Haunted houses are a horror staple. Taking the warm safety and familiarity of home and corrupting it with ghosts and demons leads to some very relatable scares since it’s so easy to place yourself in the protagonist’s shoes.
Due to this, many haunted house films have been made over the years. Some follow the classic and expected formula while others twist it in new and inventive ways.
If you’re looking for something to give you a few extra chills this Halloween, here are the 10 best haunted house films.
10. The Conjuring
While people argue about the film’s many sequels, it’s hard to deny that the first film in the franchise, 2013’s The Conjuring, isn’t a fun horror film. The film is based on a highly fictionalized version of real-world paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and sees the pair being called in to help the Perron family.
Ever since moving into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, the family has been tormented by a series of strange and horrifying paranormal events that seem to be getting stronger as time passes. The Warrens quickly learn the source of this haunting and race to save the family before something horrible happens. Featuring lots of tension and some fantastic scares, The Conjuring is a fun modern take on the haunted house concept.
9. Ju-On: The Grudge
The third film in the Ju-On franchise, though the first to be released theatrically, Ju-On: The Grudge was written and directed by Takashi Shimizu. The film focuses on a house in Nerima, Tokyo. Anyone who visits or lives in this building will quickly find themselves targeted by the vengeful spirits who haunt it, mainly the gaunt long-haired woman known as Kayako.
Told in a nonlinear narrative, Ju-On: The Grudge is an impactful horror film that quickly cemented the series as one of the most successful Japanese horror franchises of all time. It has also made Kayako one of the most recognizable modern movie monsters.
8. The Sentinel
The Sentinel is a cult-classic movie directed by infamous director Michael Winner, a man who is known more for action films like the Death Wish franchise than horror. Based on Jeffrey Konvitz’s 1974 novel of the same name, the film follows Alison Parker, a neurotic fashion model who moves into an apartment in a historic Brooklyn building.
The occupants of the building are extremely strange, including the weird Charles Chazen. The more time Parker spends in the building, the stranger things get, leading to her discovering some big secrets about the location and its purpose.
Strange, surreal, and unique, The Sentinel is a film quite unlike anything else. While it was disliked when it came out, it has rightly established itself as a cult favorite.
7. The Changeling
Directed by Peter Medak, this 1980 horror film is often considered the quintessential haunted house movie, as it laid the foundation that numerous other movies have since copied. In The Changeling, George C. Scott plays John Russell, a composer from New York. When his family dies in an accident, Russell moves to Seattle and rents a large Victorian mansion that has apparently been empty for 12 years.
Weird things quickly start happening, and Russell soon learns that the building harbors a spirit crying out for vengeance. Dark, atmospheric, and remarkably creepy, The Changeling is a fantastic film made all the better by Scott’s performance. He brings a level-headed, world-weary realism to the role that contrasts with the strange supernatural events that fill the house.
6. The Amityville Horror
Based on Jay Anson’s 1977 novel of the same name, 1979’s The Amityville Horror is a master class in terror. George and Kathy Lutz, a young married couple, move into a house that was the location of a series of bloody murders the year before. While the pair know about this horrible past, the home is far too big and far too cheap for them to turn it down.
As you could have guessed, things soon start to go wrong in their new home, and the couple finds themselves haunted by the past. What sets The Amityville Horror apart from other haunted house movies is how realistic George and Kathy feel. Both of them act like real humans and avoid many of the usual haunted house cliches, making the whole thing even more harrowing and adding to the terrifying atmosphere. While others have tried to recreate the feeling of The Amityville Horror (including the film’s many sequels,) nothing has managed to pull it off as well as the original.
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5. WNUF Halloween Special
What sets WNUF Halloween Special apart from other haunted house horror films is its presentation. The entire film is presented as an off-TV recording of a local TV channel’s Halloween special from the late 1980s, including the commercials and station bumpers.
