The kiddies have gone back to school, the sun has started setting earlier, and the leaves are falling from the trees. That can only mean one thing, we're getting awful close to the greatest time of the year, Halloween. With the coming of the spookiest day of the year, a fever seems to come over us–we don't know exactly where it comes from, or how it is spread, but chances are it will hit you or someone close to you soon, if you don't feel it already. This fever can't be cured by a pill or a trip to the doctor, but there is a simple cure for it: lots of horror movies.
Yes, chances are you are suffering from horroritis, which is the need to watch scary, creepy, gory, and fun movies. The only cure is a healthy dose of horror movies each night. Side effects include staying up too late because you're scared, nightmares, and the urge to watch even more horror movies.
An all-time favorite horror sub-genre for people is the haunted house. Ghost stories freak us all out, even if some of you won't admit it. But with nearly a hundred years worth of haunted house movies, how can you figure out the best ones to watch? Lucky for you, we're here to help get you started! These fifteen movies are some of the scariest, nastiest, and greatest haunted house movies ever made. They may not all be your style, but we promise that each of them will leave a mark. So read on if you dare, but before you do, make sure that noise you heard was just the cat and not something more sinister...
15 The Orphanage
El Orfanato, better known as The Orphanage in the US, is the debut feature of writer Sergio G. Sánchez and director J. A. Bayona, and it is creepy as creepy can be. The movie focuses on a woman named Laura who, along with her husband Carlos and their adopted son Simón, move into the orphanage that Laura grew up in. The plan, at least at first, is to fix up the run-down home and turn it into a home for disabled children, but after Simón goes missing, things start to get really weird.
The Orphanage is a slow-burner, but that just makes the scares even scarier. Bayona knows how to build tension, and this movie thrives on it. At the very least, Tomás, the creepy ghost kid in the burlap clown mask, will stick in your head for days after you watch this one.
14 The Entity
There's a possibility that you've never heard of The Entity, and if you haven't heard of it, or if you have but you've never seen it, then you are really missing out. Don't take it from us, take it from Martin Scorsese who, in 2009, said that The Entity is the scariest movie ever made.
The movie stars Barbara Hershey as Carla Moran and is based on the true story of Doris Bither, a single mother of four who claimed to have been repeatedly assaulted, both physically and s*xually, by three spirits. The movie isn't easy to watch–the scenes where Hershey's character is assaulted are shocking. Director Sidney J. Furie keeps building the intensity as the movie goes on, and it starts off pretty intense as it is.
13 The Innkeepers
In 2009, filmmaker Ti West burst onto the scene with his third film, The House of the Devil. Two years after his babysitter horror movie captured the hearts of horror fans, West unleashed The Innkeeper, starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis.
The movie, which is about as slow a burn as a slow burn can be, is about Paxton's character Claire, one of only two employees left at the soon to be closed Yankee Pedlar Inn. Both Claire and her co-worker Luke – played by Healy – are amateur ghost hunters, and they see this final weekend of the supposedly haunted hotel as the perfect chance to finally get evidence of the paranormal.
The Innkeepers builds to the scares slowly, and if Paxton, Healy, and McGillis were lesser actors, the movie would be hard to get through. Luckily, their talents, mixed with West's writing and direction, makes The Innkeepers feel fresh, original, and never boring.
12 The Legend Of Hell House
The dream of every paranormal investigator is that an eccentric millionaire will pay them to investigate famous haunted houses. The only way, one would imagine, that it could get any better is if the famous haunted house is famous because the last group of investigators all mysteriously died during their investigation in the house.
That is the plot of The Legend of Hell House, starring Roddy McDowall. A group of investigators spend the weekend at the infamous Belasco House, which is, according to the story, the Mount Everest of haunted locations. Along with arguing among themselves, the investigators also have to deal with some angry spirits and a special machine that, if it works, will cleanse the house of spirits.
The movie didn't win over critics or audiences when it was released in 1973, but over the last 40 years, it has gained a solid cult following.
