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The last 10 years have seen the rise of a particular style of film-making that has almost become a genre of its own, and certainly a favourite of little old Celluloid Zombie. The ‘found footage’ movie tells its story either partially or completely from the first-person perspective of a protagonist’s camera, giving proceedings an edge of authenticity and immediacy sometimes missing from standard, third-person storytelling.

Although The Blair Witch Project is believed by many to be the founding father of the genre, the first found footage movie can be traced back to Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 movie,Cannibal Holocaust, based around recovered footage from a group of documentary makers who trek off into the jungle to film a lost tribe of cannibals. Needless to say, this dreadful film represents a rather ignominious beginning for a genre that has since spawned some of the best horror movies of the last decade.

Its a genre that seems to lend itself particularly well to horror, producing a consistently high ratio of success, perhaps because of the realism it brings. No-one seems in any rush to make a found footage rom-com, that’s for sure, although the recent release of Project X, a found footage movie about teenagers having a party, marks something of a low point. But we can pretend that never happened, can’t we. Project what?

So here are my 10 favourite examples of a genre that shows no sign of slowing down.

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10. The Last Broadcast

Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler – USA – 1998

Amateur film maker David Leigh investigates the murders of a group of cable TV presenters after they are killed while hunting for the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens, New Jersey. The group’s recovered footage uncovers some chilling secrets.

Made a year before The Blair Witch Project, which was somewhat wrongly hailed as a new direction in filmmaking, The Last Broadcast was unfortunate not to receive similar plaudits. Made on a shoestring budget, with all the actors playing characters with very similar names to their own, The Last Broadcast is an engaging slice of mockumentary with a real sting in it’s tail.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Admittedly, there is a cheeky slip into third person at the end to avoid that very question. Naughty!

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9. Man Bites Dog

Rémy Belvaux and André Bonzel – Belgium – 1992

A camera crew begin following a serial killer named Ben, documenting his psychotic activities. As time goes on, however, the crew slowly move from disturbed observers of Ben’s murderous tendencies to willing participants.

Presented as a black comedy, Man Bites Dog is an increasingly difficult watch but, thanks in large part to Benoît Poelvoorde’s affable, charming turn as the homicidal and charismatic Ben, keeps you watching until the last frame. Man Bites Dog poses the question of when documentary passes over into voyeurism and then onto actual complicity. Uncomfortable, compelling and sometimes funny, in a guilty way.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Mainly because these guys end up throwing the shit at the fan. Filming is the least of it.

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8. The Blair Witch Project

Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez – USA – 1999

Three students venture into the woods, carrying cameras, microphones and frayed tempers, in search of the legendary Blair Witch. They find her. Or something. Or do they? Or not? 

Although this insanely successful movie wasn’t the first to use the found footage format, it certainly made it popular. Myrick and Sánchez set loose their actors in the woods with only rough character sketches and instructions on where to go. Then they set about scaring the shit out of them. It’s a technique that lends the movie a high level of authenticity, although it suffers slightly from some tame scares.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Insanity, perhaps? These people are still waving their cameras ahead of them when any normal person would be keeping both hands free for self-defence.

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7. Grave Encounters

The Vicious Brothers – Canada – 2011

The presenters and crew of ghost hunting TV show Grave Encounters have themselves locked inside the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital to investigate rumours that it is haunted. The recovered footage shows why they never came out.

The Vicious Brothers (don’t ask me) clearly intended to make a contribution to the genre which, while retaining the authenticity that the format brings, goes a little more over-the-top. In this they succeed pretty admirably, with Grave Encounters eschewing the less-is-more approach for a much more intense ride. The scares are somewhat hit and miss, but there’s enough to make this an enjoyable addition.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Self-important presenter Lance Preston clings to the hope that he will get out with his footage until the last. Damn fool.

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6. Cloverfield

Matt Reeves – USA – 2008

A group of young New Yorkers have their celebrations cut short when the city is invaded by a rampaging monster. A handful attempt to make their way across New York to rescue a friend, digital camera in tow. 

One of the few monster movies in this genre, Cloverfield isGodzilla for the YouTube generation, giving us a ground-eye view of what a monster attack would look like. Benefiting from an expertly handled promotional campaign, the hype went viral while it was still being made. The monster itself is not over-used and the addition of little monsters add an extra threat. The only thing that threatens Cloverfield’s realism is the fact that everyone looks like a Gucci model.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Give the camera to a dumbass. Problem solved.

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5. The Last Exorcism

Daniel Stamm – USA – 2010

Louisiana Preacher and exorcist, Cotton Marcus, disillusioned with his faith, agrees to take part in a documentary in which he will debunk the practice. He decides a summons to help the daughter of a farmer will be his last exorcism.

The Last Exorcism divided audiences and it is certainly not what you would expect. While there are some disturbing scenes, this is more character study than horror movie, with terrific turns from both Patrick Fabian as Cotton and Ashley Bell as the afflicted Nell. What really caused the schism in opinion is the movie’s leftfield ending, turning everything on its head while giving Cotton the perfect character arc.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  They’re there to shoot the shit. And I don’t think they saw the ending coming either.

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4. Paranormal Activity

Oren Peli – USA – 2007

Young couple Katie and Micah find their new suburban life disturbed by an increasingly violent supernatural force. Micah decides to rig the house with cameras in an attempt to find some answers. 

Overhyped and ridiculously successful, there is still a very effective chiller at the heart of the craze. Using suggestion and whispers for the most part, this is not for those who enjoy a rollercoaster ride. The original ending was changed at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg and is much the better for it. Already spawned three sequels and all are worth a watch.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  The blame for this one falls squarely on Micah, for whom the phrase ‘let’s get the fuck out of here’ apparently has no meaning.

