We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Sometimes ghosts in the movies are benevolent and protective; sometimes they just need to be put to rest by giving them a proper burial, finding their killer, discovering "the truth" about a certain something, or learning to let go and move on. These are the reasonable ghosts and we're not talking about them.
In honor of Paranormal Activity 2, we're counting down the top 7 surliest ghosts in all of moviedom. These spirits don't want to speak to you through Whoopi Goldberg or guide you through a difficult period in your life: these aren't Oprah ghosts, people. These unruly entities would rather burn your house down, sex up your women, and kill all your friends, so you best get the f*ck out of the way.
7. Darkness Falls (2003)
Recap: In the 1800s an old woman nicknamed "the tooth fairy" is accused of being a witch and lynched by the town of Darkness Falls. Now she's back and she's uber pissed. She can't go into the light, but anyone who ends up in the shadows is fair game. Reason: This is not a good movie. It's not one of those overlooked indie gems that you stumble on a few years after its release and think, "Gosh, what a nice surprise!" So why is it on the list? Here's our reason: the Tooth Fairy (the eeevvviilll Tooth Fairy) makes a flashy entrance worthy of a Las Vegas show and comports herself with such brazen vim, it's unlike any ghost you've seen before. Other ghosts, even the mean ones, usually skulk around, torturing specific people, but keeping mostly to themselves. The Tooth Fairy does not: she basically kicks down the door to a police station and eats everyone she can find without a single care in her ghostly world. She isn't worried about making the protagonists look like raving idiots to the authorities, because she'd just as soon kill those authorities in public and get on with it, already. She's a homicidal extrovert and that makes her unique among her more discreet brethren.
6. Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
Recap: An angry ghost tortures and kills anyone who sets foot in its house. In the meantime, volunteer social assistant Rika Ninshina (Megumi Okina) is supposed to visit an ailing woman in the cursed house and soon finds herself the focus of this wrathful spirit. Can she undo the curse in time to save her own life? (Nope.) Reason: Most ghost stories make you feel like you would've been smart enough to avoid the trouble. Are you going to waltz into a graveyard at midnight? No, sir! Are you going to build an amusement park over an Indian burial ground? No way, Jose! The grudge is different: it kills you if you just wander accidentally into its house, and its house isn't even spooky-looking! There is nothing to warn you away from asking to use that person's phone or delivering that person a pizza, and the grudge doesn't discriminate. It'll methodically hunt you down, terrorizing you for days on end, just because you were a door to door salesman selling vacuum cleaners and you leaned into the house a bit too far. At least the Tooth Fairy limits her attacks to people within the boundaries of Darkness Falls; the grudge would probably follow you from Japan to Montana, clicking its rapid death rattle at you, and making you hallucinate before it dragged you into the hellish ether...and why? Because you put one foot inside the door whilst asking for directions to the store, that's why. Talk about irritable.
5. The Entity (1981)
Recap: Supposedly based on the true account of a woman and her children who are terrorized by an entity. More specifically, said entity...well, it routinely has its way with her and she's less than thrilled about it. Reason: Captain Ghost Raper to the rescue? I guess now we've seen it all. This ghost's sole purpose in existing is to force Barbara Hershey to have sex with it. It has invisible, violent sex with Carla Moran (Hershey) in front of her two kids, traumatizing them for life; it also takes advantage of her in front of her boyfriend, essentially making her boyfriend watch, helpless, as it does what it wants. And it doesn't matter what she does, because she's the focus: she could move to another city or become a nun - she'd still be its unwilling sex slave. I, notoriously, cannot watch simulated rape for any reason, so how did I happen upon this movie? Well, it involved initial ignorance and then being riveted to the screen like someone watching a train wreck. Would I recommend it? Hell, no, but when it comes to hostile, irrational spirits, you can't have the list without Ghostie MacRaperson.
