We all experience fear in our lives. But through horror movies, we can experience it safely. As one famous marketing campaign put it: “To avoid fainting, keep repeating it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie”
Of course, not every horror movie antagonist is an immortal slasher. What about those that touch down in reality? (Or what we who believe in the paranormal would consider reality).
As someone who serves as a paranormal investigator in my free time, I have cultivated a list of films I find to be surprisingly accurate, based on what I know of the paranormal realm. So, if you believe in all things otherworldly and are in the mood for a few good scares, this list is for you.
For accuracy in the paranormal, I find this film stands head and shoulders above many of its contemporaries. Everything from Danny’s shine being the way of saying he’s a sort of psychic, to the manifestations in the hotel. The ghosts are self-explanatory but Danny is having visions before they ever go to the hotel, telepathic conversations with another like him, and intuitively sensing that the hotel is bad. It’s not uncommon at all for the entities at a haunted location to reach out to someone sensitive. Or, as I think in this case, for a psychic person’s spirit guides to reach out with a warning for what’s on the horizon. As a haunting we see what we think are isolation hallucinations, watch the negative entities fester in Jack, hear music that could not possibly be playing, and see a ball room of full-bodied apparitions. If you’ve never seen this film, it is essential viewing and a must watch. If you have seen it before, keep all of that in mind the next time you revisit.
The Exorcist is, arguably, the most terrifying movie ever made. This was the world’s first look into accurate possession and the methods used by the Catholic Church to exorcise demons. For Regan it begins by communicating with someone called “Captain Howdy” through Ouija board sessions, something that’s known in the paranormal world to be dangerous as it can open a door that anything can come through. Things progress quickly from that to strange noises in the house, Regan becoming ill, then having major personality changes as the possession begins to set in. By the time the priests get involved, Regan is a passenger in her own body, leading right into the Catholic exorcism. This is the epitome of any demonic/paranormal horror film and is still my pick for the scariest movie ever made.
The Blair Witch Project
There’s a reason only people deeply dedicated to the paranormal have the patience to investigate. A lot of our time is spent simply waiting. I think the most pivotal, accurately paranormal parts of the film are the moments when the trio are in the tent. They hear things crashing and moving all around them in the woods and have absolutely no explanation for it while being terrified out of their minds. That’s absolutely realistic horror. It’s also relevant in the frustrating bit that so often, during an investigation, things are happening that you are simply not quick enough to catch on camera. Things you may see with your own eyes but you don’t move quickly enough or move too quickly out of fright that you miss it. Being in the dark, in an unfamiliar place, hearing very loud noises that you can’t explain happening all around you…it’s utterly terrifying.
This is an absolutely fantastic portrayal of, naturally, paranormal activity. Being someone that grew up in a haunted house, I wish we had the money for a nice camera to set up and capture what was happening to us. The way that it starts off small, little annoyances or weird happenings that you try to brush aside, then builds and builds into a fully fledged nightmare. It’s a very well done demonic haunting. Beginning with odd thumps in the night, to things moving seemingly on their own, to full blown physical attacks. If you’ve never seen it, put aside your pre-conceived notions and give it a chance. If you have seen it, try and give it another look through this point of view.
This is a film that I feel was overlooked and far too quickly forgotten about. It also perfectly fits in this list, the title itself referring to EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). Compared to how investigating is done today, it’s a bit primitive but fascinating to learn about. Not to mention, it’s a great story. It goes into how spirit voices can be captured and even images using old television static, while following a man who’s desperately trying to contact his recently deceased wife. The film shows how spirits that want help will reach out if they know you can hear them and that there are other things out there that actively try to stop that. It has a theme of basically “how far are you willing to go?” and even gets into the dangers of reaching out to the other side, the dangers of coming into contact with those malevolent beings that treat us as intruders.
Taking the tried (and frequently failed) found footage method from The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, this movie treats it as a ghost hunting show. The team ventures into a place they call Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital to investigate for the entire night, treating it as just another job, none of them seeming to fully believe in the paranormal. Collingwood, like most old psych hospitals, happens to not only deliver but turns out to be a lot more than they can handle. Some investigators avoid them like the plague while others, like me, seek them out. This one was very accurate. An old, massive building full of souls, tortured by their illnesses and by the doctors experimenting (many times sadistically) with ways to cure them. It creates intense, powerful energy that lingers and can make it dangerous. Find it and give it a try. Death awaits.