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3. Troll Hunter

André Øvredal – Norway – 2010

A group of students decide to investigate and document a possible poacher in the area following a spate of bear killings. When they finally track down the mysterious Hans, they discover that he is in fact a government sponsored troll hunter, tasked with controlling the population.  

If there is one thing that the found footage genre excels at, it is in making implausible scenarios seem more believable. And they don’t come much more implausible than this. Rooted by a solid performance from Otto Jespersen as the grizzled Hans,Troll Hunter is insane, ridiculous and brilliant fun. They really can smell the blood of Christians, apparently.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan? Hey, if you found yourself looking at a 200-foot mountain troll, you’d want to get proof, right?

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2. Lake Mungo

Joel Anderson – Australia – 2008

After 16-year-old Alice Palmer drowns in a local lake, her family begin suffering supernatural occurences and become convinced that she is haunting them. A collection of home video footage, interviews and photographs begins to piece together the dark truth about Alice.

This little known gem from Oz works as a creepy, atmospheric ghost story, an engaging mystery and a genuinely touching study of grief. Constantly pulling the rug from under your feet and gleefully playing with your expectations, Lake Mungoweaves its slow, deliberate way toward a very chilling conclusion. Outstanding.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Technically, the shit has already hit the fan by the first frame. This is retrospective shit hitting. But all is not as it seems.

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1. Rec

Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza – Spain – 2007

The crew of a reality TV show accompany a group of Barcelona firemen into an apartment building following a reported emergency and find themselves trapped inside as the occupants fall prey to a mysterious infection.

One of the biggest complaints that this genre receives from is the often slow pacing and lack of action. No such complaints have ever been levelled at Rec which, once it gets going, is relentless. It is also scary, exhilarating and throws in an ending which is leaves you completely off-balance. Genius. Rec 2 is also well worth your time, with Rec 3 due out this year.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Professionalism, my friend. Pablo the cameraman keeps that camera steady even when there is a fat, foaming, screaming  zombie old lady rushing toward him. We salute you, Pablo.

The Sixties, with all of its commendable trumpeting of tolerance, restraint and free love was always going to be too good to last. Sooner or later there’s always a rebound and in Hollywood few movies represented that rebound better than 1971’s Dirty Harry. Peace, love and understanding proved to be no match for the most powerful handgun in the world and an actor who, at that time, was best known for playing a different kind of cowboy.

The project had been floating around Hollywood for a few years by the time Eastwood came on board. Originally written under the title Dead Right as a vehicle for either Frank Sinatra or John Wayne, it began to do the rounds after both actors turned it down, Wayne because he felt it was too similar to his other roles and Sinatra because a wrist injury left him unable to carry the weight of Harry’s hand cannon. Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum also declined the role, both objecting to the character’s violent, right-wing persona. The script itself went through a number of revisions, including drafts by John Milius (unsurprisingly) and Terence Malick (very surprisingly). Eventually the script was offered to Clint Eastwood, on the recommendation of Paul Newman (after he, too, turned it down) and Eastwood, who found some sympathy for Harry’s dedication to victim’s rights, agreed on the condition that his old friend Don Siegel direct.

What the screenwriters, Siegel and Eastwood created was a movie, and a man, who polarised audiences and critics alike (New Yorker critic Pauline Kael denounced it as ‘fascist’) and who continues to do so today. The character of Harry Callahan is one of cinema’s more challenging propositions, especially for those of a liberal and left-leaning disposition. Unlike many other anti-heroes, such as Escape From New York’s Snake Plissken (who sounded a lot like Eastwood) or X-Men’s Wolverine, Harry exists in a wholly non-fictional world and as a result asks much more uncomfortable questions about that world. It is entirely possible to be appalled at Callahan’s disregard for the rights of those he pursues, but also to cheer him on when he puts the bad guys down. Harry represents an animal justice which must resonate somewhere in everyone, even if the necessary application of law and ethics make his actions just plain wrong.

You could debate the rights and wrongs of Harry Callahan for hours, and that’s what makes him such a potent and important fixture in the history of cinema. _________________________________________________________________________________

Dirty Harry

Don Siegel (1971)

‘You gotta ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky?’

A serial killer is holding San Francisco to ransom and rigidly self-governing Detective Harry Callahan, at constant odds with the city’s policy of tolerance and liberalism, is determined to stop him at any cost. But preferably at the cost of a few .44 bullets.

Having been offered to just about every A-list star in Hollywood, the role of Harry Callahan finally came home to the only actor, at least in retrospect, who could have played the archetypal anti-hero cop. Dirty Harry is Eastwood’s Man with No Name in a contemporary setting, only with an added sense of righteousness and humour. And while the movie can look and sound rather dated, very much a product of its time, it set the template for a thousand loose-cannon-cop movies that followed it but never managed to better it.

Eastwood and his mentor Siegal, always a great pairing, create a taut, brutal classic in which rooting for the cop is not always as easy as it usually is. Few actors could make such an objectionable character so likeable but Eastwood’s frosty charm works perfectly. Here is a complex character masquerading as a simple one; a character whose perceived callousness is actually a result of a fervent, concrete belief in right and wrong. Dirty Harry makes you question yourself and your morals in a way that few cop movies had before or would again. 

The Punk: Serial killer Scorpio, based on the real-life San Francisco killer who called himself Zodiac (do you see what they did there). Actor Andrew Robinson had to be sent on gun training to stop him from flinching every time he shot his gun, but turns in a signature performance as the deranged, whiny lunatic. In fact that for many years he had trouble getting any roles that didn’t involve being a deranged, whiny lunatic.

Rating – 6 Shots

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Magnum Force

Ted Post (1973)

‘A man’s gotta know his limitations.’

After a series of high-profile San Francisco criminals are murdered in broad daylight, Harry Callahan begins to suspect that a rogue hit squad exists within the police department, even as he begins to attract the attention, and admiration, of four rookie cops.

