BY TIFFANY SCIACCA
I've always had a soft spot for a good ghost story. From a slow-burner like The Others, to the fun and quirky The Frighteners, there is just something about the genre as a whole that has always appealed to me. Though there are newer films I have enjoyed—Rigor Mortis, Haunter, and Ghost Stories, I’ve decided to share some of my favorites from the 70s and 80s—with one cheat, because I love it so much I always recommend it!
The first offering is Ghost Story, a 1981 film directed by John Irvin and adapted from a story written by Peter Straub. It stars silver screen legends, Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that it is about a group of college roommates brought together as old men after the death of a friend who then forced to come to terms with the horrible secret that has tormented them all.
Lady In White
In Lady In White (1988) written and directed by Frank Laloggia, Lukas Hass stars as a young Frankie Scarlatti, who witnesses a crime that has already happened and is attacked shortly after. While recovering, he discovers the dark connection between the two events. There is a bond formed between Frankie and the victim that is endearing as he seeks to bring her killer to justice. This is spun like a dark, coming of age, fairytale—but I can’t tell you if there is a happy ending or not. With Len Cariou, Alex Rocco and Katherine Helmond also starring, Lady in White received positive reviews when it debuted and was considered a good suspense film that “did not rely on gore.”
I wasn’t going to include The Fog, because everyone includes The Fog. But clearly, it’s on everyone’s list for good reason, so I decided why not? Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, and John Houseman (again!,) Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook, this John Carpenter and Debra Hill film also centers on a dark secret. Like they say, “What is done in the darkness comes out in the light.” (Actually, I just googled it and apparently, I misquoted that, but I am keeping it in!)
I love this movie because it’s a perfect ghost story that never grows old. I mean really, who doesn’t think about The Fog whenever a bank rolls in? Even when I was in Sicily, and witnessed a phenomenon called “Lupo di Mare”—a quick moving fog that envelops everything—I thought of this movie. I watched it swallow as much of my town as I could see and it scared the life out of me!
Don’t Look Now
Don’t Look Now is a last-minute switchout because I had not seen The Haunting of Julia in such a long time, I didn’t feel comfortable recommending it and did not have the time to watch it again. Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, Don’t Look Now was directed by Nicholas Roeg and is an adaption of Daphne du Maurier’s short story of the same name. Don’t Look Now is a story bookended with tragedies and deals with a couple’s grieving process after the loss of their only daughter. There are of course more layers to this film then an Opera cake, but I don’t want to give anything away, except for these shots.
The Devil’s Backbone
My last recommendation is from 2001 and was directed by Guillermo del Toro. The Devil’s Backbone stars Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, and Federico Luppi. It is a gothic horror set in 1930s Spain at the tail end of the Spanish Civil War and follows the relationships between an older couple who run an orphanage sheltering the children of the military and government, their younger employees as well as a newly arrived resident who begins having visions of a ghostly orphan. The Devil’s Backbone has been compared to The Others but is infused with a thicker melancholy and is really a moody and beautiful film that needs to be seen at least once! All of these suggestions can be viewed on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play and many other sites, so if you can, squeeze one, two or all of these onto your Halloween Movie watchlist and enjoy!
Tiffany Sciacca is a writer who has recently moved to Sicily from the Midwest. Her work has appeared in the Silver Birch Press, SOFTBLOW and DNA Magazine UK. When she is not learning a new language or trying to blend in, she is reading horror anthologies, binging on Nordic Noir or plugging away at her first Giallo screenplay. @EustaceChisholm