It's that time of year when haunted houses start springing up all over America. But, contrary to what your creepy old neighbor may tell you, there is also a rich tradition of haunted houses in the movies. Some of them are scarier than others, but they all tap into that universal fear of weird noises in the dark. So if you're in the mood to visit a haunted house without actually visiting a haunted house, here are five haunted house movies that will ensure you never sleep well again.
"The Cat and The Canary"
Pretty much the definitive haunted house movie, this is the movie that created the genre of "haunted house movie." The plot is simple, having to do with a group of people who believe they're in line to inherit a large sum from a deceased relative. What they don't know is that the house they've been ordered to converge on is, as they say, "haaaauuunnnntttttteeeeeddddd." The circa-1927 scares may be a bit creaky by today's standards but the atmosphere is spooky enough to cause light insomnia at the very least.
"House on Haunted Hill"
This movie takes a haunted house and adds an element that would improve almost any abode, ghost-inhabited or otherwise: Vincent Price. Price plays Frederick Loren, who invites five unlucky individuals to spend the night at an old house for $10,000 each. The catch? The house might be a little bit haunted. This fun yet genuinely creepy movie probably won't be the last thing you think about before drifting off to sleep.
Hill House may not look like a haunted house, but … OK, it does look like a haunted house. But are those ghosts you hear thumping in the middle of the night, or is it just your own imagination? That question is at the center of "The Haunting," and will probably be at the center of your troubled psyche if you watch it too late at night.
Sometimes having a haunted house is the lesser of two evils. That's probably not the case of "Beetlejuice," though not for lack of trying. The anarchic titular ghost needs to be invited three times to get into your house, but once he's there, good luck getting him out. And even if the movie doesn't scare you into a state of perpetual awakeness, the movie's infectious title song might keep you up for a couple hours at least.
"'Alien' is NOT a haunted house movie," you're probably saying to yourself. Au contraire. The spaceship Nostromo might not be the most traditional haunted house that ever was, but you can't say the Alien of "Alien" doesn't share a lot of qualities with the spooky menaces in other haunted houses. There's even a cat that startles the characters at inopportune times, in classic haunted house fashion. Remember: Just because it's an alien rather than a ghost doing the haunting, and just because the house is a spaceship, doesn't mean it's not a haunted house.
These five haunted house movies will ensure you never sleep well again, especially if you're sensitive to such things. Oh well, at least your house is safe. What was that noise?