Do you have any plans for Halloween? The scariest night of the year is approaching, and if you no longer feel like going out to do trick or treat, or you simply like to stay at home, we have a suggestion for you! The idea of haunted houses has been around for almost as long as the houses themselves; even the ancient Greeks talked about them, at the time. Of course, nobody likes the idea of living in a haunted house (and we would never sell one!) but horror movies are another story. That’s why today we’re bringing you a list to spend a terrific night.
A classic: Poltergeist (1982)
You can’t make a list of scary movies about haunted houses and not include Poltergeist. We speak, of course, of the 1982 film, and not of the 2015 remake, which is better off forgotten.
The film, directed by Tobe Hooper (also known for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and written and produced by Steven Spielberg (who needs no introduction) tells the story of the Freelings, a couple that lives in the suburbs of California with their three children. When one night, the youngest child begins to hear voices in the white noise of television, the Freelings begin to realize that their home was not as quiet and pleasant as they thought.
Although it has some tense scenes, and a few moments full of violence, it’s generally a film that focuses more on the drama than on making you scream.
This horror movie classic has been parodied, referenced and praised many times. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’re sure to recognize one of its most emblematic phrases: “They’re here…”
One for kids: Monster House (2006)
Also produced by Steven Spielberg, in addition to Robert Zemeckis, and directed by Gil Kenan, this stop motion movie is perfect if you have kids at home and want to introduce them to horror movies. That said, if your children are under 7 years old it’s better that you don’t play them this movie, because it has some moments that can really scare them.
In this movie, rather than finding ghosts that inhabit the house, it’s the house itself that comes alive and becomes a monster that the three protagonist children have to defeat. Although stop motion techniques have improved a lot over the years, and therefore the animation seems a bit old, it is still an entertaining movie for both children and adults.
At the time, he had a very good reception in theatres, and in addition, it was nominated for an Oscar for best animated film in 2007.
A favourite: The Others (2001)
The Others is one of those films where you’re better off not knowing anything about it until you watch it. It’s directed by Alejandro Amenábar, and it has one of the best plot twists I’ve seen in horror movies.
It takes place in 1945, after World War II. Grace (played by Nicole Kidman) doesn’t know what happened to her husband, who fought in the war, and while she waits for news she is trying to take care of her two children on her own. The kids have a disease that makes them very sensitive to light, which is why they live in a Victorian mansion in the middle of nowhere, where servants must keep the curtains drawn at all times…
… and that’s all I can tell you. It’s an incredible movie, from the script to photography to acting. Even if you suspect what happens at the end, it’s worth a watch.
Our Japanese horror pick: Ju-On (2002)
Why a Japanese movie? Because Japanese horror is a genre of its own, and if you like horror movies, Ju-On (The Grudge) is a must. We talk about the 2002 film because it’s the one that was released in cinemas, although there is another one with the same name, and made by the same director (although with a different story) produced in the year 2000 that was distributed directly on VHS.
The film was so successful, that in 2004 it was adapted in American studios with a remake called The Grudge, although once again, we consider the original much better.
The story is driven by the idea that when someone dies with very negative feelings, such as extreme grief or anger, their emotions stay forever on the walls of the place where they died, and they turn into vengeful spirits. Based off that concept, the film tells the stories of several people who end up in a house cursed in such way for various reasons, and the fate they suffer because of it.
Although it follows a nonlinear narrative, it’s not difficult to understand, and after watching it more than one person will leave the lights on when they go to bed.
A show: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
If you prefer setting up Netflix and watching one chapter after another nonstop, this is a show that had amazingly good reviews last year, and rightly so.
Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, and directed by Mike Flanagan (who had already directed other very good horror titles, such as Oculus or Gerald’s Game), The Haunting of Hill House is a family drama surrounded by ghosts.
Although it isn’t a faithful adaptation of the novel, and there are a lot of liberties taken with the characters and the story, the atmosphere of psychological horror and the style with which it is shot will get you hooked from the first chapter.
If you are a fan of the novel, however, and would like to see it on your screen, you can always watch the 1963 movie “The Haunting,” based on the same book.
Choosing only five titles for the list has been very difficult, so this last paragraph goes to the honourable mentions:
Lake Mungo (2008) is an Australian film that didn’t get a lot of attention when it premiered, but manages to bring a twist to the genre thanks to the way it is filmed, as if it were a documentary. Sometimes it becomes so realistic that you wonder if it really happened.
The Shining (1980) is another horror movie classic, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on a Stephen King novel. It’s an almost obligatory watch, and the only reason it’s not on this list is because the object of the haunting is a hotel, and not a house.
Lastly, the first season of American Horror Story, Murder House, is another show worth watching, although each season is autoconclusive and is dedicated to a different horror genre.