Haunted House horror movies have been popular with moviegoers for decades. The fact that they are often based on urban legends, ghost stories, and local folklore not only makes them creepy but also interesting.
Additionally, we all know, a little bit of mystery adds to the enjoyment of any horror movie, so the element of mystery often found in haunted house horror films is a great addition. At the end of the day, it is the horror of the unknown that keeps us coming back to haunted house horror movies.
While most haunted house horror movies are set in such locations like old, creepy, mansions and feature paranormal activities like ghosts, demons, witches, poltergeists, zombies, and demons., some are actually set in more mundane locations. The Shining, for example, is set in a haunted hotel, but it’s far from the classic haunted house.
10. The Orphanage | 2007 | 7.4 IMDB
I can’t sum up this film’s plot any better than the reviewer from Slant Magazine did: “The Orphanage is the rare film that can unsettle even the most jaded of viewers, and it’s because of its lack of pretension.”
To put it bluntly, this is a masterfully crafted film. Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are masterpieces in their own right and were both made before The Orphanage. In my opinion, this is the most gripping story he’s told so far, and it’s the only one I would recommend to a wide audience.
The film is told with such restraint that it’s easy to dismiss the film’s horror elements and focus on the family drama. But once the ghosts start to appear, there’s no denying the haunting nature of the film’s atmosphere. This is a cast of characters who all deserve to be sympathized with, and their plight is what makes the film so terrifying. In the end, it’s a story of a family who loses their child, and we feel every bit as helpless as they do.
9. The Shining | 1980 | 8.4 IMDB
An adaptation of the famed horror novel by Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of the macabre is a masterful chiller that will terrify your socks off. The film gained notoriety due to Kubrick’s insistence on filming at the actual Overlook Hotel, which is where King himself had written the book. This is one of the few instances where a film adaption exceeds expectations.
Jack Nicholson is the stand-out star as he plays the role of a writer who is tormented by demons both from his past and from the hotel itself. The Shining is a film that’s both scary and disturbing. It’s the type of film that you want to watch on a stormy night alone. Sure, the film has some jump scares, but the real scares lie in the dialogue, the set design, and the ominous score. Spooky stuff indeed.
8. Insidious | 2010 | 6.8 IMDB
One of the most recent entries on this list, Insidious was so successful it spawned a franchise. That’s a rare feat for any film, let alone an R-rated horror flick. It’s also one of the best films of its kind based on the strength of its concept. It also features one of the most terrifying and memorable scenes in the genre’s history. A little girl who can fly!
I recommend watching the film in the dark, alone, with headphones. It’s not just a great horror movie, it’s one of the best films for the Halloween season, period. Watching it in a public place or with a group will only lessen the overall experience.
7. Beetlejuice | 1988 | 7.5 IMDB
If Poltergeist is the ultimate haunted house movie, then Beetlejuice was the ultimate haunted house film. It took an old house and added a bit of zany comedy and a supernatural couple eager to be rid of the pesky family that moved in on top of them. The result is a film that makes you believe in ghosts and makes you believe in the afterlife.
Beetlejuice is a horror-comedy film released in 1988. It was directed by Tim Burton, who also co-wrote the story and the screenplay with Michael McDowell. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Michael Keaton as a family that tries to kill their recently deceased father, only to accidentally summon a “bio-exorcist” named Beetlejuice (Keaton).
6. The Changeling | 1980 | 7.2 IMDB
George C. Scott portrays a grief-stricken composer in the midst of a breakdown in this haunted-house movie. Production on the movie was marred by delays, with director Peter Medak being forced to step in for Clive Donner.
The film is based on a true story about a man that was murdered in his home, and the police concluded that his wife killed him. A string of strange occurrences in the homemade them re-open the case, and they charged his wife with murder. The murder weapon was never found.
This movie was based on the real-life story of composer Russell Owen, who was murdered in the house where he lived. His wife was eventually charged with the murder.
5. The Innocents | 1961 | 7.8 IMDB
Based on the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Innocents is a prime example of effective low-budget filmmaking. It’s never cheap, but rather it’s a small film with small sets and limited resources.
The Innocents is a haunting tale of a governess who becomes haunted by a spectral child and her deceased lover as she tries to protect the children she’s charged with caring for. It’s a slow burn that takes its time establishing the characters and their personalities before it begins hinting at the supernatural elements. But once the spirits begin to appear, they’re not lurking in the background.
The film is filled with atmosphere. The Gothic sets, music, and performances all work together to create a feeling of dread that permeates the picture.
4. The Conjuring| 2013 | 7.5 IMDB
James Wan works his magic again with The Conjuring, another masterpiece of horror that blends the two genres of thriller and horror into one cohesive, bone-chilling experience. This film has everything: an engaging plot, excellent acting, and a creepy atmosphere. There’s a lot of jump scares, but they don’t feel cheap. The horror is built up and it pays off in the end.
Of course, the film is also based on real-life haunting, which only adds to the effectiveness of the scares. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga (Wilson’s real-life wife, by the way) are both fantastic as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life paranormal investigators whose lives were chronicled in the book and film The Conjuring. In fact, the whole cast is fantastic, really.
The Conjuring is one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen, and it’s not just because of the horror. Great acting, excellent directing, and a deep, compelling story make this one a winner.
3. The Others | 2001 | 7.6 IMDB
A Spanish-English production starring Nicole Kidman, The Others follows a similar storyline to Poltergeist. A family moves into a creepy old mansion and soon finds themselves terrorized by ghosts. The Others was written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, the same filmmaker who gave us The Sea Inside, and it’s a great deal more chilling than that Oscar-winning drama.
Kidman is the one who really carries the film, though. She’s a tad unhinged, a little neurotic, and utterly convincing as a woman who knows she’s being haunted but can’t quite figure out who or what is doing the haunting. Her children are fragile little things, and the pair is perfect in their roles. There is plenty of jump scares in this film, but the subtle scares and the claustrophobic atmosphere are what set it apart from the pack.
2. The Witch In The Window | 2018 | 5.8 IMDB
Director, writer, and producer Jennifer Ann Burton is a woman of many talents, and her cinematic horror debut is an absolute gem. Once the young family moves into their new home, strange things begin to happen in the attic. As the wife and mother begins to see things that others can’t, the family’s faith is put to the test. Her husband and children are faced with some hard truths as the answers to their problems may be supernatural in nature.
This is one of the most hauntingly gorgeous horror movies I’ve seen in years, and the cinematography and production design are absolutely outstanding. The house is absolutely gorgeous on the inside and out and the attic is a wonderful mix of dungeon and art. It’s the perfect setting for a film that relies heavily on the terror of the unknown and the tension created when an entire family loses their faith. The Witch in the Window also has a very strong cast with a pair of great child actors, and Amber Marie Bollinger steals the show as the family’s troubled daughter.
1. Ghost Watch | 1992 | 7.6 IMDB
I first saw Ghost Watch on British television as a kid in the ’90s and it scared the absolute shit out of me. It’s a mockumentary that plays like a real-life investigation into a possible haunting in a small town in England. The “documentary” is so well done that it fools many of the townspeople, including the fire department and the local priest. It’s a very scary, psychological horror that is very engaging from start to finish.
The film’s director, Lesley Manning, was a member of the British Psychic and Occult Society and made the documentary as a hoax to see how England would react to the idea of something so fictitious. The film is an excellent example of how easily a good story can be intertwined with the truth and how gullible people can be. The film is still just as creepy today as it was when I first saw it.