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5 Forgotten Haunted Gems

Haunted horror films have proven to be one of the most popular sub genres in existence, as evidenced by their now firmly established longevity; countless haunted horror flicks hit the market every year. In part, the strength of the ghost lies heavily on the fact that there are numerous ways to approach the subject matter. Be it a new found footage feature a la Grave Encounters, clasc atmospheric gems like The Changeling or brutally aggresve approaches such as those offered by the Poltergeist franchise, haunted horror is here to stay.

While I could ramble on and on about 5,000 different titles that 99% of you have all already seen on numerous occaons, I really wanted to highlight a few of the forgotten works of art that should be viewed by anyone who harbors a true love for horror. While a few of these featured pictures will probably trigger fond memories, I’m confident that the majority of you will spot something foreign to you: discovering a buried treasure is always a blast, and I’m hoping this piece will afford you that exciting sensation.

The Sentinel (1977): This tale of a suicidal model who takes up redence in a stylish Brooklyn Heights apartment that houses some extremely… unique neighbors is chilling to the tenth power. The film utilizes a bit of the supernatural, and touches on religion while (initially) propong a genuinely creepy, seemingly good old fashion haunted tuation. What makes Alison’s (Cristina Raines) plight extra harrowing is the confuon she endures, as all the crazy shit she sees makes for a chaotic journey that could be mple paranormal commotion, or it could be something far, far more nister. An absolutely stellar cast tops what is arguably the most recognizable film on this list.

The Innocents (1961): Henry James’ clasc novel, The Turn of the Screw has been tweaked and adapted onscreen on numerous occaons over the years. Jack Clayton’s 1961 rendition is what I would conder inarguably the best of the bunch. This gem is absolutely creepy. The film leans on the familiar effects of extreme paranoia very well. Told in slow but deliberate fashion, The Innocents manages to suck viewers into the same psychological nkhole that threatens to swallow Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr). Believe me when I tell you, it’s an unsettling experience.

Burnt Offerings (1976): Few films of milar nature boast atmosphere to rival this timeless beauty. Expect plenty of typical haunted jolts, but anticipate a wicked twist, as the central locale (a spooky gothic dwelling) not only has a mind all its own, it’s also got a unique ability to utilize the life force of those who submit to the homes dark de. Again, the atmosphere showcased is fantastic; couple that with some great performances from genre staple, Karen Black and the late, great, Oliver Reed and you’ve got yourself a bona fide spine tingler!

The Woman In Black (1989): Long before the masses were informed that the uber geek turned uber geek-sheik, Daniel Radcliffe would shed his Harry Potter cloak for … well, another cloak in order to stir up scares in the 2012 rendition of The Woman in Black, director Herbert Wise brought the story to frightening life in a low-key, but highly refined made-for-televion flick of the same title. The story seems (I obviously haven’t seen James Watkins’ most recent rendition, though early synops’ provide a clear idea of the film’s direction) to match the forthcoming picture fairly well, as a young solicitor is dispatched to settle a very suspect estate after the property’s recluve owner passes. What ensues in Wise’s creepy 1989 offering is both unsettling and strangely enticing, as Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins, who actually popped up in the Harry Potter franchise on numerous occaons) quickly learns why townsfolk don’t speak too highly of the property or its former owner. Some absolutely gorgeous photography, sound performances and disconcerting atmosphere push this film into the monarchy of greatness, though it’s (sadly) been extremely overlooked up until this point. Here’s hoping the upcoming reboot will spark a little interest (and perhaps an official statede DVD/Blu-ray release) in the original picture.

The Haunting (1963): For the love of God (if you’re a believer!), do not confuse this near-masterpiece with the absolutely unbearable 1999 flick of the same title. Both features are loosely based on the mesmerizing novel from Shirley Jackson, but there’s a monumental difference between the films: this 1963 interpretation actually resembles the story offered by the source material; Jan de Bont’s hideous reworking resembles a pile of dog feces and little more. This original has it all: fine acting, great atmosphere, a strong script and a satisfactory payoff. Skip the CGI heavy junk of the 90’s, and seek out this long buried diamond, you’ll thank me later!

Of interesting note, with the exception of The Sentinel, you can actually check all of these films out right now for free on youtube
Matt_Molgaard Monday 8/29/2011 at 12:28 AM | 81717
I really enjoyed The Sentinel. One of my only qualms, however, was that I wanted more on the backstories of the different redents of the building! (Had the same kind of thoughts with the ghosts in the Thirteen Ghosts remake, actually.) Chris Sarandon certainly made his way around the horror genre, didn't he?

Though I've yet to be really satisfied with any adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. I think the lit major in me will never be happy with anything, lol.

I would add, as I mentioned once before on a list on HB, The Uninvited from 1939; it's the first ghost story put to film where the ghosts weren't faked to cover for something criminal, or played strictly for comedy. Sadly, it's been out of print nce the mid-90's laserdisc edition, so you'll have to pay out the nose to get a burned DVD copy.

The Legend of Hell House (1979) deserves a mention as well. It's the clasc "locked in the haunted house" story with a few interesting surprises here and there and, of course, Roddy McDowall!
dew Monday 8/29/2011 at 01:20 PM | 81750
Great list! I have yet to see The Haunting, but i'll get around to it. The House Of Horror podcast bashed the hell out of that movie, but they also bashed Black Christmas (1974). (nuff said)

I recently saw The Changeling and i was pretty impressed.

Cool tidbit: In The Sentinel, most of the monsters are actually real people with deformities. NOT MAKEUP.
AgnesItsMeBilly Monday 8/29/2011 at 06:44 PM | 81767
The Woman in Black is one of my all time favourite horrors! Like you, I'm hoping the new remake will bring back he original and gain it the credit it deserves!
joshk1986 Wednesday 8/31/2011 at 05:22 AM | 81913