Magnum Force was a direct and intentional attempt to answer the critics of the first movie by demonstrating the difference between Callahan and a group of genuine police vigilantes. Although Harry is still the same play-by-his-own-rules cop as before, he stands in total contrast to the group of executioners with badges who are slaughtering criminals in cold blood. Even when they go as far as to offer him membership of their group, he turns them down. Callahan may be ruthless and trigger-happy, but he’s not a vigilante.

Although Eastwood’s preferred choice of Don Siegel was absent from this sequel, it didn’t seem to hinder the quality at all. Ted Post, who clashed with the now far more powerful Eastwood both during and after production, does just as good a job as his predecessor, even upping the action a little as well as the violence. And it’s to the movie’s credit that it resists the easy route of simply retreading the original, by finding a way to extend the moral complexity and present and even larger grey area for Callahan to work in. 

The Punk: Make that punks. Officers John Davis, Philip Sweet, Alan “Red” Astrachan, Michael Grimes and their leader, the unctuous Lt. Neil Briggs make up the hit-squad within the department. Looking a little like Village People when they all turn up wearing the same outfit, the group features quite the list of future stars in David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and, err, Kip Niven. Plus the ever reliable Hal Holbrook as Briggs.

Rating – 6 Shots

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The Enforcer

James Fargo (1976)

‘Here’s a seven-point suppository, Captain.’

Having just foiled a robbery by driving a car through a liquor store window, Inspector Callahan is taken off homicide and made to work in Personnel. But when a group calling themselves the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force engage in a series of escalating crimes, culminating in the kidnap of the Mayor, Callahan is reinstated. Only this time his new partner is a woman, much to Harry’s disapproval.

The series loses its legs a little with this third instalment, although it remains an enjoyable slice of debatable Callahan behaviour. Eastwood, despite delivering some of the funniest lines of the franchise, seems to be a little on autopilot here. In fact, The Enforcer is notable for being the first Dirty Harry movie in which Eastwood fails to remain the centre of attention, upstaged as he often is by a charming, engaging turn from Tyne Daly as the brash, inexperienced Inspector Kate Moore. The banter between the two characters is certainly the highlight of this one. The Enforcer also suffers from rather lacklustre action scenes, compared with the franchise’s two previous outings, although the finale on Alcatraz Island is a series high point.

Director James Fargo was originally set to be Assistant Director to Eastwood, but the actor decided not to direct due to a lack of preparation time after completing The Outlaw Josey Wales. Ultimately, The Enforcer is a worthy addition to the franchise but did mark the beginning of the decline.

The Punk: Baby-faced psycho Bobby Maxwell and his motley group of get-rich-quick hippies, layabouts and bums. DeVeren Bookwalter was primarily a stage actor and following The Enforcer primarily remained one. Unlike the foes of the previous two movies, Maxwell is never really explored in much detail, just a background character awaiting his magnum bullet. Imagine his surprise when he gets a bazooka shell instead.

Rating – 4 Shots

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Sudden Impact

Clint Eastwood (1983)

‘Go ahead, make my day.’

After yet again upsetting the mayor and police chief, despite the positive results, Inspector Callahan is shipped off to the small town of San Paulo to investigate a murder. There he meets artist Jennifer Spencer, who, as Harry begins to suspect, is hunting down and killing a group of men that raped her and her sister 10 years ago. 

The fourth outing for Harry Callahan is also the first and only Dirty Harry movie to have been directed by Eastwood himself, which is surprising considering he had been directing since 1971. As with Magnum Force, the maverick cop is again contrasted against an out-and-out vigilante, although this time a far more sympathetic and understandable one. An interesting premise in what had become an otherwise increasingly tired franchise. By this time, of course, the rogue cop was becoming a familiar movie figure and Sudden Impact suffers from being just one in a crowd.

The odd thing is, Sudden Impact probably introduces more change into the franchise than any other instalment. Moving the action from San Francisco makes for a refreshing change of scenery, the introduction of a female and uncomfortably justifiable murderer, with whom Harry develops a relationship, returns the series to its morally questionable best and Harry even gets a brand new gun. But somehow it all manages to seem like the same old same old, only without the 70s grit that elevated its predecessors.

The Punk: Rapist, bum and all-round pantomime scumbag Mick and his equally sleazy crew serve as the cannon-fodder for either Harry or Jennifer. Paul Drake, who went on to enjoy a dazzling career in lo-fi TV shows, couldn’t have been more of a ham if he wore a top hat, cloak and twiddled his pencil moustache while tying hapless maidens to railway tracks. Dreadful. Shoot this guy, already. 

Rating – 3 Shots

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The Dead Pool

Buddy Van Horn (1988)

‘Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.’

After putting away a major crime boss, Harry finds himself dealing with more fame than he is comfortable with. And when celebrities begin dying in mysterious circumstances he becomes aware of a betting ring among the elite predicting which celebrities will die next. As one particular list of celebrities proves to be too accurate to be coincidence, Harry discovers his own name has been added.

The last Dirty Harry movie, and its easy to see why. The Dead Pool takes both a promising idea and a cinematic icon, and fritters them away on a lazy, flat and badly made attempt to make Harry seem at home in 80s cinema. He doesn’t, and so iconic has the character of Harry become that he no longer elicits the same sense of moral uncertainty as he did way back when. Instead, we get unexciting scenes of Callahan shooting bad guys to a triumphant soundtrack and are left feeling nothing. Eastwood even looks as bored doing it as we are watching it. The character, the actor and the franchise has simply become too old for this shit.

The Dead Pool is notable for featuring early appearances from a young Liam Neeson and an even younger Jim Carrey, but it’s the older Eastwood who ultimately disappoints, portraying an older Callahan who is apparently exactly the same man he was back in 1971. There is one great scene involving a car chase through the streets of San Francisco as Harry is pursued by a remote controlled car, but when Inspector Callahan finally dispatches the bad guy with a huge harpoon gun, he takes that last step toward becoming a parody of himself.

