The Conjuring, a supernatural film from the director of Saw and Insidious, hits theatres today. With the upcoming release of this potentially frightening supernatural film, we have decided to take a look back at some of the best haunted house (hotel and insane asylum) movies.
The Others (2001)
The Others is psychological horror film that stars Nicole Kidman. Set in England during the aftermath of World War II, Kidman’s character is not only forced with caring for her two sick children, but also with spirits who have invaded their secluded country home. What makes this movie worth watching is the twist that occurs near the end film which is both shocking and revelatory.
The Awakening (2011)
Similar to the setting in The Others, The Awakening takes place in England after World War I. While many are mourning for those they have lost by visiting psychics in order to commune with the dead, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) has built her career by exposing these supernatural encounters as hoaxes. However, when Florence is brought to a secluded boarding school to investigate the death of a student who is believed to have been frightened to death by a ghost, she is forced to call her beliefs into question.
The Innocents (1961)
Based on the novella Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Innocents is a classic British horror movie. When Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is hired as a governess for a young girl and boy, she is initially very happy with how seemingly sweet and polite the children are. However, as time goes by, the children’s behaviour grows increasingly sinister. Believing that the children have been possessed, Miss Giddens attempts to free the children from the harmful spirits. Atmospheric, and at times, just plain creepy, The Innocents is a great haunted house film.
The Innkeepers (2011)
Directed by Ti West, The Inkeepers is not the story of a haunted house, but of a haunted hotel. It focuses on the two employees who are forced to work at The Yankee Peddlar Inn during the last weekend before the Hotel is shut down. Believing the Hotel to be haunted by a woman who once killed herself in one of the upstairs rooms, the two employees bring in their own ghost-hunting equipment and set out to make contact with the supernatural presence. This is a slow-burning film that relies on suspense and atmosphere, rather than gimmicks, to create some genuinely creepy scenes.
Stir of Echoes (1999)
After being hypnotized at a party by his sister-in-law, Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) begins experiencing supernatural encounters with a young woman who has disappeared from his neighbourhood. As the spirit becomes more insistent, so does Tom’s desire to find out exactly what happened to her, and who is responsible for her disappearance. Stir of Echoes is a suspenseful horror thriller, and an engaging haunted house film.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The original movie that began the Paranormal Activity franchise was directed by Oren Peli who used a home video camera to shoot the movie. Peli’s choice of filming creates a sense of plausibility as the plot centers on Katie and Micah, a young couple, who have recently moved into a new home and who are trying to capture on film the supernatural occurrences that have been plaguing them at night. It is soon revealed that Katie has been followed by a demonic presence for most of her life. Micah, who fails to take the situation seriously, inevitably pays the ultimate price.
The Pact (2012)
After her mother’s death, Annie Barlow returns to her childhood home only to discover the strange disappearances of her sister and cousin. Soon Annie begins to experience ghostly encounters, and it is the presence of the spirit that forces Annie to discover the reasons behind why members of her family are vanishing. Directed by Nicholas McCarthy, The Pact creates suspense that is supplemented by special effects in order to portray some truly creepy moments.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Despite mixed reviews, The Amityville Horror remains a classic haunted house movie. Based on a novel of the same name, the film focuses on the Lutz family who move into a beautiful and affordable home that is only affordable because the previous family to inhabit the house was horrifically murdered. It comes as no surprise when the Lutz’s begin experiencing frightening supernatural events and other unsettling incidents. The more they conduct research into the history of their home, the more they uncover a terrifying past that still has the power to threaten their lives and sanity.
Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
A remake of a 1960s film, Thirteen Ghosts begins when the Kriticos family, still mourning the death of their mother, learn that they have inherited an elaborate glass mansion. Once they have arrived, they are terrified to discover that the mansion also houses twelve violent spirits. It is soon revealed that the mansion requires a thirteenth ghost to complete a diabolical plan, forcing the Kriticos family to fight for survival. The film unfortunately employs many gimmicks and clichés, but despite these issues, there are also some engaging visuals and a few frights that occur along the way.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, What Lies Beneath is a film that emphasizes that even the most seemingly perfect family can hide horrific secrets. When Claire Spencer (Pfeiffer) begins to be haunted by a beautiful young woman, she is forced to uncover some unseemly truths about her husband and her marriage. Although the ending is a bit gimmicky, and some of the scares are less than original, the A-list actors create some memorable moments that help make this film worth watching.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The film stars Vincent Price who plays the character of Frederick Loren, a strange millionaire who invites five people to a mansion for a party. However, it is not your average party since Loren makes a wager claiming that whoever stays in the mansion for the entire night will earn $10,000. In hopes of winning this prize, the guests are forced to endure a night filled with ghostly terrors. Dark Castle Entertainment, the same production company responsible for remaking Thirteen Ghosts, remade House on Haunted Hill in 1999. The remake, unfortunately, was unable to capture the same following as the original.
