The last couple of posts over at Pillock's Pad have got me thinking about ghost stories in cinema.
It's interesting how few genuinely scary ghost stories there have been since The Blair Witch Project. The genre has somehow become funnelled into one of two categories...
(1) The Japanese 'chiller'. Has its roots embedded in 1998's Ringu, but adds up to nothing more than an exercise in box-ticking. Girl with long black hair, walking and/or crawling erratically? Check. Terrible events in her past? Check. She's been wronged and is now back for more? Oh yes. She's eventually presented in a sympathetic light and thus becomes way less scary? Yes yes yes.
(2) The Grown-Up 'chiller'. Centres on a couple who have usually either lost a child, want to adopt one or already have a child who starts acting strangely. Robert De Niro generally appears, clearly with one eye on funding his new garden conservatory.
Neither are, to my way of thinking, healthy trends. Hopefully the recent critical drubbing dealt to The Grudge 2 and its diminished Box Office returns in comparison with its predecessor, will put paid to Ringu-inspired flotsam, while the similar fates of Movies About Grieving Couples should snuff out that subgenre too.
It's time for the return of movies which haunt you, shortly after you turn off the bedside lamp. Doesn't happen very often. Here are a couple of more obscure scary flicks which might inspire/scare the Christ out of you: Whistle And I'll Come To You (1968) and Session 9 (2001). The former 42-minute TV movie (adapted from an M.R. James short story) barely shows you much at all, but manages to create a sense of toe-curling supernatural dread. Then Session 9 ably demonstrates how the scariest thing of all can be the human mind's collapse. Both are available on Region 2 DVD and I strongly recommend them.
While I agree less is more when it comes to spook-fests, I only mean this in a certain sense. One thing's for sure: the less you know about the Ghostly Antagonist(s), the better. Furthermore, I'm a big fan of Proper Evil. As soon as the GA is revealed to be 'basically all right, but terribly wronged', my eyes glaze over and I reach for the 'stop' button. Characters shouldn't be black-and-white in general drama, but when it comes to scary fiction, what's wrong with a bit of out-and-out malevolence, hmm?
I disagree, though, with the generally-accepted notion that ghost movies can't be scary and gory. Don't see why this should be the case - and it's something I attempted to disprove with my own Panik screenplay. If it ever gets transformed into a motion picture, we'll see if it succeeds in this task.
I'm due a rewatch of The Blair Witch Project, come to think of it. Just need to find someone to watch it with... *trembles*