The Punk: The Dead Pool is the first and only movie in the series to keep the identity of its main villain a secret until the end, leading you to believe that Neeson’s movie director is the killer. However, when the true identity of the murderer is revealed to be a nobody stalker we haven’t seen before called Harlan Rook, it has a rather overwhelming ‘so what’ factor to it. Yawn.

Rating – 1 Shot

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I’ve been a fan of horror movies my whole life, and for much of t hat time the best of the genre invariably came from the US and, to a lesser degree, the UK. The likes of George Romero, John Carpenter and Wes Craven defined the genre through much of the 70s and 80s. However, over the last decade Western horror seems to have lost its way, becoming mired in an endless cycle of torture porn or tedious remakes of old classics, with only the occasional standout moment of success. It’s no accident, then, that a large portion of US horror movies are also remakes of films from a part of the world that seems to have cornered the market in accomplished, well-executed and downright scary entries into the genre. Hollywood is looking across the pacific toward Asia, and this is where all dedicated horror fans should be looking, too. Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong. This is where Horror’s new home is. Often heavily influenced by the ‘J-Horror’ of Japan, with its vengeful, lank-haired, Onryō ghosts, Asian cinema produces horror movies the way they should be; creepy, brooding, psychological, extremely atmospheric and devoid of comfortable outcomes. Here are Celluloid Zombie’s Top Ten from the continent that’s putting the horror back into horror movies. _________________________________________________________________________________ 10. Kairo (Pulse) Kiyoshi Kurosawa – Japan -2001 A solemn, moribund study of isolation and loneliness in the technological age, Kairo sees spirits from the other side use the internet to manipulate the living into disconnection and suicide. Those that do not kill themselves simply fall so into hopelessness that they become nothing more than shadows on the wall. We are the ghosts in Kairo. What Kairo obviously lacks in laughs it more than makes up for in depth and mood. There are some chilling moments but Kairo is more effective when simply crawling under your skin and dragging you into its apocalyptic world. Hollywood Remake: Remade in 2005 as Pulse, with the original’s ponderous atmosphere replaced with more direct horror. Not a bad movie, but lacks Kairo’s sense of despair. _________________________________________________________________________________ 9. Noroi: The Curse Kôji Shiraishi – Japan – 2005 One of the few ‘mockumentary’ style movies to come out of the Asian horror wave, Noroi is a movie that rewards patience and attention span. Mostly revolving around paranormal investigator Masafumi Kobayashi’s attempts to solve a series of unexplained events, a host of seemingly unrelated characters and occurrances are gradually drawn together to an unforgettable conclusion. Noroi has a remarkably unsettling atmosphere throughout, which is all the more remarkable given that for much of the movie very little happens. However, as the truth behind Kobayashi’s investigation becomes clear, there are moments of bone-chilling horror and an ending which will stay with you for a very long time. Hollywood Remake: No, and not very likely either. Too weird. _________________________________________________________________________________ 8. Alone Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom – Thailand – 2007 Thai woman Pim lives in Korea with her boyfriend Wee. Pim was separated from her Siamese twin Ploy when they were teenagers and Ploy died as a result of the operation. When her mother falls ill, Pim and Wee return to Thailand and to Pim’s family home, where she finds herself haunted by her dead, vengeful, sister. Is it real, is it guilt or is there something else? The second movie from writer/director team Pisanthanakun & Wongpoom is probably the most Western-influenced horror movie in this list, but don’t let that put you off. Crammed full of great shock moments, a particularly mean ghost and a neat twist in the tale, Alone is scary and a lot of fun. Hollywood Remake: The rights have been bought so expect the US version soon. _________________________________________________________________________________ 7. Creepy Hide and Seek Masafumi Yamada – Japan – 2009 After a series of bizarre disappearances involving students and colleagues, schoolteacher Ryoko discovers they had all been playing a ritualistic game called ‘creepy hide and seek’. The game involves all the same rules as normal hide and seek, except that what comes looking for you isn’t quite human. Crap title, great movie. A little known gem, Creepy Hide and Seek has everything you could want from a good J-horror. The action is slow, deliberate and extremely atmospheric, helped in no small part by a very unsettling soundtrack and expert camerawork. At least it lives up to that title. Hollywood Remake: Not yet, but this is exactly the kind of movie that American filmmakers like to assume they can do just as well. Expect one soon. _________________________________________________________________________________ 6. Audition Takashi Miike – Japan – 2000 When middle-aged widower Aoyama decides to look for a new partner, he holds fake auditions for a movie role to meet women. He is immediately taken with the young, seemingly shy Asami and begins a relationship with her. However, he soon discovers that cute little Asami has some really strange hobbies. And she wants to share. The movie that made everyone sit up and take notice of unique filmmaker Takashi Miike, Audition is the kind of story that could put you off dating forever. Featuring a truly terrifying performance from Eihi Shiina, Audition is a horror movie with an emphasis on the horror. Hollywood Remake: No. And with its mixture of torture, abuse and vomit-eating, there’s not likely to be one anytime soon. _________________________________________________________________________________ 5. A Tale of Two Sisters Jee-woon Kim – South Korea – 2003 Jee-woon Kim’s highly acclaimed story of two sisters enduring an unstable, abusive step-mother and seemingly indifferent father is an intelligent, layered, unsettling film which reveals its secrets slowly and keeps you guessing right up until the end. Quite possibly one of the most beautifully shot horror movies in recent memory, A Tale of Two Sisters marked out its director as a talent to watch and he hasn’t disappointed since. This one has a brand of horror for everyone, ranging from the supernatural, through the psychological, to the purely physical. Jung-ah Yum, as the step-mother, is at once appalling and sympathetic. No mean feat. Hollywood Remake: Remade in 2009 as The Uninvited, which gave us a lot more teenage flesh and a lot less atmosphere. _________________________________________________________________________________ 4. The Eye Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang – Hong Kong – 2002 Blind violinist Wong Kar Mun has a successful cornea transplant and begins seeing ghosts wherever she goes, some friendly and some otherwise. Together with her doctor, she determines to find out the identity of her eye donor. The Eye starts off as an effectively spooky ghost story, but deepens into something more heartbreaking as the mystery behind Wong Kar Mun’s new eyes is uncovered. The ghostly encounters make the hair stand up on the back of the neck, and just when you think the story is resolved, The Eye throws in a surprise ending. Hollywood Remake: Remade in 2008 as The Eye. Jessica Alba, while easy on the eye (did you see what I did there), just doesn’t have Angelica Lee’s sympathetic appeal. _________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Ju-on (The Grudge) Takashi Shimizu – Japan – 2003 The third in Shimizu’s Ju-on series, but the first to get an international theatrical release, The Grudge centres on a cursed house and the characters who come into contact with it over varying timelines, usually to their extreme detriment. Complex, layered and disturbing, The Grudge is also very, very creepy. This one will definitely make you feel less safe under your covers, which is traditionally where you are supposed to feel safe. Neat trick. The movie spawned further sequels, and while Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge 2 was also very good, this remains the finest of the series. Hollywood Remake: Yes, by the exact same director and starring Buffy, no less. Shimizu also directed the American sequel. Not awful, but neither matched his homeland efforts. _________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Shutter Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom – Thailand – 2004 Photographer Tun and his girlfriend, Jane, hit a girl with their car as they are driving home from a party. Tun insists that they flee rather than aid the girl, much to Jane’s consternation. From that point on, they are subjected to a series of spooky occurrances from which secrets begin to emerge. The debut feature from Alone’s collaborative writer/director team. Shutter is a sleek and well-oiled machine of a movie. While it doesn’t exactly break new ground, it takes the elements that had made Asian horror so successful before it and weaves a well-paced, twisting tale around a series of consistently spooky scenes. Great ending, too. Hollywood remake: Remade in 2008 with the same title but far from the same result. _________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Ring Hideo Nakata – Japan – 1998 Journalist Reiko’s niece dies, one week after viewing a mysterious video tape. Reiko views the tape and is warned, by a phone call, that she now has only one week to live. After her son watches the tape, Reiko and her ex-husband, Ryuji, try to discover the secret behind the cursed video. The Granddaddy of all J-Horror and a hugely influential movie, Ring is heavy on atmosphere from the outset. Rather than subject the viewer to a series of shocks (although there are one or two) Ring slowly builds itself up to a single, extremely scary, moment. Hollywood Remake: Remade in 2002 as The Ring. Overcooks what the original leaves simmering. You only get one chance to see this for the first time so choose wisely. Go Japanese. _________________________________________________________________________________ .