The plot sees presenter Frank Stewart take a group of paranormal experts to investigate the Webber House, the site of a series of horrible murders which, according to the murderer, were caused by demons. This has caused the location to become an urban legend, with many people saying that they’ve experienced paranormal phenomena in the area. At first, the hosts dismiss the whole thing and see the broadcast as a silly time-filling novelty. Events quickly take a turn for the dark and the crew ends up fighting for their lives.
A fantastic fusion of comedy and scares, WNUF Halloween Special is a fun Halloween watch that perfectly captures the feeling of a local news broadcast.
House is best described as an experience that blends comedy, horror, and surrealism into one unique package. The film is so bizarre that most fans recommend going into it with as little foreknowledge as possible so you can experience it without preconceptions.
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, the film features a mostly amateur cast and follows a group of seven high-school girls who go to a house owned by one of their aunts for a holiday. The house, however, isn’t all that it seems. Soon the girls are picked off one by one as they run for their lives. Featuring twists on familiar horror tropes and very surreal visuals, House is a one-of-a-kind film that has rightfully earned its cult-classic status. If you’re looking to explore new frontiers this Halloween, House is the perfect film to start with.
3. House on Haunted Hill
Vincent Price is a horror legend who has starred in hundreds of films over the years. First released in 1959, House on Haunted Hill is most famous for having the king of cinema gimmicks, William Castle, direct the movie.
The film stars Price as eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren, who is throwing a party for his wife Annabelle in an allegedly haunted house. To make things interesting, Loren invites five people to party with them. He promises to give each guest $10,000 if they stay for the entire night. Obviously, events quickly take a turn for the spooky and the dramatic as the guests find themselves thrown headfirst into the supernatural.
While the film is dated, it’s still remarkably creepy and features a delightfully camp undertone. It’s clear that Price had a great time shooting this, and his joy is utterly infectious, making House on Haunted Hill a delight to watch. Best enjoyed with some friends, House on Haunted Hill is a haunted house movie that is pure fun from start to finish.
Ghostwatch is a cult classic in the UK, though unfortunately overlooked elsewhere as it never had a theatrical run and was only ever aired on TV. Ghostwatch presents itself as a live television broadcast, focusing on a group of hosts exploring a supposedly haunted house. While this happens, another host interviews various paranormal experts in a nearby television studio.
The house in Northolt, Greater London, is supposedly haunted by a ghost named Pipes. At first, the crew believes that the whole thing is a hoax or an urban legend, but Pipes soon makes himself known, and everything goes wrong. The build is expertly handled, with viewers only get fleeting glimpses of the ghost initially. As events progress, the glimpses slowly become actual sightings and events spiral out of control.
Part of the controversy surrounding the film is that it does a fantastic job of recreating an early-’90s BBC broadcast, even down to it featuring several popular television hosts playing themselves. This caused many people to mistake the show for a real documentary on the night of its first broadcast, getting the BBC embroiled in a whole heap of controversy. Because of this, the film was banned for many years. Despite it being broadcast in 1992, it didn’t get a home media release until 2002.
An undisputed Halloween classic, Beetlejuice takes the traditional haunted house format and turns it on its head by turning the ghosts into the protagonists. When Barbara and Adam Maitland die in a car crash, they are trapped in their house as spirits.
Unfortunately, the house quickly gets sold to the Deetz family, which includes snooty sculptor Delia, her husband Charles, and goth teenager Lydia. Delia’s rich city attitude leads her to try and redecorate the house, much to Barbara and Adam’s dismay. The spectral pair quickly get to work trying to scare the Deetz family away. In the process, they meet the titular Betelgeuse, the bio-exorcist who is more than happy to help out.
The all-star cast includes Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and a young Winona Ryder in the lead roles, and Michael Keaton gives a career-defining performance as the sleazy Betelgeuse. All of this is wrapped up in director Tim Burton’s signature off-kilter visual style, meaning that Beetlejuice still feels very unique, even today. If you’re in the mood for some haunted house comedy rather than scares, Beetlejuice is exactly what you’re looking for.