The 10 Nastiest Horror Movie Ghosts

Published 11 months ago by This is a list post.

10 Nastiest Ghosts of Horror Movies

Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice James Wan's ghost-infested horror movie Insidious: Chapter 2 is in theaters now, and once again the unfortunate Lambert family have to contend with a host of spirits that have some pretty ill intentions. Dying seems to be uniquely bad for people's moral constitution, as there is a long and proud history in ghost stories of people who were probably quite nice in life becoming twisted and malevolent after their death. Because we love a good movie monster, and ghosts are among the creepiest of all monsters ever to worm their way into movies, Screen Rant is taking a look at the faces and forms of the movie ghosts that turned people's stomachs and sent them scurrying under the theater seats to try and get away. Take a deep breath, grab your nearest exorcist and join us as we take a look at the 10 Nastiest Ghosts of Horror Movies. (Beetlejuice isn't actually on the list, but we couldn't resist including a picture of his lovely moldy mug.)

Sadako (Ringu)

Sadako in Ringu Sadako (Ringu) Arguably a precursor to internet ghouls such as Slenderman, who can "infect" a person's life as soon as they watch a video about him, Sadako hijacks the cutting-edge technology of a VHS tape in order to pick her next victim. It's commonly believed that tapes went out of fashion once they were succeeded by DVDs, but perhaps everyone just became too scared of using videos in case they got the dreaded "Seven days..." phone call. In addition to its vicious and malevolent face-twisting killer, Ringu also features a great sting in the end of the tale (spoilers ahoy). After tricking the audience into thinking that Sadako is really a poor, misunderstood ghost girl who just needs a bit of motherly affection, she keeps right on trucking after her unfinished business is supposedly puts to rest and climbs out of the TV and into the real world in one of the most iconic and terrifying moments of modern ghost horror. You'd better just hope that she's headed for YOUR screen next.

Peter Quint & Miss Jessel (The Innocents)

Peter Quint and Miss Jessel in 'The Innocents' Taking up two spots on the list, and with good reason, is Jack Clayton's 1961 horror film The Innocents and its two resident spooks, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Unlike the other nasty ghosts we've mentioned, these dead lovers don't seem to have particularly gruesome or disfigured appearances, and the specifics of the exact evil that they're inflicting are largely left up to interpretation. Though they're spotted only briefly in The Innocents, lurking outside windows and across lakes, these two villains left an indelible mark on horror cinema and despite they're ostensibly normal appearance have a lot of unpleasantness lurking just under the surface. The two turns of the screw in this film are actually Miles and Flora, the children left in the charge of governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), who become the focus of Quint and Jessel's attention and - worse still - start to become complicit in their own corruption.

Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' Though he later become a more comic character in the long-running Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy Krueger would probably take away a lot of awards for downright unpleasantness. As with the ghosts of The Innocents, Freddy is particularly awful because of the way he targets children (both in life and in death) and teenagers, and his apparent total lack of any sympathetic qualities. You could argue that he's entitled to a little revenge after being brutally lynched, but that only happened because of his love for butchering kids - so it's really a chicken-egg situation. Freddy is also one of the most iconic and recognizable of horror movie killers, and after the way he has insinuated himself into the popular consciousness it's easy to become desensitized to trademarks like his hideous burned face and razor glove - but when this particular ghost first arrived on the eighties horror scene, he caused quite a stir and ended up in a lot of people's bad dreams... which is the last place you want Freddy Krueger to be.

Mama (Mama)

Mama still There are few things more embarrassing for kids than a zealously overprotective parent, and when that parent insists upon brutally murdering anyone she sees as a threat there are red faces all around. Andrés Muschietti's Mama was produced by Guillermo Del Toro on the strength of a short film of the same name, and there is something truly and viscerally scary about the long limbs and twisted face of the angry spirit watching over young Victoria and Lilly. Mama falls apart a little towards the end, when the audience gets to see too much of Mama's largely CGI presence, but the first three-quarters of the movie are an intense and merciless onslaught of creepy imagery and shock moments. The story of Mama's life and death ultimately turns out to be quite sad, but that doesn't do much to detract from her crazy and violent character in the afterlife.

Mary Shaw (Dead Silence)

Mary Shaw in 'Dead Silence' This probably isn't the James Wan movie that people expected to find on this list, especially since his filmography includes gems like his recent haunted house movie The Conjuring, which comes with a couple of very nasty ghosts of its own. Dead Silence isn't a particularly good movie - screenwriter Leigh Whannell (who would later go on to write and star in Insidious) has penned a very interesting and wryly self-deprecatory article about it called "Dud Silence" - but the film certainly has its share of scares. Dead Silence is worth watching if for no other reason than to see the roots of The Conjuring and Insidious - in particular Wan's habit of not shying away from showing his ghosts up close and in horrible detail. Even this simple picture of Dead Silence's ghost antagonist - Mary Shaw, a dead ventriloquist who lives on in the spirit of her old puppets - is probably more than enough to disturb the faint of heart. Mean old ladies? Not fun. Mean dead old ladies who like to murder people and turn their corpses into marionettes? That's just nasty.