This one has been doing the rounds for a while and I was finally caught, bagged and tagged by my good friend Custard over at Front Room Cinema. So, ever the dutiful taggee and Mememeister, here are my astounding and mildly amusing answers to 15 seemingly random movie questions.

Enjoy.

 

1. Movie you love with a passion

Raiders of the Lost Ark

For me, Spielberg’s first outing for Harrison Ford’s archaeologist and mercenary is one of the finest pieces of celluloid ever made. This is the reason why cinemas were invented. Some movies make us think, some movies teach us stuff and some movies just give us a ride. This one has a little bit of everything. Pure cinema, no pretensions. Perfect.

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2. Movie you vow to never watch

Anything with ‘Movie’ in the title

Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Disaster Movie, etc. Dreadful, lame, unfunny spoofs churned out to make a quick buck without actually making anyone with a brain larger than a popcorn kernel laugh. Mel Brooks could spoof, Jerry Zucker could spoof but Jason Friedberg and his gang can kiss my pink ass. Kiss it!

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3. Movie that literally left you speechless

Antichrist

Hang on, was that Willem Dafoe’s….? Did Charlotte Gainsbourg just grab a pair of scissors and cut off her…? Did Willem Dafoe just…? Why’s that fox talking? I’ve seen horror movies and I’ve seen porn movies, but nothing quite prepares you for Lars von Trier’s bizarre mix of both, with added talking mammals. Don’t watch this with your mum.

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4. Movie you always recommend

Fight Club

I recommend some movies simply because they are great movies, but I recommend Fight Club because it’s a movie that has something very important to say and says it with David Fincher’s singularly brazen style. For anyone who lives and endures the myriad banalities of Western culture, watch Fight Club.

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5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie

George Clooney

Not only do I respect him as an actor who has managed to rise above the limitations of his good looks, and as a director and producer of great movies in his own right, but also because Clooney very rarely picks a bad project. He just seems to have the knack for picking interesting, challenging roles for himself.

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6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for

Jason Statham

Give me a break. How did this wooden, boring, zero-charisma, no-talent pudding with a phoney accent that is neither English nor American manage to get to where he is? I just don’t get it. He’s like a throwback to the action heroes of the 80s, before filmmakers realised that they were better when they could actually act.

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7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet

Christopher Walken

How could that ever be a boring meeting? It would be impossible. Walken is incapable of being boring. The guy is like a force of nature. We could talk about his amazing career, about all the movies I watched just because he was in it for five minutes (Gigli, for one) and when the conversation ran out, he could teach me some wicked dance steps.

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8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

Tina Fey

Sure, there are plenty of good-looking actresses out there but sexy is a lot more than just that. Sexy is brains, beauty, talent and a great sense of humour and Tina Fey ticks all the right boxes. It also doesn’t hurt that she seems to be completely oblivious to her sexiness. And that’s also very sexy. It’s a sexy win/win!

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9) Dream cast

Star Wars Episode VII

Okay, so it’s a bit cheesy, it’s exceptionally geeky and it’s wholly unrealistic given that they all have a collective age of about 900 (the ones that are still alive, anyway), but how cool would it be to have the original Star Wars cast together again for a new episode? Huh? Can I get an Amen? No? You got a problem with old people or something?

