Horror Ten Spot: My Favorite Badass Ghost Hunters!
Two weeks ago, in the lead up to the underperforming and underwhelming ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER, we threw the best cinematic vampire hunters under the 10 Spot microscope. Now, as Rodrigo Cortes' intriguing new film RED LIGHTS is set to shine on limited U.S. screens come Friday, July 13th, why not do the same for the most compelling cinematic ghost hunters. Let's face it, there's been many ghost movies, but not nearly as many compelling ghost-killing characters. So, from the humorous to the deadpan, from male to female, from the old to new, here now are the Top Ten most memorable on-screen ghost hunters. Enjoy!
While we can all agree William Castle's 1960 version, as campy and gimmicky as it is, ranks superior to the 2001 remake, one element that the original didn't have was the ghost-exterminating character, played by Matthew Lillard. Of course, he's silly, ebullient, jocose...hardly the type we usually associate with dispatchers of evil. Even so, Rafkin is still one of the overt pre-TV ghost hunting characters seen on screen, big or small.
A bit of a wrench in the spoke here, as Rham Jas in Sam Raimi's DRAG ME TO HELL is more of a curse-ridding seer than an out-and-out ghost hunter, but in the climactic sťance he conducts, his function is essentially one in the same. He's able to draw out an evil spirit and help send that f*cker back to the underworld for good. Props to Raimi for casting a relative newcomer in Dileep Rao, who went on to play a key cog in Nolan's INCEPTION the following year.
Alright, we all know GHOST OF MARS is third rate Carpenter, but good lord, Natasha Henstridge is top f*ckin' shelf! For that, and to add a little female love to the bash, we're giving her character Melanie Ballard her just due. After-all, it is she that leads a throng of misfits and castoffs to wage war against a race of Martian jinnis. Early Jason Statham takes orders, as does Ice Cube and Pam Grier, but when push comes to shove, no one outranks the buxom 5'10 blond goddess!
If you listened to last week's AITH podcast, you'll know the boys checked out a indie horror escapade called GRAVE ENCOUNTERS. Despite a tepid endorsement, I decided to give it a glance. And while I agree the flick has its problems, I'm confident enough in the collective ghost hunting crew in the film to throw it some love. After-all, much like the actual TV show "Ghost Hunters," they exist precisely to investigate supernatural disturbance.
If there's one unheralded film on this list I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out and watching, it's John Hough's atmospheric chiller THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. Riffing on the "strangers must convene to vet and suss a paranormal presence" narrative, Dr. Barrett (played by Clive Revill) offers an interesting take on the ghost hunting paradigm. He bucks theories of faith, instead uses a large machine he crafted himself to rid the mansion of evil energy. And unlike many on the list, he's willing to give his life for his beliefs.
Adding some much needed levity to an otherwise deadpan chiller, the bumbling amateurish paranormal inspectors Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) from INSIDIOUS are equally refreshing. Most ghost hunters are supremely confident, but not these two. They fumble and famble in experimentation, using rudimentary devices to peek into The Further, a frightening supernatural realm.
Always been an Alex P. Keaton fan, so when MJ Fox finally embraced the comedic-horror genre, I couldn't wait to see the shite! Add a young Peter Jackson to the mix, and a wildly zany take on the ghost hunter is born. Remember, Fox's character develops psychic abilities and uses his newfound visions to befriend ghosts, only to exploit them and make a little money in the process. Of course shite backfires after awhile and the character is forced to deal with true horror.
We've addressed THE ENTITY before, the harrowing true story about a woman being sexually assaulted by an invisible phantom. Seriously, is there anything more terrifying?! Well, we're flipping the coin here and lauding the yeoman's work of Dr. Sneiderman, also based on a real character, who goes to extreme lengths in the film to track and quell the perverted malefic specter. Played by the late Ron Silver, the character is much more grounded in reality than most of his counterparts.
"This house...is clean!" RIP to the inimitable Zelda Rubinstein, who so thoroughly convinced us of being able to connect with the other side in the POLTERGEIST pictures. Small in stature, demure in voice, but a more powerful presence you'd be hard to find. We'll posthumously forgive her appearance in TEEN WITCH, instead always remember her for being the heartfelt conduit that allowed the Freeling family to remain, if only somewhat peacefully, intact.
"We came, we saw, we kicked it's ass!" Come on now, you knew who'd be sitting atop the mountain...Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddmore...the holy quartet of ghost-thwarting badasses! I mentioned it before, but few films have meant more to me growing up than Ivan Reitman's 1984 classic, hell, I even have a framed autographed poster of the film in my room protecting me from any evil interloper. The humor, the acting, the proton packs, the FX, the whole film still holds up almost 30 years later as the perfect horror comedy. Can't be beat!