1. The Orphanage (2007)
A Spanish story of loss and redemption that will have the most hard-bitten watcher wiping away a tear. Like all the best ghost stories it works, first and foremost, as a story. In a very strong cast Belen Rueda's lead performance is compelling and never overdone, and the gradual shift from domestic drama to supernatural mystery hasn't been done better, in part thanks to use of children's games. 'One, two, three, knock on the wall...'
2. Let the Right One In (2008)
Scandinavian stuff is big at the moment, but this one is arguably the best example of the Nordic horror genre. It's not to everyone's taste - it's take on vampirism is rather grim. But it is also careful to keep the most violent screen off-screen and is careful to show just how problematic a vampire's existence can be. It is also one of the few films that reveals just what happens when a vampire enters a home uninvited. Here is a study of loneliness and need, one far more compelling than films that glamorise - and hence trivialise - the undead.
3. Faust (1926)
Still visually remarkable nearly ninety years on, F.W. Murnau's take on the classic German tale bears comparison to his better-known Nosferatu. The opening sequence, in which an angel and a devil manifest themselves over a Renaissance landscape, is stunning. The performance of Emil Jannings as Mephisto is timeless; he conveys the sense of mischief found in Mystery play depictions of the Devil as a worldly tempter and yet - as the image below shows - he also channels Milton's magisterial Satan. It doesn't get much more supernatural than this.
|Hard time in the old town tonight...|
4. The Eye (2002)
Wong-Kar Mun, blind since early childhood, receives a cornea transplant and must learn to see again. Unfortunately Mun seems to see things other people can't. This Pang Brothers movie has all their distinctive qualities - snappy dialogue, well-drawn characters, and a fast-moving story. It's based on a mixture of modern urban legends and Chinese folk tales, notably the belief in 'hungry ghosts'. A likeable film with some truly memorable scenes, this one is for people who don't want their horror films to be too downbeat.
5. Kuroneko (1968)
Back to feudal Japan for this one, a tale (or possibly tail) of the brutal slaying of two women by a gang of renegade samurai and the horrific vengeance that is exacted. Black cats have arguably been over-used as furry props, usually just jumping out to scare someone as they make there way through a haunted mansion. Here blood-drinking feline shapeshifters make the cat a potent symbol of wild magic, and the visual effects remain impressive. Don't watch it with your furry friend, though - it might give them ideas.