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10) Favourite actor pairing

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Okay, there are actors and then there are British RSC actors. It’s not really my style to blow the trumpet for Blighty but the truth is we really do produce some of the greatest thespians know to stage and screen and when X-Men director Bryan Singer decided to cast two of my favourites in a superhero movie (of all things), he was having a very inspired day. Hurrah and huzzah!

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11) Favourite movie setting

New York

It’s magical but commonplace, grubby but pristine, antique but brand new. It can be an equally comfortable home to the most whimsical fairytales and the bleakest horrors. Six million movie sets rolled into one. Few places on Earth are as versatile as The Big Apple. And I’ve still never been there.

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12) Favourite decade for movies

The 80s

It’s probably got very little to do with the level of quality, although this decade delivered some of the best movies ever made. But this was the decade I grew up in, and the decade where my love of cinema truly blossomed. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Terminator and the peerless The Breakfast Club. This was the decade when cinema got its imagination back.

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13) Chick flick or action movie?

You’re a troublemaker

I’m not falling into your nefarious trap, my friend. You can try to sow the seeds of despair and drive a wedge between the sexes with your loaded questions but you will not succeed! Evenings can be comfortably arranged to accommodate one of each, right? Yes, I am the bringer of harmony. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called big, fat couch potatoes.

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14) Hero, villain or anti-hero?

Villain (and enjoying it)

It’s a tough one, this one, but ultimately there’s something irresistible to me about the irredeemable bad guy who takes genuine pleasure in his work. Hannibal Lecter, The Joker, Richard III, or any villain played by Gene Hackman. They make being evil seem far more appealing than the sober, brooding heroes make being good.

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15) Black and white or colour?

Dumbass Question

Do me a favour. I am neither pompous enough to say I prefer black & white movies nor pedestrian enough to say I prefer colour movies. What kind of person dismisses a movie because of the colour it is? That’s like celluloid racism. Are you encouraging celluloid racism? Shame on you with your silly question.

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It’s that time of year. Well, that day of the year. Cupid is abroad in the land, drawing back his bow and forcing men everywhere to do the things they really should be doing all year round, without his chubby help.

No doubt, part of the Valentine’s rituals across the world will be the sitting down to watch a romantic movie together. With that in mind, here is a list of my ten favourite movie couples. Be warned, though, I like movie couples who are a little bit different so you won’t find the likes of Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman or Casablanca here. So, if you’re getting tired of yearly re-runs of Love, Actually, why not give one of these a go instead.

And, please, let me know who your favourite movie couples are.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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10. WALL-E and EVE

WALL-E – 2008

Who would have thought a relationship between two robots who barely have any lines could be so moving? Pixar did, and they were right. Alone on a desolate Earth, waste disposal robot WALL-E falls head over wheels for shiny, sleek and sophisticated EVE when she arrives on a scouting mission. She’s not sure at first. WALL-E is a bit low-brow, and conversation is not his strong suit, but she is soon won over by his complete devotion to her. Not a dry eye in the house.

EVE: Name?
WALL-E: WALL-E.
EVE: WALL-E? EVE.
WALL-E: Eeeee… aah.
EVE: “EVE”! “EVE”!

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9. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton

The Remains of the Day – 1993

James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel revolves around the lives of the backroom staff at the home of Darlington Hall, England, during the build-up to World War II. Head butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is absolutely dedicated to his work and his master, Lord Darlington, to the exclusion of all else. The arrival of a bright and headstrong new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) stirs feelings in Mr. Stevens which are at complete odds with his rigid and professional demeanour. The unexpressed and unrealised relationship between them is utterly heartbreaking, propelled by career-best performances from both Hopkins and Thompson.

Mr. Stevens: Do you know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my mind elsewhere while you chatter away.

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8. Alvy Singer and Annie Hall

Annie Hall – 1977

Woody Allen’s semi-autobiographical Annie Hall is almost a love letter to ex-girlfriend Diane Keaton (she was born Diane Hall and her nickname was Annie) which tries to explore just why relationships don’t always work out. Comedian Alvy and Singer Annie make an adorable couple, even if the cracks are there from the very beginning. Both are neurotic, both exist on the fringes of ‘normality’. They seem ideally suited to each other, but the things that make them ideal are the things that make the relationship doomed from the outset.

Annie Hall: So you wanna go into the movie or what?
Alvy Singer: No, I can’t go into a movie that’s already started, because I’m anal.
Annie Hall: That’s a polite word for what you are.

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7. Charlotte and Bob

Lost in Translation – 2003

Aging movie star Bob (Bill Murray) is stuck in Tokyo to film an advert for whiskey, but grateful to be away from his marriage and life. Young graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is stuck there with her new husband, a photographer who is more interested in his work than his wife. When they meet at a hotel bar Bob and Charlotte connect through their combined alienation and detachment from their own lives. Sofia Coppola’s movie, filmed on the fly in Tokyo, creates a touching, heartbreaking relationship between the two most unlikely partners. Murray and Johansson have a palpable chemistry, despite the age difference, leaving you wishing for the impossible, just as they are.

Bob: I don’t want to leave.
Charlotte: So don’t. Stay here with me. We’ll start a jazz band.

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6. Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004

Withdrawn and insecure Joel (Jim Carrey) strikes up an unlikely relationship with the emotionally unpredictable Clementine (Kate Winslet), both of them little realising that they are in fact former lovers who both went to Lacuna Inc. to have their memories of each other erased. Their relationship is revisited in Joel’s mind during the erasure, as he and Clementine struggle to hold on to each other. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a touching reminder that even the most volatile and self-destructive relationships can have something worth saving.