11 The Haunting
If you're looking for a solid double-feature to go along with The Legend of Hell House, The Haunting is what you need. Based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting is as much a movie about mental illness as it is about ghosts.
The movie follows a group of people who spend the weekend investigating a haunted house. Among the people are Dr. John Markway, who came up with the idea to investigate the house, Luke Sanderson, heir of the Hill fortune, and Eleanor Lance, who experienced poltergeist activity when she was a child and recently buried her mother.
Eleanor, played by Julie Harris, is the focus of the movie. The recent death of her mother has left Eleanor with a load of guilt–Eleanor was caring for her mother when she died, and this, mixed with the creepy stuff in the Hill house bringing back memories of her own haunted childhood, wreak havoc on her mind.
The Haunting was remade in 1999 with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor. It isn't nearly as good as the original.
10 The Evil Dead
For his first feature film, director Sam Raimi begged everyone he knew for loans so that he could get the budget together, cast his longtime friend and collaborator Bruce Campbell as the lead, and tortured his cast and crew, who all had to live in a small cabin together. The movie, made for less than $100,000, told the story of a group of friends who end up in a cabin in the woods and inadvertently release a whole bunch of horror onto the world. Originally, the movie was titled Book of the Dead but producer Irvin Shapiro suggested that Raimi come up with something catchier. In the end, Raimi chose the title that he thought was the least terrible: The Evil Dead.
Today it is hard to imagine a world where Sam Raimi isn't one of the biggest directors of all time, but when he made The Evil Dead, Raimi wasn't even old enough to legally drink. Still, the movie went on to become a cult classic, spawning two sequels and a TV series, as well as launching the careers of Raimi and Campbell and introducing the world to the "shaky-cam."
Before the Blair Witch Project, and well before Paranormal Activity, there was a British made for TV movie called Ghostwatch. The movie, which was shot like a live event and hosted by Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, and Mike Smith–all three well-respected new presenters in the UK–was based on the true story of the Enfield Poltergeist, the same story that The Conjuring 2 is based on.
What made Ghostwatch so terrifying, especially when it first aired on Halloween night in 1992, was that a large percentage of viewers believed that it was real. The movie was so controversial that despite its now legendary stance in horror history, the BBC refuses to re-air it.
Because of the live television feel to Ghostwatch, as well as the well thought-out scares and in-camera trickery used to pull them off, this is one of those movies that every horror fan watches as Halloween gets closer.
8 We Are Still Here
Ted Geoghegan's directorial debut, We Are Still Here, is a masterclass in creepy. The movie, about a husband and wife who are moving into a new home while mourning the tragic death of their son, isn't just filled with great spooky bits, but with honestly fantastic character work by the iconic Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig.
In the movie, the couple comes to believe that the spirit of their son is with them in the house. Without giving away too much, there's something much darker and much creepier than the son living in the house.
We Are Still Here has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is an impressive stat for any movie, let alone a horror film. One aspect that truly stands out is the design of the spirits in the house – they look nothing like any ghosts that have been in film before.
7 The Others
Set just after the end of World War II, The Others tells the story of Grace Stewart, who hires three new servants to help care for her giant house and her two creepy kids who can't go into the sun.
As the movie continues, Grace, played by Nicole Kidman, becomes convinced that there are more people secretly living in the house. Her daughter feeds these suspicions by telling her about a whole family she has seen around the place, but that family claims that the house is theirs.
Throughout the movie, as more and more weird stuff happens, Kidman's character gets crazier and crazier, leading to one of the greatest endings in horror movie history. We won't spoil it here, but you can bet your bottom that audiences at the time were shocked by what happened, turning the low-budget film not only into a critical success but also a massive box office smash.
Based on a short story by Stephen King (and you better believe you'll be seeing more of his work on this list), 1408 surprised critics and audiences by not just being a great horror movie, but a touching one as well.
