My 5 Favorite Spooky Spirit Movies

Welcome to Saturday on the Tagline! As we move towards Halloween I decided it would be appropriate to talk about some horror movies. For me one of my favorite types of horror movie to be freaked out by are movies that involve ghosts, spirits, and possession. I know what you're thinking, why those? Well I know some people are not big fans of movies involving spooks, and I realized it's because they don't believe in ghosts! Now believe might be a strong word for me. I wouldn't say I believe in them, just that the thought of an invisible intangible thing that can take control of my body while I sleep, drag me off and then make me kill myself and everyone around me is more than slightly upsetting. Once you allow for that as an even distant possibility, well then horror movies about spooky spirits become a lot less corny and freaky as hell. So I give you
My Top 5 Movies That Made Me Not Sleep For Weeks on End

Oh look, a scary child! That's new.
#5 Insidious: Released under the suggestion that it was made by the people who made Saw and Paranormal Activity (which it wasn't really, it's written by the people who made Saw. Oren Peli, who directed Paranormal Activity only produced this film, and didn't have much to do with it) this film's promotional materials and trailer lead you to believe it's going to be a very different movie than it is. Particularly, trying to link it to Paranormal Activity was a serious mistake. While I liked Insidious, it is a very different kind of movie from Paranormal Activity. Where Paranormal Activity was minimal in presentation and a slow build up to creepy, Insidious applies liberal jump scares and lots of flashy special effects. You see the scary monsters, and the main character, the dad, actively confronts them. Insidious is specifically about a little boy who can astrally project, and is detained by an evil spirit while doing so, in an attempt to possess his body. Meanwhile his parents (Patrick Wilson, who I liked best as Nite Owl in The Watchmen, and Rose Byrne, who you probably remember from Wicker Park) attempt to bring him back, while swarms of spirits try also try to get into the kid's body. While I didn't find it especially scary, and did find it kind of silly, it was entertaining. Hence it gets number five on this list!

no tienes hablar espanol tambien. 
#4 Stigmata: In the late 90s the demonic possession angle was starting to heat up. Maybe it was the coming milennium, and all the doomsday that entailed, or maybe enough time had just passed, but suddenly it was time for some good old fashioned demons. Enter Stigmata, a film starring Patricia Arquette as a girl who isn't particularly godly (she's a hairdresser) who ends up with a rosary that previously belonged to an Italian priest. She starts experiencing some.. phenomena. A Catholic priest (played by Gabriel Byrne, who was the devil in End of Days, you'll hear more about that later this year) takes her case, and helps to oust the priest's crazy spirit out of the girl. In the meantime, a variety of corrupt church officials try and suppress what the priest's ghost is trying to spread, the lost Gospel of Thomas. This movie isn't the last one on the list that involves the church doing questionable things. While I don't think that angle was especially interesting, it was necesary as a part of the plot. It's also novel because the ghost of a priest is the spirit, and normally its like, an angry dead person, or the devil!

Get ready for gross weird stuff.
#3 The Exorcist: I'm sure there are people out there who are upset that this isn't number one, but those people can get bent. While an exceedingly well paced and deeply disturbing film, full of things that gross me out really bad, this movie was made in 1973, and that attached to it technical limitations. I'm not the sort of person who needs fancy effects to enjoy a movie, but the possessed girl in question in this movie looks made up enough that I can distance it from my deep seated fears of the great beyond. That being said though, like I said above this movie was freaky, and also gross. If you haven't seen it, it features a 12 year old girl possessed by a demon. It kills people, it says gross weirdly sexual things, and it throws up pea soup all over everyone while its head spins around in circles. Every trick anyone has ever used in a movie about possessions and exorcisms was pretty much debuted in this film, which was part of what you might think of as the first wave of demon child movies (along with movies like The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby). This film is a must see of classic horror, but it didn't scare me as bad as...

The Exorcism of Debra Morgan
#2 The Exorcism of Emily Rose: My number two film. This movie is one of my favorite "based on a true story" films, even though it is like all movies under that label only vaguely related to a real event, where several priests and a girl's parents were charged with negligent manslaughter over the death of a girl. In the movie this is Emily Rose, played by Jennifer Carpenter (best known for portraying Deb, Dexter's sister on the Showtime series Dexter). In the film she is possessed by numerous demons, including the devil himself and made to suffer horrific visions before she eventually dies. The movie takes place as a series of flashbacks, surrounding the trial of the priest who performed (and failed at) her exorcism (but let's cut him some slack, he was outnumbered and fighting Lucifer). The film shows the trial with sinister, most likely demonic forces also stalking the parties involved in the trial (specifically Laura Linney, the defending attorney). I found that the court drama in this film was more interesting and effective than the political happenings around Stigmata. This movie was also the opposite outcome of The Exorcist. Whereas the priests succeed in expelling the demons in The Exorcist (albeit at the cost of their lives) the six demons day tripping in Emily Rose prove too much for Tom Wilkinson. She dies (though the priest claims she became a martyr through her suffering) and no one involved in the case comes to a good end either. I saw this film in theaters and to this day if I wake up in the middle of the night and it's exactly 3 A.M. all the lights have to come on. Now be freaked out by Jennifer Carpenter.
Thanks Jenny. Now for #1!

AKA Spooky Door.
#1 Paranormal Activity: It might not be original, but this movie had to be my number one. I saw this one in theaters as well, and it freaked me right the fuck out. An indie film shot on a tiny budget, this movie saw limited release before becoming a huge financial success spawning a parade of sequels. The found footage angle here meant that as a viewer you never leave the house. This creates a lack of cinematic distance, meaning all the action feels a little too close, and makes you feel as trapped as poor haunted Katie and idiot Micah, who as near as I could tell was determined to die. The way the movie starts out so slow, with just a wagging door, and then slowly builds up, never really showing you anything, creates a movie that builds slow dread, and ultimately stays scary much longer than something jumping out and yelling at you. The only part of the movie I didn't like was the theatrical ending, which featured the same type of jump scare that the rest of the movie had proved it was better than. I frankly found the ending where she slits her throat on camera infinitely more shocking and disturbing. I understand though, how would they make 70 sequels then?

That's it for today! Join me again on Tuesday, when I will review a movie not about the devil! Probably!

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