I Ain’t Afraid o’ No Ghost
You are all in for a treat today. Jack Campisi, my fellow Monster Man, has a little something to say about ghosts. I hope this is the start of many guest posts to come. Read on, and remember not to cross his stream….
There is something about a good ghost movie that scares you like no other kind of film. The suspense, tension and inherent creepiness really separate them from the rest of the horror genre. On the latest episode of the Monster Men video podcast, Hunter and I discuss some of the best and worst ghost and haunted house movies of all time. As a kid, there are all kinds of things to be afraid of, like vampires, zombies, demons, hockey-masked killing machines and so on. So why, out of all the vile creatures the pantheon of the paranormal, do ghosts hold such a special place in our hearts?
Maybe it’s because we can’t always see them, so they can sneak up on us pretty easily. Or perhaps it’s because they visit us at night when we are sleeping and vulnerable. I think it’s because out of all the things that go bump in the night, ghosts are the only ones that we still kind of believe in even after we grow up.
Think about it, as a little kid you believe in ghosts along with the monsters in your closet, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and everything else. As you get older, you start to realize that there are no such things as vampires or zombies, but when you hear a strange noise in your house or a door closes on it’s own, you still might suspect a ghost is to blame. Plus, the current landscape of TV does nothing but encourage you believe in ghosts with an endless array of paranormal investigation and medium shows that feature a whole host of adults who not only believe in ghosts, but also have their own TV shows about them.
As Hunter and I went through our list of ghost movies, a few of them stood out for me as particularly memorable or impactful. The one that comes to mind first is Poltergeist. Steven Spielberg’s entry into the haunted house genre brought ghosts into the modern world, set in a brand new housing development rather than a creepy old mansion. It also used state of the art special effects to go where no ghost movie had gone before. But for me, the thing that put Poltergeist over the top was the clown scene.
Throughout the movie, the son in the family is constantly leery of the creepy clown doll that sits by his bed. Then one night all hell breaks loose! The clown comes to life and attacks him. While he is pulled under his bed by this horrific harlequin, his mother is tossed around her bedroom by another entity, making her unable to come to his rescue. As a person who had a healthy fear of clowns when I was little, Spielberg had certainly struck a nerve with this scene. One of my childhood fears was being played out on the screen in front of me.
Then something amazing happens. The kid gets mad… and he fights back!
As a child, it had never occurred to me that I could fight back against a ghost. I’m telling you, as little Robbie Freeling punched that damn clown in the movie, I swung along with him, cheering his every blow. It was awesome and a bit cathartic.
That scene made me think of another great concept brought up in Ghostbusters, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and not just because it’s hilarious. In Ghostbusters, three scientists figure out a way to capture and imprison ghosts. I really think the idea of capturing ghosts is brilliant. It easily could have been the premise of a serious movie and it works perfectly here. Again, it is a case of the people fighting back, which up until this time was something that was usually only possible with the help of a psychic or some other type of shaman or mystic.
As I watch some of these paranormal TV shows, and I see these “investigators” attempt to clear a house of a malevolent presence, I think that there must be an easier way. Rather than reciting all of those incantations, or burning incense, why not just set a boom box in the middle of the house and just start cranking the Ghostbusters theme over and over again?
It seems to me that the more you say “I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost!” the less power these phantoms have over you… whether they are real or imagined. And if you sing it, it works even better.
I don’t know for sure, but that’s the best advice I can give you. After all, I am not a paranormal investigator; I’m just a guy who loves scary movies.
And hates clowns.
What are some of your favorite ghost movies? What are your favorite moments? And which ones still haunt you today? Check out the latest episode of Monster Men and then tell us what you think. I’ve shared my story, now it’s your turn.
That dang clown. I would have burned that MFer! At work last week, we had a long discussion about said clown. We agreed that Pennywise was awesome, but had nothing on Robbie’s clown.
I went and saw Poltergeist in the theater, I was 11 or 12 at the time. That movie had me whacked out for a long time. We had a creepy tree in my dad’s backyard that I spent countless nights staring at.
I can still hear Craig T. Nelson screaming “Why!”
Around my neck of the woods, we’ve had a lot of new communities being built and every time I see one, my wife and I discuss the hopeful hauntings to come.
Ghostbusters is one of my all time favorites and a couple of years ago, we inadvertently were sharing a hotel at the same time as HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, and the Ghostbusters car was out front. My kids loved it!
Other ghost movies I like…. Hmmm….
The Entity – It was a good movie, but when I saw it at 12 years old – it was an AMAZING movie (aka – Barbara Hershey hotness)
The Amityville Horror – good classic movie
The Changeling – way, way good
I’d have to think more about this… I would say that movies like Paranormal Activity are good for fun movies, but they’re more “shocking moments” than good ghost stories.
I also see movies like The Ring (phenomenal) – but I don’t consider it a “ghost story” – same with The Grudge, etc, etc… they may be good, but I don’t look at them as ghost stories.
Speaking of The Ring – in 2003, I was in the Dominican Republic and in the middle of a field, where the Brahman bulls roamed, was a stone well… all by itself, totally looked like the one from The Ring. My wife was thoroughly creeped out.
I like pulling random horror stuff from Netflix, some is actually pretty good for not having been main streamed.
Jack, good stuff!
Yeah, Robbie’s clown paved the way for Pennywise. I love when Pennywise is in the sewer, telling the kid that “They float down here.” — That was freaking creepy.
The Entity… good call. I have not seen that one in ages.
I liked the third Paranormal Activity movie, with the little girls. They did some fun stuff with that oscillating video camera in that flick.
Tim Curry was excellent as Pennywise and yes, “They float down here” was creepy as hell.
I just started watching, “The Pact” that was referred to in MonsterMen (grrrr…. ) and within the first few minutes I hit a creep factor…. “Mommy, who’s that behind you?” Nice.
I finished watching The Pact when I got home from shooting that Monster Men show and was so happy it did not fall apart at the end. It’s nice to find a good horror movie on Netflix… because there are so many bad ones.
It was a pretty good movie. I have some questions about it, but won’t blow spoilers here.
Please don’t! I plan to watch it soon. Check out Death of a Ghost Hunter if you have 90 mins to kill. Not the worst of the lot.
Ok – spoiler…
The Pact, is a movie in which a manipulative woman and a roguish man carry on a turbulent love affair in the American south during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Seriously though, I did see Death of a Ghost Hunter and that was pretty decent. A bit slow at the beginning, but does get going.
I liked the ghostbusters they took some of the fear out of the traditional ghost story.
I’m reading a series right now where the ghosts live alongside the society. However the ghosts who are having a bad hair day destroy those in their path
Nice to meet you Jack
Nice to meet you too, Leslie. What’s the name of the ghost series you are reading? Sounds fun.
oh god this is nuts