Mikael Håfström's movie, which stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, tells the story of Mike Enslin (Cusack), a writer whose books are about his investigations of supposedly paranormal events around America. Mike, who has recently separated from his wife following the death of their daughter, checks into room 1408 at the Dolphin, a once fancy hotel in New York City. For the last 95 years, anyone who has stayed in room 1408 has died within hours of checking in, so the room has quite the reputation.
Mike soon learns that the reputation is well-earned.
Seven years after changing the world of horror with their film Saw, Leigh Whannell and James Wan released Insidious and changed it all again by reminding people just how amazing a good ghost story could be.
The movie, which stars Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, and Lin Shaye, tells the story of the Lambert family and their battle with spirits that are looking to enter the body of the oldest child, Dalton, who has fallen into a coma that the doctors can't explain.
Whannell's script and Wan's sense of style and pacing make Insidious an intense watch, but what makes the movie really stand out is the work of the cast, all of whom sell the scares and the emotion of the tale. And while none of the sequels have matched the original, the entire Insidious series, with a fourth movie on the way, is well worth watching.
4 The Conjuring
James Wan enjoyed freaking audiences out with Insidious so much, he decided to start a second series of spooky movies with The Conjuring.
Based on the lives of Ed and Loraine Warren, The Conjuring tells the story of the 1971 case of the Perron family as they move into a new home, only to find that it is haunted. With the help of the Warrens, the Perrons are able to face off against the evil living in their home.
Along with bringing Insidious star Patrick Wilson to take the part of Ed Warren, Wan brought in Vera Farmiga to play Loraine Warren. The chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga is a major part of what makes this movie and its excellent sequel work so well. Add in some amazing scares and it is no wonder that, while other franchises are struggling to set up their own universe of movies, the Conjuring movie universe, which includes two Annabelle movies and an upcoming Nun film, is breaking box office records.
3 Paranormal Activity
While The Blair Witch Project tends to get the honor of being considered the movie that kicked off the found footage avalanche, it wasn't the first of its kind, and it came out eight years before the real found footage movement began.
The movie that is really responsible for the deluge of found footage flicks is Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity. The movie, made for just $15,000 dollars, grossed nearly $200 million worldwide, and with good reason – it is spooky as all get out.
Paranormal Activity uses repetition to build the scares. Every few scenes, we watch Katie and Micah sleep, as a camera has been set up to record anything that may happen during the night. The footage of the couple sleeping is sped up but returns to normal speed whenever something odd happens. With each night in the film, what happens while the two sleep gets crazier and crazier, coming to an amazing climax that audiences loved so much, it spawned five more movies.
2 The Shining
While Stephen King isn't a fan of Stanley Kubrick's take on his book, The Shining is easily one of the best horror movies ever made.
The story follows the Torrance family as they move into the Overlook Hotel for the winter. Father Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, is a recovering alcoholic who takes the job as caretaker of the soon to be empty hotel in hopes that it will help him reconnect with his wife Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall, and their son Danny. He also hopes it will give him time to write his book.
The Shining is a masterpiece that mixes the very real pent-up anxiety one can feel when they get cabin fever with the very frightening idea of evil ghosts trying to get a man to kill his family. While the movie certainly deviates from the book greatly, there is no denying Kubrick's talent and just how terrifying the movie is.
When the creator of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the man behind Jaws come together to make a movie about a family being attacked by ghosts, you know that movie is going to be amazing.
Directed by Tobe Hooper with a story by Steven Spielberg – who also produced – Poltergeist is one of the most loved and freakiest haunted house movies ever made.
The movie follows the Freeling family as they become the first people to move into Cuesta Verde, an under construction housing community that Steven Freeling works for. Not long after the family moves in, things start getting weird, but when Carol Anne, the youngest member of the Freeling family, gets sucked into a portal in a closet, it is time to call in the experts, namely Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina Barrons.
Poltergeist is filled with scares that will stick in your mind for the rest of your life. Just don't watch the remake – that version is terrifyingly bad.
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