Paranormal cinema can be a difficult challenge both for filmmakers and audiences. Fear is a highly visceral emotion, and how audiences respond to fear is affected by the times. Be that as it may, we can think of a few timeless paranormal/horror movies that can scare or at least intrigue even the most seasoned horror-hounds.
1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
You’ve heard the expression and you’ve probably seen other movies or episodes of different series either parodying or paying tribute to Rosemary’s Baby, but have you actually seen it? In this 1958 thriller, a young couple moves into a fresh new apartment and is then surrounded by strange occurrences and even stranger neighbors. We won’t say anything more except that you should definitely see the movie which some critics still hail as the best horror movie Hollywood ever made.
2. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The great Tim Robbins stars as a Vietnam War veteran who struggles to uncover bits and pieces about his past while mourning his dead child, struggling with PTSD, and suffering from a severe case of dissociation. The result is a suspenseful psychological thriller as Jacob is forced to decipher dreams and delusions from reality while digging into his own dark past. IMDb calls it an obscure and underrated thriller-mystery that’s definitely worth searching for.
3. Deathgasm (2015)
Comedic action-horror movie Deathgasm explores the idea that death metal isn’t just a genre with which musicians can channel their anger and fascination for the occult. In this movie, your run-of-the-mill high school losers who start a band in order to become cooler, accidentally stumble onto a song written to summon a powerful demon. Castle of Chaos can confirm that you can watch this one on Netflix, so prepare for a night-in of bloody, horrific comedy that would make Sam Raimi proud.
4. Return to Babylon (2013)
While this modern take on the silent film genre is classified as a biographical comedy/drama, the paranormal activity surrounding its production is more than enough to qualify it for this list. According to director Alex Monty Canawati, the story began when he and his producer found 19 rolls of 16mm black and white film abandoned but sealed on a Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk. This prompted them to write a movie that would utilize the film, giving birth to Return to Babylon, a hand-cranked camera-shot tribute to the scandalous 1920s with contemporary actors playing some of silent-era Hollywood’s biggest stars. This includes Debi Mazar who plays Gloria Swanson and the underrated Jennifer Tilly who stars as the iconic Clara Bow. Both of these stars along with their co-actors have reported feeling “oppressive entities” lurking about during production, and some even reported being grabbed or touched by unseen hands. Even more disconcerting are how the actors’ faces seem to be grotesquely twisted in some scenes. While some experts attribute this to natural film degradation, even the Brooks Institute of Photography couldn’t explain how the images were twisted in this manner.
Since the movie failed to find widespread distribution in 2013, director Alex Canawati hasn’t released another feature-length film to date. Similarly, star Jennifer Tilly hasn’t had any breakthrough roles since Return to Babylon, and has literally disappeared from Hollywood. She can, however, be found brushing shoulders with professional poker players, reported PartyPoker – a far cry from her Oscar nomination many years ago. We are not saying that the movie banished everyone in it (or behind the camera) to obscurity; that’s for you to decide.