Ghosts have been a staple of spooky stories since people were able to tell them. It is only natural that humanity would wonder what happens after our corporeal forms cease to exist and the concept of something staying behind once someone has departed to whatever hereafter there is has popped up in tales from every continent across history.
The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies By Axelle Carolyn is the third in the amazing series of FrightFest Guides which includes The FrightFest Guide to Exploitation Movies by Alan Jones and FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies by Michael Gingold as well as the fourth instalment The FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies By Gavin Baddeley which is already out.
Like all the other excellent indexes The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies takes the reader on a trip through horror history featuring 200 of the most memorable spooktacular movies from all over the world. Opening with a foreword from Alan Jones running through a few of the ghost films they have shown at FrightFest over the years we move into as always a rundown of the authors credentials.
The introduction is by another expert in hauntings the man behind the bestselling stage show Ghost Stories Andy Nyman among other things. Discussing his favourite spectral flicks which include The Fog and Dark Water he also goes into some of the influences on his own show and the feature film adaptation he made and starred in.
The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies is penned by Axelle Carolyn an author, director, actress and huge Halloween fan. I had the pleasure of interviewing her alongside Neil Marshall a few FrightFest’s back in 2016 (read the whole interview HERE) where we discussed their film Tales of Halloween and her section of this petrifying portmanteau the Grim Grinning Ghost.
“I am just a fan of ghost stories in general” she said at the time “I directed one called Soulmate…I love those kinds of stories from The Haunting to The Devil’s Backbone to the Insidious movies to The Conjuring to Lake Mungo but I think the strongest influence on mine was the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow which is exactly the camp fire story that sets up the scare and then you go off and you know what’s coming and it might be a joke that’s being played on you or is it not a joke, is it serious.”
From this I could tell her passion for the project she went on to take for FAB Press and this love of the supernatural shines through from her excellent introduction What is a Ghost? onwards. Starting with a quote from a text by an author from c.61 – c112 A.D that reads like the plot of the most recent haunted house horror, proving the earlier point about how long ghost stories have existed, she takes us on a trip from Ancient Egyptians, mid-nineteenth century Spiritism and beyond before reaching the earliest ghost films.
Touching on Japanese ghost stories known as kwaidan, which are detailed fully latter, she talks about the very early experiments in special effects by such innovators as Georges Melies and more who created supernatural spectacle to shock audiences in the very first films.
She then moves through each period picking out key pictures or series and the general trends which moved from seeing ghosts as comedy fodder for popular entertainment in the 1940’s to something more sinister and sometimes psychological in the 1970’s.
Discussing TV and well as cinema she mentions series such as Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom, Most Haunted and Ghost Whisperer as well as the terrifying 80’s UK TV special Ghostwatch which traumatised a whole generation, me included.
Ending by trying to clarify what exactly constitutes a ghost movie it is straight into the list which like all the other FrightFest guides moves by date from the earliest feature The Phantom Carriage in 1921 to the most recent entry possible at publication which is 2018’s Winchester.
Some excellent and interesting examples of the genre are covered in the first 100 pages including various Japanese ghost stories which influenced the popular J-Horror genre, a Chinese supernatural adventure by legendary Kung Fu producers the Shaw Brothers and very early adaptations of the La Llorona legend. The Mexican folktale of the Weeping Woman has inspired multiple movies the first being from 1933 and the latest a big budget version which came out this year.
Carolyn also takes famous ghost stories from the literary realm which have a number of adaptations such as Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost going through several of the key adaptations committed to film and comparing and contrasting them all.
My 100 pages took me just up to the 60’s where spooks where being taken seriously after classics like The Haunting, The Innocents and Dead of Night had proven audiences could handle something harder than a comedic duo facing off against some false phantoms Scooby Doo style.
A spectacular read from start to finish Axelle Carolyn’s extensive knowledge and enthusiasm illuminates every entry offering insights and factual morsels many horror fans would be unaware of. As essential as all the other entries in the series The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies is a must buy especially if you are hooked on hauntings.
The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies By Axelle Carolyn is available to order now directly from FAB along with all the other amazing The FrightFest Guides just click HERE. You can also read the rest of our 100 Pages of Horror by clicking the HERE.