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

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5. Guy and Girl

Once – 2006

These two didn’t even get names but still manage to pull your heart-strings as effectively as the struggling Dublin musician twangs those on his guitar. When he meets a Czech woman, and fellow musician, they begin to collaborate on some songs together, while a romantic attraction begins to flourish. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, both real-life musicians, wrote all the songs for the movie together and subsequently became a couple during the promotional tour for the movie. Awww.

Girl: How come you don’t play during daytime? I see you here everyday.
Guy: During the daytime people would want to hear songs that they know. I play these songs at night or people wouldn’t listen.
Girl: I listen.

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4. John Book and Rachel Lapp

Witness – 1985

Philadelphia cop John Book (Harrison Ford) meets Amish woman Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) after her son witnesses a brutal murder. Although they are virtually from different worlds the spark between them is there from the beginning, and when Book is forced to hide among the Amish community the attraction is given ample time to smoulder. If you saw these two characters individually you wouldn’t think for a minute that they would work so well together, but they are one of cinema’s most electric pairings, enhanced in no small part by the great chemistry between Ford and McGillis.

Rachel Lapp: Are you enjoying your reading?
John Book: Oh, yeah. I’m learning a lot about manure. Very interesting.

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3. Andrew and Sam

Garden State – 2004

Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in this little gem of a movie, garnering much praise in the process. Andrew, a disillusioned actor suffering severe depression returns to his home town for the funeral of his mother. He meets pathological liar Sam (Natalie Portman) and they begin a tentative relationship over the funeral of Sam’s recently deceased hamster. It is impossible not to root for this couple, so cute are they. Portman is at her most kooky and Braff is all that’s likeable in a lost soul.

Sam: Are you really retarded?
Andrew: No.
Sam: Ooh, great job man! I really thought you were retarded. If there was a retarded Oscar you would win, hands down, kick his ass!

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2. Macon Leary and Muriel Pritchett

The Accidental Tourist – 1988

Ever since the murder of his son, travel writer Macon Leary (William Hurt) has emotionally withdrawn from the world around him, including his wife and family. When she leaves him and files for divorce Macon meets the eccentric dog trainer Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), and so begins Macon’s journey back to himself. Featuring an inspired, Oscar-winning, turn from Davis as the unconventional Muriel, whose big heart eventually breaks through Macon’s tough shell, The Accidental Tourist is not about finding the right person, but finding the person who brings out the right you. We all need our Muriel Pritchett.

Muriel: You ever go to movies?
Macon: I really don’t care for movies. They make everything seem so close-up.

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1. Parry and Lydia

The Fisher King – 1991

Terry Gilliam’s New York fable contains a love story so quirky, between two characters who are so clearly made for each other, that if your heart doesn’t drown in its own mush there is something very wrong with you. Homeless Parry (Robin Williams), his mind fragmented by a terrible tragedy, and clueless Lydia (Amanda Plummer), withdrawn and lost in New York’s noise, are brought together by both fate and the actions of a man seeking redemption. Williams and Plummer are adorable together.

Parry: I’m not coming up to your apartment. That was never my intention.
Lydia: You don’t want to.
Parry: Oh, no, I want to. I have a hard-on for you the size of Florida. But I don’t want just one night.

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I love a good ghost story. They are without doubt my favourite strain of horror movie. Vampires are fine, werewolves are fine, psychotic killers with masks are just fine, but for me there’s nothing quite as terrifying as a ghost. As a kid I would scare myself witless with tales of the supernatural, both fictional and otherwise, aided in no small part by my father, an anthologist of Victorian ghost stories.

Cinema struggles a little with ghost stories. In literature the best of the genre are usually short stories, and some of the finest on-screen examples were a series of British TV shorts based on the stories of M.R. James (Whistle and I’ll Come to You, Lost Hearts, A Warning to the Curious). Often, in trying to fill a 90-minute running time, feature-length ghost stories can lose much in terms of atmosphere and momentum. Also, a good ghost story requires subtlety and suggestion in addition to shocks, qualities which most modern horror movies seem unable to cultivate.

Here is my list of the 10 best feature-length ghost stories. I’ve strictly limited it to scary movies, so there’s no place for the likes of Ghostbusters or Always, even though I adore those movies. After all, ghosts are meant to be scary.

I also have a question. You’ll notice that the majority of the ghosts featured here are female. Personally, I believe that women make scarier ghosts than men. I have no idea why, though. Do you agree? And if so, why do you imagine this is? I look forward to hearing your theories.

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10. Carnival of Souls

Herk Harvey – 1962

Made for a paltry $33,000 dollars, and shot in just three weeks, this was director Herk Harvey’s only feature-length movie. The story follows organist Mary Henry, who begins seeing strange apparitions after surviving a traumatic car accident. As she tries to rebuild her life, Mary finds the haunting becoming increasingly worse. Harvey builds an unnerving mood, using some excellent locations. Candace Hilligoss, in the role of Mary, was the only professional actor involved in the movie and projects an iciness and detachment vital to the part, as it builds toward its final revelation. One which M. Night Shyamalan clearly remembered.

Meet the ghost: Harvey himself appears throughout as ‘The Man’, a pasty-faced, raccoon-eyed spirit with a message for Mary. And he’s not the only one after her.

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9. What Lies Beneath

Robert Zemeckis – 2000

Back when Zemeckis was still making live action pictures, he used the six-month break in filming Cast Away (so Tom Hanks could do some serious dieting) to put together this Hitchcock tribute. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the couple whose lives are interrupted when Pfeiffer becomes convinced there is a ghost in their house. As she digs deeper, she begins to uncover some very dark secrets. Although it is a little heavy-handed at times, What Lies Beneath has a great atmosphere. Zemeckis fills the silence of the big, old house and its garden with unsettling sounds, making the ghostly presence felt even if it is rarely seen.

Meet the ghost: It would be giving away too much to give you the full details of this wrathful spirit. Suffice it to say she’s young, angry and nowhere near as dead as her killer would have liked.

