Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun Ghost Films for the Entire Family

Many films about ghosts are actually more in the “horror” genre because they mix blood, gore, and violence with a story about ghosts. Most of these films are way too scary for children. 

But there are many classic ghost films--in the ghost genre-- that children can watch without experiencing nightmares afterward. These classic ghost films are still scary but in a fun way. They are also entertaining for adults. 

Colder weather means shorter days—this time of year is the perfect time to share hot cocoa and some of these classic films with your family.

Here is my list:

Number One

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) this 1951 film was released in Great Britain under the title Scrooge and in America under the title A Christmas Carol. It is an adaption of the Charles Dickens classic story. It is in black and white, which adds to the mood of the story. Alastair Sim stars in the lead role as Ebenezer Scrooge who is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. This is a great story about redemption and forgiveness. There are several film versions of this story, but this one is my favorite. Refer to my posts about Christmas and why ghosts are connected to this holiday.

Number Two

The Canterville Ghost, which was released in 1944. This is a loosely based adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name. This version is light-hearted and funny. Charles Laughton plays the lead role of Sir Simon, a ghost who is doomed to haunt an English castle. This story is also about redemption. There are more modern versions of this film that stick more closely to the original story, but I like this version because it is fun. Refer to my post about this classic short story.

 Number Three

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was released in 1966. Don Knotts plays a wannabe reporter whose first assignment is to stay in a haunted house on the anniversary of a murder that occurred 20 years earlier. What ensues is a scary but enjoyable romp. Knotts’ character is a self-confessed scaredy-cat who literally shakes at every sound. One classic scene at midnight has him in a frenzied panic as an organ plays on its own. The soundtrack in this film really enhances the viewers’ enjoyment. This film is a must-see.

Number Four

The Uninvited was released in 1944. This American film is both a supernatural mystery and a romance. It is an adaption of a novel written by Dorothy Macardie. Ray Milland stars in this film. The story starts with a brother and sister buying a charming seaside home in England. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1945 for best black and white cinematography. This story presents both a scary ghost and a protective ghost. The characters in this film enjoy life and care about each other, so the dark nuisances presented are balanced out. One side note, Milland during an interview about this film years later admitted that the area where they filmed was actually haunted –both the crew and actors refused to spend time in the “house” alone. This film is a must-see. I watched it first when I was young, and I loved the story.

Number Five

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, this film was released in 1947. It stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. The story is based upon a novel written by Josephine Leslie. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography. A young widow with a child moves into a seaside house that was built initially by a crusty sea captain. This captain, now dead, is not willing to give up his home, so he haunts it. After several scary scenes, the widow and the captain form a friendship, the captain even helps her write a salty seafaring book, which helps her family financially. The captain disappears halfway through the story—so the widow can get on with her life. This is a very touching and sometimes scary story that has romantic elements.

Number Six

Portrait of Jennie was released in 1948 starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton. This is a very unique ghost story. Cotton’s character first encounters Jones’ character, Jennie, when she is a young girl. She then appears several times again, but he is puzzled by the fact that she seems to be growing up much quicker than is possible. He falls in love with Jennie but is confused when she refers to events in her life that happened many years before. This is a hauntingly beautiful story that has a surprise ending. I first watched it when I was young, and I enjoyed this mystery immensely.

Number Seven

This black and white  film
was one of  the first films
 to be"colorized."
Topper, released in 1937 starring Constance Bennett and Gary Grant is a comedy that tells the story of an uptight banker who is haunted by ghosts—a couple who died in a car accident. This couple, the Kerbys decide they must do a good deed to get into heaven. They choose a friend from when they were alive, Gary Grant’s character Topper. They set out to save Topper from his stuffy life-- hijinks ensure. Several sequels followed this film each as fun as the first.

Number Eight

High Spirits a film released in 1988 is a comedy starring Peter O’Toole, Liam Neeson, Beverly D'Angelo, Steve Guttenberg, and Daryl Hannah. This ghost story is set in a remote castle in Ireland. The owner of the castle needing money, turns his home into a bed and breakfast. He enlists several local villagers to portray ghosts —in an attempt to gain the reputation of being the most haunted castle in Europe. All this activity stirs up the real spirits that reside in the castle. Romance ensues between these ghosts and several of the guests. This film has some adult themes, so it is best for older children.

Number Nine

Beetlejuice a more recent film released in 1988 is already a classic. This film starring Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis is a quirky comedy. It focuses upon a young newly deceased couple who haunt the house they lived in while alive. When an obnoxious family moves in, they attempt to get rid of them by scaring them, but when this does not work, they enlist the services of a questionable character named “Betelgeuse.” This character played by Keaton proceeds to wreak havoc on everyone. But everything works out in the end.

Last but not least is Number Ten

Ghostbusters, released in 1984 starring Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray is considered one of the best ghost films ever made. This film focuses upon three eccentric parapsychologists who spend their days using their “proton packs” to catch ghosts. In one classic scene from this first film—a sequel was made—these Ghostbusters must clear their minds of fear so they conjure up a form that cannot destroy them. One of them remembers a classic corporate mascot from his childhood, which results in one of the funniest scenes. They nuke a giant “Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.” 

Honorable Mention

Heart and Souls, released in 1993 starring Robert Downey Jr., Charles Grodin, and Alfre Woodard. A businessman, Downey is reunited with four lost souls who were his guardian angels during childhood, all have a purpose, they need to fulfill before they can move on. Downey's character is enlisted to help them.

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