Six Sexy Specters of Cinema

Written By Meg Elison

Meg Elison is a Philip K. Dick and Locus award winning author, as well as a Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Otherwise awards finalist. A prolific short story writer and essayist, Elison has been published in Slate, McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley.

Ghosts on screen are meant to make us moan with terror or mourn in torment, but sometimes it’s a little bit of both. Occasionally, ghosts are played by an actor so sexy, so compelling, as to confuse the basic drives of the onlooker. Sure, they’ve gone beyond flesh. But sometimes the flesh wants to follow into the beyond.

Here are the six sexiest ghosts on film.

6. Francesca in Ghost Ship (2002)

Played by Francesca Rettondini, this spectral songstress introduces the film, crooning the Italian song “Senza Fine” before a terrible fate befalls the unlucky upon the sea. Vamping it up in a red satin evening gown and opera gloves, both Rettondini’s voice and look are smooth as hell—which is exactly where she’s taking you. Ironically, the actress was also on board the infamous ocean liner Costa Concordia when it capsized in 2012. Life imitates art!

5. Moira O’Hara in American Horror Story S1 (2011)

Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge split duty as this seductive and unjustly murdered young woman. Moira’s story is long and weaves through all the history of the “Murder House,” because she’s a tireless domestic servant. Literally tireless, because a ghost never needs to sleep. Using her looks and charm as a young woman to seduce less-than worthy men, she also uses the wisdom and invisibility she enjoys as an older woman to gather secrets. That’ll teach us to overlook people in hospitality.

4. Candyman in Candyman (1991)

Tony Todd brings this vengeful spirit to life with a soupy-slow horror elegance and smoldering gaze that cannot be denied. Taken from a Clive Barker short story where the creep in question is as waxy-yellow as a beehive, later writers and directors have made this a distinctly Black series of films and legends linked to the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago. Thematically, Candyman has been enriched with the true experiences of extrajudicial murder of Black folks by people in authority, and the silence and mystery that often surrounds it. Is it weird to be turned on by the hook-murdering villain of a story as upsetting as that? Very well then, us horror nerds are weird.

3. Helen of Troy in Doctor Faustus (1967)

Any director would have a lot of nerve trying to get Elizabeth Taylor, the highest paid actress in the world at the time, to take on a non-speaking role as a purely decorative ghost of seduction in a dreary and cut-down production of Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century devil-made-me-do-it play. But there she is, bejeweled and impossibly lovely, walking bridal-slow through a movie starring her fifth and sixth husband, Richard Burton. Someone must of talked her into it, and our money is on the smooth-talking Faustus himself, who in the end could charm anyone but the devil— or the critics of this flop. Suggestion: a cut of this movie that’s just Helen of Troy, strolling past her drooling co-star. No words need be spoken.  

2. The Maitlands in Beetlejuice (1988)

Young Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are so charming and recognizable in the opening of this madcap goth adventure that it’s hard to believe they have to die to make way for Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, and Catherine O’Hara to take over the plot. Davis and Baldwin have to really work at being terrifying, because in their natural state they’re two movie-star-gorgeous newlyweds and newlydeads we can’t tear our eyes off of. Fingers crossed for the sequel to bring us what we crave, though it will likely not involve the two original hotties from the hauntable house.

1. Sam Wheat in Ghost (1990)

This movie gives us so many gifts: an endlessly quotable Whoopi Goldberg as a medium, Demi Moore at a stage in life so beautiful as to render a terrible haircut powerless, and the unforgettable pottery scene that launched a thousand kiln purchases. But best of all that is Patrick Swazye in a starring role as Sam Wheat who must act from beyond the early grave to save the love of his life. Absolute heartthrob Swayze is the kind of ghost we root for to gain the power to move objects in the physical world mainly because we all want to be touched like that, by someone whose beauty makes their death (on and off screen) even more painful than the usual thing.

Ghosts can’t be lovers, but they can be loved. And these can crawl under the sheets and haunt our dreams any night of the week.  

[image: Paramount Pictures]