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8. Ghost Story

John Irvin – 1981

Based on the novel by Peter Straub, the simply titled Ghost Story does just what it says on the tin. The tale is spun around four old men, who get together every week to tell each other ghost stories. When one of their number loses a son in bizarre accident, and his brother comes to them with a story of his own, they realise that the very old secret they all share has come back to haunt them. Set within a snowbound New England town, Ghost Story takes all the classic ingredients of the genre and serves them cold.

Meet the ghost: Alice Krige gives an intense and chilling turn as the vengeful Alma, probably one of the most brazen spirits in movie history. She doesn’t just go after you, but your entire family. This is one girl you don’t want to piss off. Or kill.


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7. The Eye (Gin Gwai)

Danny and Oxide Pang – 2002

Blind violinist Wong Kar Mun has a successful cornea transplant and begins seeing ghosts wherever she goes, some friendly and some otherwise. Together with her doctor, she determines to find out the identity of her eye donor. The Eye starts off as an effectively spooky ghost story, but deepens into something more heartbreaking as the mystery behind Wong Kar Mun’s new eyes is uncovered. The ghostly encounters make the hair stand up on the back of the neck, and just when you think the story is resolved, The Eye throws in a surprise ending.

Meet the ghost: Actually, make that ghosts. There’s a whole buffet of grisly spirits on offer here. Highlights are a great scene in an elevator and a very angry schoolgirl. Oh, and you’ll never look at the hanging food in Chinatown the same way again.

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6. The Devil’s Backbone

Guillermo del Toro – 2001

Something of a companion piece to del Toro’s more famous Pan’s Labyrinth, since it is also set during the Spanish civil war, The Devil’s Backbone is a rich and complex tale of a boy, Carlos, who arrives at an orphanage while his father fights in the war. Carlos finds himself involved in the nefarious plans of one of the orphanage’s staff and attracts the attention of a resident ghost, who warns Carlos of impending disaster. A great ghost story and much more besides.

Meet the ghost: Wandering the orphanage and watching events from a distance, Santi is just one of the mysteries waiting to be solved in The Devil’s Backbone. With the help of minimal special effects, Santi carries the haunting signs of his murder with him, in the form of an ever-bleeding wound.

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5. The Fog

John Carpenter – 1980

Carpenter, a huge fan of ghost stories, gave the genre his all with this tale of drowned mariners returning to the coastal town of Antonio Bay, 100 years after they were betrayed. Originally intended as a straight ghost story, Carpenter was unsatisfied with the finished result and re-shot large parts, upping the violence somewhat but still retaining the brooding atmosphere and sense of foreboding that mark out the best of the genre. It even starts with a ghost story from John Houseman, a prelude to his role in…Ghost Story.

Meet the ghost: More a crew of ghosts and a ghost ship. For the most part Blake and his men are shadowy figures, masked by the fog, and they’re all the creepier for it. Something the creators of the dismal remake failed to grasp.


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4. Ju-on: The Grudge

Takashi Shimizu – 2003

The third in Shimizu’s Ju-on series, but the first to get an international theatrical release, The Grudge centres on a cursed house and the characters who come into contact with it over varying timelines, usually to their extreme detriment. Complex, layered and often disturbing, The Grudge is also very, very creepy. This one will definitely make you feel less safe under your covers, which is traditionally where you are supposed to feel safe. Neat trick. The movie spawned an American remake and further sequels but this remains the finest.

Meet the ghost: Another movie boasting more than one spectral star, including another little boy. However, it is the crawling, bloodied woman, Kayako, who sticks most in the mind as the final credits roll.

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3. The Haunting

Robert Wise – 1963

Based on the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, Robert Wise’s movie sees paranormal investigator Dr. Markway invite a carefully selected, eclectic group of people to spend several nights with him at the supposedly haunted Hill House. Almost immediately the group are besieged by a series of terrifying things that go bump in the night, all of which seem to focus on the shy, reclusive Eleanor. Wise makes sure that it is what you don’t see that scares you. Never has thumping on a door or voices heard through a wall been so utterly spine-tingling. Just make sure you stick with the original rather than Jan de Bont’s laughable 1999 remake.

Meet the ghost: Or not. The Haunting leaves the finer details to your imagination, and it works beautifully.

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2. Ringu

Hideo Nakata – 1998

Journalist Reiko Asakawa’s niece dies, one week after viewing a mysterious video tape. Reiko views the tape herself and is warned, by way of a phone call, that she now has only one week to live. After catching her son watching the tape, Reiko and her ex-husband, Ryuji, race against the clock to discover the secret behind the cursed video. A hugely influential movie, Ringu is heavy on atmosphere from the outset. Rather than subject the viewer to a series of shocks (although there are one or two) Ringu slowly builds itself up to a single, extremely scary, moment.

Meet the ghost: Sadako is one of the scariest ghosts ever committed to film. Although she is very rarely seen until the end, her reputation is cleverly crafted beforehand, priming you for her grand entrance. And what an entrance it is.

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1. The Woman in Black

Herbet Wise – 1989

The Woman in Black is a little known (and hard to find) English TV movie, based on the novel by Susan Hill. A lawyer is sent to a coastal town to settle the estate of a recently deceased widow. Once there, he finds the locals reluctant to discuss both her and the mysterious woman who sometimes appears around the town. Deciding to go alone to the widow’s house and unravel the truth, he attracts the attention of something utterly malevolent. If you enjoy an old fashioned spine-chiller you won’t find anything better than this on film. It is the perfect ghost story. This year’s Hammer produced remake has a lot to live up to.

Meet the ghost: She’s glimpsed only a few times and yet remains a constant presence. And when she does appear, particularly in a scene toward the end, The Woman in Black is terrifying.

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Now on Celluloid Zombie! The 2010 Awards!

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