While you aren’t likely to come across a ghost in the course of your day to day routine, there is no shortage of paranormal hauntings coming out of Hollywood. In fact, movies about haunted houses are almost as old as the film industry itself. In honor of the latest addition to the genre–Insidious, on Blu-ray & DVD now–I’ve compiled this list of the nine creepiest haunted house films. I suggest reading it in a Victorian-era mansion belonging to an eccentric millionaire, perhaps on the anniversary of a mass murder.
Paranormal Activity tells the story of a young couple living in a new home who are stalked by a demonic presence. In order to capture evidence of the supernatural being, they deploy surveillance cameras, which give the film a documentary-like feel. The film was well received by audiences and critics alike, but as the most recent entry on this list, I felt obligated to place it at the bottom. Only time will tell how this modern take on a classic premise holds up.
In an effort to prove the existence of the supernatural, Dr. John Markway, along with three companions, sets out to investigate the Hill House. It isn’t long until strange occurrences begin to plague the group. But like most good horror films, all is not what it seems.
When a young boy named Carlos is made parentless by the Spanish Civil War, he becomes the newest resident of a local orphanage. But after spening some time in his new home, Carlos realizes that humans aren’t the only inhabitants roaming the grounds. If you like Guillermo del Toro, you owe it to yourself to check out this often overshadowed entry in his filmography.
The Changeling tells the story of Dr. John Russell (played by Oscar winner George C. Scott), who is trying to piece his life back together after the death of is wife and child. While renting a Victorian-era home in the Seattle area, the ghost of a murdered child begins haunting him. His investigation of the child’s death leads Russell to many unanswered questions involving a powerful local family that is desperate to let sleeping dogs lie.
Belasco House is refereed to as the “Mount Everest” of haunted houses. This is due in no small part to the fact that is was the site of a mass murder which is thought to have been carried out by the home’s now-missing owner, Emeric Belasco. At the behest of an eccentric millionaire, physicist Lionel Barrett sets out for the home in order to prove the existence of life after death, but ends up risking his own life in the process.
Vincent Price plays eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren in this horror classic in which five people are invited to spend the night in Loren’s haunted mansion. If they live through the night, they will receive $10,000 each (it was a lot of cash back in 1959). In order to up the ante, the guests are all armed with handguns. Add the threat of the supernatural to the mix, and it’s not hard to imagine what could go wrong with this scenario.
Based on a book by the same name, Amityville Horror was reportedly based on a “true story.” And like most horror films that are based on a “true story,” the story in question turned out to be absolute bullshit. Even so, the film is one of the creepiest of all time. When the Lutz family buys their supposed dream home, they are fully aware that it was the site of a mass murder. But what can go wrong? After all, houses don’t have memories, right? If that were the case, it would have made for a very boring film.
Steven Spielberg‘s addition to the horror genre tells the story of the Freeling family, and the supernatural forces attempting to drive them from their new home. As the film progresses, the paranormal activity increases, and experts are called in to asses the situation. As it turns out, the home was built on the site of a grave yard, and while developers moved the gravestones, they neglected to move the graves. This doesn’t sit will with the ghosts of the graves’ inhabitants, and it doesn’t bode well for the Freeling’s youngest daughter.
This Stanley Kubrick classic has become one of the most influential horror films of all time, casting its shadow not only on the horror genre, but throughout pop-culture. Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who agrees to take a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. While he plans to use the job’s extensive free time to further his writing career, the ghosts who inhabit the hotel have other ideas. Apparitions plague Jack and his family, pushing him beyond the brink of homicidal madness.