There’s something about large houses, especially Gothic ones, that just creeps people out. They’re so big and foreboding and creaky and altogether unsettling. And having to live there?! Forget about it. In Guillermo del Toro‘s new film
The haunted house movie is certainly nothing new, and if I’m being honest, that remains the one type of horror film that’s sure to scare me. Because ghosts are scary. I’ve attempted, through clasped fingers and behind pillows, to compile my seven favorite haunted house movies of all time! I’ve also left off movies where it doesn’t take place in a house, specifically. So, like, del Toro’s
The Conjuring (2013)
This one is only a couple years old, but I couldn’t help but put it on the list. It’s not just old mansions that can be haunted, as a few movies on this list will attest. Sometimes a regular old house in the country can be scary as all get out. As in, people, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. James Wan’s film sees a family moving in in the ’70s and very quickly a malevolent force begins toying with the children and mother, and only a pair of real-life paranormal investigators can help. It’s a supremely scary movie, and what Wan does incredibly well is to set up the scares in mundane ways. The centerpiece of the whole film is the Blind Man’s Bluff game where the mother (Lily Taylor) is blindfolded and looking for her kids who clap to let her know they’re around. Except, that’s not them clapping. So scary.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
British horror from the ’60s and ’70s is a personal favorite of mine, and this movie, based on a Richard Matheson novel, is one of the best. A group of people with psychic abilities or sensitivities along with a parapsychologist stays in an old house that was once owned by an infamous sadist. A lot of evil things happened in the house and it seems a lot of that energy has stuck around. One of the psychics, played by the excellent Roddy McDowall, has been there before and it nearly drove him insane, but he returns in order to collect a hefty paycheck. Director John Hough (who also did Disney’s
The Others (2001)
Remember 2001, when horror movies were terrible? This supremely creepy Gothic mystery changed that a bit. Nicole Kidman plays a mother of two children who is attempting to make them believe their house isn’t a super haunted place. Buuuut, all the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. There are a lot of really, really eerie moments in the movie, and the fact that the movie brings in those creepy sepia-toned photographs of dead people (that were really a thing) into the narrative helps set the proper atmosphere. This movie also has one of the best twist reveals of any horror movie, though at the time, the twist ending was the huge thing so everybody was doing it. But the question of who really are “The Others” is one that will stick with you after you see it, still.
The Orphanage (2007)
On a similar vein as
The Innocents (1961)
I cannot tell you how much this movie creeped me out after seeing it last year. Black and white movies aren’t usually the most scary, but if they’re as gorgeously shot and subtle and downright disturbing as this one, it doesn’t matter how old or greyscale it is. Based on Henry James’ novel
“B-b-b-but Kyle! That’s not about an old, dark manor house at all!” Yeah, I know, fictional person, that’s the whole point! Just like
The Haunting (1963)
And finally, this was the no-braineriest of no-brainers on any of these lists I’ve done recently. 52 years later, Robert Wise’s minimalist horror film is perhaps the most perfect haunted house in film history. Why? Well, because it’s not a house full of ghosts; Hill House itself is haunted with evil. The recurrent theme of loneliness, isolation, and depression have made the house, which has winding staircases and long corridors, a place of real bad mojo. We never see any ghosts in the film, but the sound effects and amazing practical trick of having doors pulsing in and out (Disneyland ripped off that trick for the Haunted Mansion ride) are all we need to feel very ill at ease and sure that something sinister is going on. The film also has troubling psychological implications for its main characters, especially Julie Harris’ repressed psychic who’s spent her life taking care of her sickly mother and not venturing out into the world. Naturally, the house has a great time with such an innocent creature. This is the movie that coined the phrase, “Some houses are born bad.”
There you have it! My top 7 favorite haunted house movies. There are A LOT more movies that I couldn’t fit on this list, but they’re still great. Share your favorites in the comments below!