Jennet Humfrye (The Woman in Black)

The Woman in Black Currently the best-known version of this tale is the recent film that starred Daniel Radcliffe as grieving lawyer Arthur Kipps, and which featured a decent blend of shocks and creepiness fleshed out by a handful of CGI and some excellent sound design. Perhaps the most frightening film version of The Woman in Black, however, is the 1989 TV movie, which seems to be just like any other period drama up until the point where it isn't, and is all the more frightening for it. Whereas the 2012 film had a number of jump scares and spooky reveals, the 1989 version had a scattering of unnerving encounters... and then it had that scene. For the full experience, however, it's worth seeing the stage version of The Woman in Black that is still running in the London West End after 25 years. Be warned, though: freed from the constraints of being on a screen, Jennet Humfrye can quite literally creep up on you.

Candyman (Candyman)

Tony Todd as Candyman With his fur-trimmed coat, intimidating height and gore-soaked hook, Candyman casts a pretty scary silhouette, but what really brought this urban legend to life was the utterly chilling tones of actor Tony Todd delivering poetic sermons that, no matter how near or far the character is in relation to the camera, always sound like he's whispering directly in your ear. Based on a short story by Clive Barker, Candyman draws on ancient folkloric rituals that involve speaking a ghost's name (most popularly, "Bloody Mary") in a mirror multiple times in order to summon them. This simple premise had many spooked teens who stayed up late to watch the movie standing in front of their mirrors and whispering "Candyman"... four times. You could say it one more time, but why take the risk?

The Headless Horseman (Sleepy Hollow)

Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman in 'Sleepy Hollow' Some find him frightening while others find him funny, but there's no denying that the Hessian Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is a truly nasty character, robbed of his free will and compelled to kill with an unnerving single-mindedness. He may be too solid to walk through walls, but a locked door doesn't pose much of a challenge for this undead butcher, and even the barrier of holy ground can't foil him for too long. Played by Christopher Walken when he has a face and by stuntman Ian Van Temperley when he doesn't, the Headless Horsemen of Tim Burton's 1999 film climbs out of hell through the roots of a bleeding tree, cuts the heads off sweet little boys and expresses affection by biting people's faces with his razor-sharp teeth. Who says romance is dead?

Kayako Saeki (Ju-On: The Grudge)

Kayako Saeki on the staircase in 'Ju-On: The Grudge' Poor Kayako. Like Sadako, she's an example of the classic Onryō (vengeful ghost) archetype, but there's never any indication in Ju-On: The Grudge that she was particularly unpleasant in life. Upon being brutally murdered and doomed to haunt the house where she died - and any unfortunate soul who enters it - Kayako became the stuff of nightmares for countless horror fans. It's hard to say what it is about this particular ghost that gets under people's skin and stays there, but Kayako is definitely the most hair-raisingly frightening of the ghosts in Ju-On: The Grudge. Maybe it's that weird, awful croaking sound that she makes. Maybe it's her hair. Maybe it's her stare. Maybe it's the unorthodox way she uses stairs. Maybe it's the fact that she's hiding under your duvet right now.

Conclusion

Ghostbusters still The time has come to put this list to rest, throw salt over its bones and then burn them Supernatural-style to make sure it can't come back. If you've watched a cursed videotape, just make a copy and pass it on to someone else. If you find two feral children in the woods, just leave them there. Stop after the fourth "Candyman," be careful not to scream and, whatever you do, don't fall asleep. Let us know in the comments whether or not your favorite nasty ghost showed up on our list. For those readers who have already been to see Insidious Chapter 2, tell us if you think any of James Wan's new ghosts are creepy enough to leave their marks on future top 10 lists, and check out the Screen Rant review to see if it lived up to our expectations.
TAGS: a nightmare on elm street, candyman, mama, sleepy hollow, the woman in black

34 Comments

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  1. Yeah, one of my friends was terrified of that death rattle after we went to see the US remake of The Grudge to the point that he literally punched someone who did it on the bus journey home.

    I’d add the ghost girl from Grave Encounters to the list because the moment her face turns demonic and the sound she makes at the same time is just terrifying when you never expected it to happen.

    • Sounds like you need to exchange one of your friends.

  2. I much prefer the ghosts from the following movies to a few that are on this list…

    Poltergeist
    The first Paranormal Activity
    The Orphanage
    1408
    The Amityville Horror

    • Good luck finding images to use for some of those.

      I dunno, the Paranormal Activity ghost….technically, he was a demon and the most he did was knocking and closing doors. I’d say that’s more of an annoyance than scary.