Directed by Tobe Hopper, and produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist is not necessarily the most haunting of terrifying film, although it does have some memorable scenes. The Freeling family, living in a seemingly comfortable and peaceful suburb, suddenly begin experiencing strange disturbances in their home. Soon after their five-year-old daughter, Carol Ann, begins speaking with “the TV people”, she suddenly disappears. It is then up to her parents to enlist the help of various paranormal experts in order to save their daughter.
The Grudge (2004)
The Grudge is an American remake of a Japanese horror film, and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen Davis. What the film examines is the ways in which a deadly curse is created when someone dies in the grip of extreme sorrow or rage. After a Japanese family dies in a suburban home, the curse begins and all those who enter the house are haunted and killed by the angry spirits. When Karen Davis arrives to care for an ailing old woman who now lives in the house, Karen is soon forced to try to end the curse. Although The Grudge fails to provide any substantial frights, it does enlist some unsettling and creepy imagery.
The Haunting (1963)
Considered one of the greatest haunted house films, The Haunting is based off of Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. Dr. Markway, a man who investigates paranormal activity, receives permission to explore Hill House, a labyrinthine mansion with a dark history. A few people join him on his excursion to the mansion, including the questionably sane Eleanor Lance. As supernatural occurrences begin terrifying the group, Eleanor is forced to contend with her own instability and the ghostly presence that wants to keep her at Hill House.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Similar to The Haunting, a team of people set on investigating the possibility of life after death travel to a reported haunted mansion called the Belasco House. Once owned by the infamous millionaire Emeric Belasco, who was known for his sadistic desires, the mansion is now believed to be haunted by numerous spirits who were murdered there. Although a little hokey, and often a bit corny, The Legend of Hell House is worth watching even if it does not contain the same depth as The Haunting.
Session 9 (2001)
When an asbestos removal crew is hired to clean up an abandoned state mental hospital, the crew is suddenly emerged in a series of disturbing events. As crew members begins disappearing, falling victim to an unseen force, it remains unclear for the majority of the film if the attacker is supernatural or real. As a result, it remains to be seen if the ghosts actually exist or are the manifestation of someone’s psychological delusion. Although this film is not necessarily a haunted house film per se, it does establish a sense of a haunting, as it seems as though a supernatural presence does linger in the halls of the asylum.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
The Rolf family decides to take a summer vacation from the city by renting an oddly affordable historic mansion. The only catch is that Marian Rolf will have to care for Mrs. Allardyce, a mysterious and unseen old woman who lives in the attic. The more time that Marian spends in Mrs. Allardyce’s seemingly uninhabited rooms, the more Marian becomes manically obsessed with restoring the mansion to its former glory. It does not become clear until the end of the film that Marian has become possessed.
Based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, 1408 tells the story of an author, Mike Enslin (John Cusack) who, after the death of his daughter, writes about supernatural events. Despite his ability to write about the supernatural, Mike does not believe in the afterlife. After being told about, and warned not to enter, a haunted room in The Dolphin Hotel, Mike insists on staying the night since he does not believe that anything otherworldly will occur. However, to his inevitable surprise, Mike is forced to endure a night of terrors.
The Changeling (1980)
This classic haunted house film tells to story of Dr. John Russell (George C. Scott), a composer who rents an old Victorian mansion after the death of his wife and daughter. While trying to get his life back in order, John Russell discovers that the house is haunted by a ghost of a murdered boy. In an attempt to discover what happened to the child, Russell uncovers ghastly information regarding a powerful local family.
The Shining (1980)
As one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Shining is certainly one of the most frightening movies that examines the psychological and the supernatural. When Jack Torrance becomes the off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, he and his family are forced to endure months of seclusion. After being trapped inside by a snowstorm, Jack becomes influenced by the spirits in the hotel who encourage him to murder his wife and son. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, and based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining is an absolute must see for anyone who has sadly not already seen it.