I've enjoyed that rely more on terrifying imagery to ramp up the screams, but have no real "reason" behind the haunting (like the first Paranormal Activity). Still fun to watch, but my mind usually can't stop looking for an answer to the question, "Why is this happening?". Regardless, I'll take a creepy thriller over gunfights and explosions any day!
Who knows, maybe some incredible stroke of luck will land one of my stories on the big screen. Someone is currently developing a screen play for SILVER LAKE, so a girl can dream, right? In the meantime, I'll keep looking for the shows, films, and books that fuel my imagination. Feel free to leave your favorites below, I love comments!
If you'd like to follow my Ghostly Inspiration board or the pictures I'm using to inspire my latest work in progress (now released! Haunted Souls), follow the highlighted links to Pinterest!