Get your creep on: The very best haunted house movies
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” unless I’m in a horror movie, the forgotten lyric in Ray Parker Jr.’s iconic Ghostbusters theme. Since the early days of cinema, haunted houses have been the easiest way to get audiences scared of their own homes.
Whether it’s random creaking, doors opening, or items moving without your knowledge, movies like The Shining and Paranormal Activity have made us scared of our own beds. A good movie haunted house has three things: a spooky legend about a grisly murder or legendary figure who lived in the house, an unsuspecting family who have no clue about the story, and a lot of unexplained incidents that most likely involve the family’s children.
Mix it in with some screaming and blood and you got yourself a great horror film. But the best ones will go above and beyond, taking the genre somewhere new.
Netflix’s new show Locke and Key proves it wants to go in a new direction with the genre with the director of comic author Joe Hill. Even The Haunting of Hill House breaks a lot of haunted house traditions. But before these shows could break expectations on Netflix, these movies had to break them in theaters.
The very low budget hit: Paranormal Activity
Sometimes you don’t need a bunch of fancy actors or a severe amount of special effects. The first film launching a whole collection of low-budget horror films proves sometimes all you need is a good screamer and an even better premise.
Remember, it only cost director Oren Peli $11,000 to make one of the best haunted house horror movies of all time, so you can do a lot with a small budget.
The visionary’s gothic ghost story: Crimson Peak
Guillermo del Toro’s catalog is a strange mix of sci-fi/fantasy, comic book, and whatever you want to call The Hobbit trilogy. But none come close to the mystery of Crimson Peak.
It’s Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain in a haunted estate with a long family history, that’s the setting for some gothic horror! What more can you ask for from del Toro?
The “technology is bad” story: Poltergeist
Well, that may not be the true message this movie is trying to spell out, Poltergeist definitely makes you want to turn your TV off by the end of the movie out of fear of the monsters beyond.
Legendary horror director Tobe Hooper brings his thrills to the film, but producer Steven Spielberg at least tries to keep them tame for a PG rating. Obviously, watch the original from the ’80s, not the joke that is the 2015 remake.
The overseas take on a tired genre: House (Hausu)
If you’re a horror fan, you may have already heard of this film already. After a disappointing release in the ’70s in Japan and getting panned by critics, the film made its way to America in 2009 and ended up much more successful.
It’s a little bit cheesy at times, considering the house itself is the villain, but it’s a refreshing take on a good ol’ haunted house.
The stop motion darling: Coraline
While most wouldn’t consider this with your normal haunted house fare, Coraline has amazing stop motion that brings Neil Gaiman’s story to life. Directed by legendary stop motion director Henry Selick, the story of a haunted house within a house is such a unique take on the cliche.
It almost goes starts going into the idea of a mirror dimension, where you step through a mirror to see the world your reflection lives in.
The comedic haunted house story: Beetlejuice
Like we can talk about haunted houses without naming Michael Keaton’s most iconic role. Tim Burton has mastered comedic horror stories between Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Ok maybe that last one’s scarier but you get the point. But besides the obvious praise to Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis deserve credit as the best dead couple ever.
Disney making money off their own property: The Haunted Mansion
In case you’ve forgotten, Tower of Terror, Mission to Mars, The Country Bears, Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion, and the upcoming Jungle Cruise are all based on Disney World attractions.
However, we’ll allow it for Haunted Mansion, because the nostalgia drives us to love Eddie Murphy’s hijinks in this. Then again, if you’ve never seen this film, you probably won’t like it as an adult, and that’s ok too.
The movie that made Blumhouse a horror icon: Insidious
While Paranormal Activity was the money maker for Blumhouse in the beginning, Insidious solidified its name in the horror industry, showing their ability to make lightning strike more than once.
Besides, who doesn’t love a film about a child who goes into a coma and gets possessed by demons? Insidious is a strong start to a lukewarm franchise.
The tried and true classic: The Amityville Horror
Everyone and their mother has tried to tell the story of the Amityville Murders, but the first one to this day has done it the best. Every cliche we named at the beginning of this article? It comes from The Amityville Horror, which was truly the first big haunted house horror film.
If you want to see where the horror genre started, this is the place to go. But the series gets worse from here, so do yourself a favor and stop at the first one.