When Roger Corman told American International Pictures (AIP) that he wanted to make a film based on Edgar Allan Poe's, The Fall of the House of Usher, the studio balked. They didn't think that younger people would pay to see a movie based on reading teachers handed out in school. Never one to take "no" for an answer, Roger Corman pressed the issue.
He had loved reading Edgar Allan Poe when he was younger. The classic author's gothic tales of the ghastly and the macabre were ripe for the film treatment. The issue was that The Fall of the House of Usher was more psychological. AIP was known for quick films featuring creatures of every ilk that viewers knew were bad. Edgar Allan Poe's story didn't seem to have that going for it.
Eventually, AIP, probably thinking they had him licked, asked Roger Corman, "Where's the monster?" "The house is the monster." He replied. And with that, Roger Corman would begin a cycle of films based on the many works of Edgar Allan Poe. There had been horror movies that had taken place in scary homes before, but these films from Edgar Allan Poe represented a whole new level that horror could reach in the haunted house genre.
As you know, Halloween is around the corner. While it is a time of costumes, tricks, treats and scares...It is also a celebration of haunted houses. This niche industry is such a big deal that there are haunted houses that run all year long; thus jettisoning the idea that they are only for Halloween. Groups of people even pay big money to go into haunted houses and be scared out of their minds, simply to have the thrill of being trapped in such a place.
With all of this in mind, we wanted to do something special. We wanted to celebrate the haunted house and all the richness that milieu can give a film on screen. In this small space, terror can be lurking around every corner. The familiar becomes unfamiliar. The place that is supposed to be ones sanctuary can become their own personal hell. So sit back and enjoy our list of the 17 Best Haunted House Movies!
1The Shining 1980
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a big haunted house movie in every way. First of all, the way the Overlook Hotel (where essentially all of the movie takes place) is presented on screen is massive. It is shot in a way that I don't think we even see 1/4 of it! Yet, it still seems huge. Add to this that Stanley Kubrick used multiple sound stages and essentially created a hotel for his movie, and The Shining might just be the single best haunted house movie ever to have been lensed. What is more creepier? Jack Nicholson becoming insane after being at the Overlook for a few days? The fact that his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) seem to have nothing to do in this secluded cauldron? Or, the real creepy stuff like the two sisters who keep appearing, the way Danny talks to himself, or the film's soundtrack? Substituting gore for slow burn chills, The Shining is a one of kind masterpiece in this genre.
Children of the 1980s, who doesn't remember the creepy moment when the late Heather O'Rourke, after seeing apparitions crash into her parents bedroom, turned to them and declared, "They're here." What made this movie scarier than any effect director Tobe Hooper could throw in it, was the fact that it was set a suburbia that closely resembled the very towns that we were all watching this movie in. It was almost as if once the credits started, we no longer had the safety of leaving the movie. It stayed with us making our return home after seeing it that much more disturbing.
3Paranormal Activity 2009
Like Poltergeist, Paranormal Activity was set in a suburbia that we all know. So when this little tale came out of nowhere to scare the hell out of us, it was really jarring because horror films had kinda lost their mojo. The Saw franchise had entered ridiculousville and other "scary" movies were banking on editing, rather than their own content, to provide the chills. Oren Peli set his movie in everywhere USA. The house was nondescript. This worked to excellent effect because once the scares started happening, viewers got to see them in a place they were familiar with. Also, by the time that things are really going crazy, the house seemed to creep up on us. As if it was saying, "Hey, I'm a part of this too and you've made a big mistake ignoring me."
4The Amityville Horror 1979
With eyes that look like windows, this creepy house (to this day!) is a place that I find hard to visit on film. There is something about the way it is structured that just seems to be a den of evil. Add the fact that the film is based on a true story and that makes it even that much more scarier. This film follows the Lutz clan. This family of 5 moves into their new home even though they are told by their realtor of the previous carnage that has happened there. Things start getting crazy, then they get crazier, priests are brought in and suddenly it becomes apparent that everything going on isn't just bad pipes and a rotting foundation. The Amityville Horror is a great horror movie. It functions like TThe Exorcist in its ability to scare. This is probably because it is based on true events and thus we can't keep it at arm's length.