4. Shutter (2004)
Recap: A photographer and his girlfriend are involved in vehicular manslaughter that kills a young woman. After the accident, weird, foggy shapes begin showing up in all their photographs. Reason: I'm not talking about the remake in 2008; this is the original Thai film that was released in 2003. Now, really, why should Natre (Achita Sikamana) be counted among the Tooth "I kill indiscriminately" Fairy, the "Get the hell off my porch" Grudge and the "you've got a purty mouth" Entity, when Natre has good reason to be pissed at the main characters? She's not just going after innocents without justification and normally she wouldn't have made it with the rest of this rough n' tumble crew of spirits. And since I would recommend this movie and I'm about to give away a huge plot twist, if you're tempted to rent it stop reading NOW...the reason Natre gets her due is because she spends the entire movie sitting on the protagonist's back. After the accident, Tun (Ananda Everingham) starts to get neck and back pain. When he goes to the doctor, the nurse weighs him and discovers he's way heavier than he should be. That's because the woman he horribly wronged is now piggy-backing him, her ghostly arms wrapped around his neck. How often do you see a ghost this passive-aggressive? In the fantastic, final scene, you see Tun all bandaged in his hospital bed, slumped over and dull-eyed, and when the door swings shut you can see Natre sitting on his shoulders reflected in the glass. I say bravo to Natre. When other ghosts go out of their way to throw things, shift planchettes, light candles, etc., Natre gets the job done by being a heavy bump on the log. It's an excellent example of K.I.S.S: keep it simple, stupid.
3. 1408 (2007)
Recap: Mike Enslin (John Cusack) makes a living staying in creepy hotels and then publishing accounts about his experience. He receives a mysterious invitation to stay in The Dolphin Hotel in room 1408. Almost from the moment he checks in, it's clear this isn't going to be like his other "uneventful" stays. Reason: Should we have 1408 and Ju-On: The Grudge sharing the same list when technically both involve trespassing on some spirit's turf to inevitably fatal results? Yes, and here's why. The Grudge doesn't have a sense of humor and whatever hellish force living in 1408 is just full of nasty chuckles. It has a GREAT time being evil; in fact, there's nothing it would rather do and it's just DELIGHTED when some new fodder checks into its room. Near the end of the film, after the spirits have trapped Enslin in the room, they're sending him helpful tips of how to escape (e.g. a noose, jumping out the window, cutting his own throat, etc.) and the phone rings. Enslin asks the perky hotel staff voice on the other end of the line, "Why don't you just kill me?" and the voice responds, full of good customer service helpfulness, "Because all guests of this hotel enjoy free will, Mr. Enslin." Now there's some ghosts that are fantastic upper-management material.
2. Poltergeist (1982)
Recap: The Freeling family discover that their new house is haunted by, apparently, playful spirits. The good fun quickly turns bad as the ghosts center all of their attention on the young daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke). Reason: Sure, these ghosts have their reasons for being annoyed with the Freelings. Inadvertent though it was, the Freelings still moved into a house built over their graveyard. And what would any other spirit do in that situation? Throw cups, break windows, sit on Mr. Freeling's chest while he slept, make the lights flicker. What do these ghosts do? They KIDNAP the family's daughter and trap her in some sort of hellish "other" dimension where she can only communicate with her family through the static on the television. That's a creative response to a common problem vexing ghosts these days. Why be satisfied merely chasing out the family and reclaiming the property when they can just as easily manipulate time/space in order to "feed" off Carol Anne's young life force? Other ghosts in movies may possess characters or stalk certain characters, but they don't physically remove them from their own reality. It's definitely thinking outside the ghostly box.
1. Ringu/The Ring (1998; 2002)
Recap: There's a strange videotape with only disjointed, disturbing images and if you watch that tape, you have seven short days left to live. Reason: In Ringu it's Sadako; in The Ring it's Samara. Either way, it's big, bad, evil news and it's totally random. All the other ghosts/demons/what-have-you on the list had some semblance of a focus: the Tooth Fairy wanted revenge against Darkness Falls, Ju-On: the Grudge wanted people to stay out of the house, the Poltergeist spirits wanted to feed on Carol Anne's vivacity...Sadako/Samara isn't so narrow in her putrifying hatred of humanity: she'll just stalk and kill anyone who watches a videotape, no matter who they are. She was born evil, she died evil, and she continues to be evil with the same grim determination that others might use to climb a mountain or get their masters. And what does she want? She wants people to spread her "message," by making copies of the videotape, which has no actual message other than creepiness and death; it's like a chain letter that actually will kill you if you don't pass it on. With Sadako/Samara it isn't remotely personal and therefore, you can't come up with any magic fixes. You'd be just as likely to appease an earthquake or the comet streaking toward earth.