The cinematic horror genre has a variety of categories that can please just about anyone’s taste for the macabre. Body horror, slashers, thrillers, and ghost stories have all been explored in search of the adrenaline rush brought about by fear. But there is one trope that audiences can’t seem to get enough of and that is the haunted house movie. Be it a simple haunting of a ghost with unfinished business or a house being a conduit to another world or dimension, the haunted house movie continues to slay at the box office.
Regardless of your experiences, one can always relate to the haunted house trope. be it a noise in the middle of the night or the rearrangement of stationery items that you could have sworn wasn’t like that a minute ago, the haunted house film is here to stay. Here is a list of ten of the scariest ones that will make you look twice at the place you call, “Home”.
The Lutz family moved into a house in Amityville NY only to discover that there had been a brutal murder of the entire family committed by their eldest son. After getting settled in, their troubles were only beginning as strange occurrences such as blood oozing from the walls, and strange voices could be heard throughout the house. Made famous by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the Amityville house has been in the American conscious since the 70s due to the book and film which speculates that haunted spirits caused the current and previous troubles plaguing the house and whoever resides there.
House on Haunted Hill
A millionaire couple invites five strangers to stay in a haunted house for the chance to win $10,000. It’s a classic tool in the haunted house trope but what is really interesting about this film is that it is not only the ghosts that the strangers need to fear. The situation quickly devolves as it becomes every man for himself as trust becomes a rarity between the strangers as well as the couple. And of course, there are the malicious spirits to contend with.
Based on the novella by Shirley Jackson of the same name, The Haunting focuses on a scientist and a group of volunteers conducting an investigation on Hill house. An infamous structure that locals fear due to its dark past, The Haunting favors substance over style and offers an eerie look using terror and anticipation rather than simple gore tactics. For this reason, it is considered one of the best movies of the horror genre.
The Changeling follows a man who just lost his wife and is simply trying to move on. However, when he moves into a Victorian mansion, he is pursued by a spirit who wants him to help solve his murder but in doing so, unlocks a decades old conspiracy. If you need any more coercing, this film is based on the actual experiences of the screenwriter when he stayed in an old Victorian mansion.
Poltergeist set the standard for what the haunted house film movie became. When a family moves into a new housing development that the father’s employer is building, strange things begin to happen including things moving on their own, strange occurrences with the television, and ultimately the family’s daughter being snatched and taken to the other side. Building on the urban legend of the ancient Native American Burial ground, the film made, “They’re here!” one of the most infamous catch phrases in horror movie history.
Ju-On: The Grudge
If haunted houses aren’t your thing, perhaps haunted people may be more your speed. Ju-On tells the story of a rage filled ghost that is spawned from a murder. This ghost can hop from body to body, unleashing its vengeance. remade in America as simply The Grudge, Ju-On is also a precursor to It Follows.
Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the story follows a governess who believes her place of employment is haunted and her two charges are possessed by evil spirits. Through cinematography and skillful directing, the film relies less on jump scares and more on mood and lighting to evoke the psychological terror intended.
The Conjuring tells the tale of the Perron family as they move into a new farmhouse. An unexplained force seems intent on harming the couple’s five daughters through their mother. investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren from the Amityville house, the film exudes a terrifying atmosphere and good old fashioned jump scares and even set up its own horror cinematic universe.
The Others pays a loving homage to classic haunted house tales with a bit of a twist. A woman cares for her sick children during WWII. Due to the photosensitivity of the children, the house is kept in darkness which offers a chilling look into their lives. When three new servants arrive and begin to act strangely, the mother suspects that the house is haunted. The twist ending is not wholly original but makes this film worth a look.
Saving the most interesting for last, Ghostwatch was actually a mockumentary that aired on the BBC in 1992. Filmed previously, the film aired as if it were live and focused on a London home that had been inhabited by a malicious spirit by the name of ‘Pipes’. Based on the true story of the Enfield Haunting, viewers believed they were actually witnessing a haunted house. The BBC actually banned if from airing for a decade afterward.
Haunted houses are a natural part of our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. The home is where we spend most of our time and is what we as a collective are most familiar with. It gives us a sense of familiarity and safety. But what happens when we don’t feel safe in our own homes.
Intruders are one thing, but when the house itself has decided it doesn’t want you dwelling inside of it, one cannot feel safe anywhere. What happens when the thing we go to for protection is what we need protection against?