    • Ummm yeah but I don’t personally think Amytiville horror was scary…. and then they made like 12 spin-offs of it including the corny dollhouse chapter lol…… but hey, yeah whatever floats your boat man ;-)

  3. CANDYMAN and FREDDY ..absolutely Nastiest Ghost

  4. Casper’s nasty too.

    Traps you in a saccharine world where his friendliness annoys you to the brink of wanting to end things in the most horrific and violent way possible.

    The scripting for that movie classes it as horror, doesn’t it?

    Honestly, I think we could look at any Japanese, South Korean or Thai horror movie involving the paranormal and we got our list.

    Where’s Perri to weigh in on this? We need an expert in here, stat.

    • MAREBETO —– LOOK IT UP…. ITS COOL :-) AND TOMIE!!!!!! Oh you have to watch TOMIE!!!!

  5. The bath tub woman from The Shining? She makes one appearance, but it is so unnerving.

    • Not really sure if she’s a ghost of a real dead person or just an illusion.

  6. Glad to see Mary Shaw from Dead Silence on this list. While the movie was sub-par at best, she scared the sh*t out of me the first time I watched it around the time it came out. I also really liked the reference that it should be viewed to see the “roots” of what was to come. The image of a creepy old woman must really be an insight to what really frightens James Wan himself, as there is some form of this in four of his movies.

    • Or it’s just an unnerving image in and of itself.

      I mean, Insidious and The Conjuring have been accused of “stealing the best parts from great horror movies that came out 25 years ago” and creepy old women have always featured in classic stories.

      • True. While I don’t think James Wan “stole” anything, his movies have mirrored those of previous horror classics. This is most evident in “The Conjuring” where you can clearly see some parallels from “The Exorcist” and “The Amittyville Horror”. But whatever people say is supposedly just stolen rehashes, it’s clear Wan is doing it better then most. “The Conjuring” was a perfect ghost story imo. I’ve have at least been unnerved in watching any of his movies.

    • Okay so I’ve not seen dead silence —- but this photo made me jump and gave me chills…. its something in the eyes… those contact lenses are friggen freaky!!

      cant be the teeth because every 2nd person in the UK has teeth that bad lol — the skin palour…. awful…. the colour filter….. awesome…. classic james wan…. when you see his stuff like insidious chapter 1, you wonder if he was influenced by earlier works of Dario Augento ie. Suspiria :-)

      Granted there’s a lot of horror films I’ve not yet seen (ie retros) but I recently saw the original texas chainsaw massacre……….. gotta say…………. BRILLIANT!!!

  7. I thought Ray Park played the headless version of the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. If that’s true, then there are three Sith Lords in one movie: Count Dooku, Palpatine, and Darth Maul!

  8. Okay, why isn’t Gozer the Destroyer not on this list! I call shenanigans!

    • Or viggo the carpathian!!! LOL

  9. I don’t think Freddy Krugger is a ghost… He is more like a demon or devil.

  10. The ghost from the 1983 movie The Entity was viscous, even though I don’t think they ever showed it.

  11. la niña medeiros of [REC] !!!!!!!!!

  12. Freddy isn’t a ghost. Bad choice for this list!

    Yup, Mama did the willies for me.

    • He’s the vengeful spirit of a person who died. I’d be very interested to hear how he doesn’t qualify as a ghost.

  13. The angels/ devils that lie within the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders…still gives me the willies.

  14. Also, Pazuzu from the Exorcist. Not only the demonic possession of Regan’s body but the flash imag es of the white face nd blood red eyes!!

    • that thing has a name?????

      • I believe it is said in the 2nd Exorcist movie. I disliked it immensely.

      • Near the end of Exorcist#1 the shadow of the demon is seen on the wall behind the girl’s bed. You can find photos of a sculpture of this winged demon/god/creature on line. It was named Pazuzu, an “ancient Babylonian wind demon”. Bear in mind that “air” was an unknown substance that people only noticed once in a while when it was whipped up by unknown forces which wanted to knock their houses down.

  15. This list sucks. Maybe a couple of these ghosts deserve a spot but certainly not all of them. First of all, Freddy Kruegger is more of a DEMON than a ghost. Secondly, how can you not have The Librarian (Eleanor Twitty to us Ghostbuster fans) from Ghostbusters?! The ghosts in Poltergeist should’ve been on there as well as Betelgeuse.

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  19. Captain Howdy should be on this list, even if he only appears in The Exorcist for a split-second.

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  20. I was surprised that this left out the super creepy ghost guy from the movie Sinister. I felt that he was extremely creepy, especially how he caused whole families to die at the hands of each other and then would consume the souls of the surviving children! How is this guy not on the list?

    • I’m not sure he should be on this list because according to the movie he was an obscure pagan god. Not a ghost. But he was certainly creepy! I found that old preacher to be the creepiest ghost, because in life he prayed (preyed?) his flock to death and continued to torture them in the afterlife. But that’s me. Also Johnny Bartlett from “the Frighteners” I know it was a camp fest, but in his “death” guise, he made jump more than once.

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