A good haunted house ghost story never goes out of style, and there are some real standouts in the subgenre from the 60s to recent years.
From abandoned gothic castles and dilapidated manor houses to typical suburban residences, the subgenre of haunted house horror has been around for over half a century. There are several reasons for the success and popularity of these films. The creators take the best of conventional ghost movies — the fear of the unknown — and put it in an environment everyone associates with comfort and safety. In this collection, my paper writer highlights some of the best work from this popular horror trope.
1. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
A young nurse, Lily, is hired to care for an elderly writer, Iris, who has made a name for herself by writing scary detective novels. She stubbornly calls the girl Polly, just like the heroine of one of her novels. Lily, left to herself in the big house, decides to read the work, even though she can’t stand horror.
Oz (Osgood) Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in the famous Psycho, began his career as an actor before adding filmmaker to his resume. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House was Perkins’ sophomore film after a dazzling debut in 2015 with The Blackcoat’s Daughter. It represented another critical success for the talented writer/director. A few years later, in 2020, he would grow on to director another kind of tale about a famous wicked abode, Gretel & Hansel (2020), a fresh feminist take on the beloved fairytale classic.
Perkins’ work is melancholy, creating a sense of isolation and discomfort. He often emphasizes atmosphere over traditional scares. Because of that, his films are more critically beloved than mass consumed, and his artful endeavors are often tragically underrated.
2. We Are Still Here (2014)
After the death of their only son, the aging couple Anna and Paul Sachetti decide to make a fresh start and move into an old house. Soon, Anna (Barbara Crampton) begins to feel someone’s invisible presence. At first, it seems to her that it is the ghost of her deceased child trying to get in touch with her. But it turns out there’s something much more sinister lurking in the couple’s new home.
Ted Geoghegan makes an impressive feature film debut with this stylish, slow-burning, ’70s-inspired horror film. The plot was inspired by Lucio Fulci’s Home on the Edge of the Cemetery and the work of Stephen King. If you are a connoisseur of classic horror, there is much to love about this outing.
With stellar direction and outstanding performances from Crampton and indie horror stalwart Larry Fessenden, it’s a hidden gem well worth uncovering.
3. The Pact (2011)
Nicole returns to her mother’s house to arrange her funeral. Her sister, Annie, does not want to attend the event because of unpleasant memories of their childhood. In the morning, she arrives and discovers that Nicole has disappeared without a trace and that terrible and mysterious things are happening in the house.
Director and screenwriter Nicholas McCarthy based his debut film on his 2011 short film of the same name, which you can watch right here.
This lesser-heralded film combines slasher elements and a classic story about a haunted house in an exciting way. Highly recommended.
4. The Witch in the Window (2018)
Simon and his twelve-year-old son Finn move to Vermont to fix up an old and spooky country house. As they are renovating, they begin to notice strange things. They later discover the house used to belong to a dangerous witch.
Andy Mitton’s authorial horror thriller contains deep psychological undertones. While it may revolve around an evil spirit, it adeptly tackles such deeper themes as fear of loss, the pain of divorce, and loneliness.
Atmospherically unnerving with great performances and plenty of heart, it’s as moving as it is harrowing. An unexpected gem.
5. The Amityville Horror (2005)
Married couple George and Kathy Lutz and their three children buy a beautiful house for a steal. However, their luck doesn’t last long as they soon discover why their dream home came at such a bargain; the previous family met a gruesome fate. Now, it seems, the home harbors an unspeakable evil hell-bent on destroying those who reside within it its malevolent walls.
The original film from 1979 was based on the novel of the same name by Jay Anson. At the time, it shocked the world as it was purported to be based on actual events. Since then, much has come out that significantly calls into question the veracity of this quintessential haunted house tale. But even if it’s purely a work of fantastical fiction, that doesn’t keep it from being any less engrossing.
The original is, of course, a horror classic. But this modern remake, starring the eternally charming Ryan Reynolds playing against type as a rage-fueled husband consumed by evil, is a mighty fine reinterpretation of the infamous story. And it’s fiercely unsettling with an all-star cast.
6. Crimson Peak (2015)
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska),the daughter of an American businessman, marries a refined English aristocrat, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). He sweeps her away to his ancestral mansion, where he lives with his sister, the beautiful and mysterious Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But soon, it becomes clear that not everything is happy in the newlywed’s home, and the walls of this cursed family estate hold a nightmarish secret.
The critical role in creating the atmosphere of Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror film belongs to the gloomy Victorian manor house. It is a living organism, which seems to bleed like a wounded animal, housing creepy specters that roam the halls.
Widely considered one of the finest filmmakers working today, del Toro’s extraordinary chamber piece is often overlooked among his impressive oeuvre. That’s a shame because it’s a truly mesmerizing work of art.
7. The Others (2001)
While her husband fights at the front during the war, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) cares for her daughter and son, who both have a rare medical condition that makes them intolerant to sunlight. One day, all the servants suddenly disappear from the house. After that, the children begin to see ghosts, and their mother begins to go mad slowly.
The mansion in Alejandro Amenábar‘s mystical thriller is no less an essential participant in the events than the characters themselves. The eerie beauty of its rooms and corridors can hypnotize even the most sophisticated viewer.
Delivering an impressive, unexpected final act and boasting the brilliant star power of Kidman in a powerful performance, this haunted hororr classic is essential viewing.
8. The Innocents (1961)
An unmarried Miss Giddens, a parson’s daughter, is hired to look after the nephews of a wealthy London dandy. The orphaned brother and sister happily welcome the new governess. However, the heroine soon begins to suspect something wrong is happening in the house. She sees the ghosts of the previous nurse and the master’s servant, who died a year ago.
The story The Turn of the Screw by Henry James has been adapted many times. Among the most recent adaptations are the Netflix series from indie darling Mike Flanagan, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Floria Sigismondi’s critically acclaimed film The Nanny.
As good as these adaptations are, Jack Clayton’s 1961 version, scripted by the legendary Truman Capote, has yet to be surpassed.
By the way, almost all modern ghost movies are inspired, at least in part by the striking visuals and themes in The Innocents, and the picture itself is still capable of giving you chills even if you’re very familiar with the plot points.