The haunted house is a staple of the horror genre. Typically, it’s a large Victorian style building, with lots of corridors, a basement and an attic, possibly with hidden rooms and staircases.
When the haunting manifests itself, there is often a ghost, but the house itself also feels like it’s alive, with a mind of its own. Many haunted houses are ambiguous – is it haunted? Or is the protagonist just going mad?
Here we take a look at our favourite haunted houses in film.
The Amityville Horror
The Lutz family move into an ideal home, only to find out very quickly that there are reasons why it sold so cheaply. An iconic haunted house, it looks like it has eyes of its own.
Based on a supposedly true story, the original 1979 film is deemed by most horror fans as much better than the second film.
While Psycho is more of a psychological thriller, it still embraces the gothic trope of the haunted house on the hill. Through the beginning of the film, it is seen as a silhouette above the Bates’ Motel, and it is not until we see inside the house and discover Norman’s obsession with his mother that we discover the true horror.
The Shining (1980)
The perfect example of a story where you’re not quite sure whether he’s just going mad or the house really is haunted. An aspiring writer takes a job as a caretaker looking after an out of season hotel in the middle of nowhere. Taking his family with him, the Overlook Hotel begins to play host to some strange goings on, not least in Jack’s head.
Stanley Kubrick’s story is quite different to the Stephen King novel, but it has become a horror classic none the less. The creepy twins, the wave of blood, the classic “Here’s Johnny!” line have all been parodied and drawn upon as inspiration for many film and TV productions that have come after it.
This is an adaptation of the classic Victorian ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Set in Victorian times, a young woman is employed to be the governess of two children. Cue the big house. She is relatively happy until the children start being creepy and she learns the history of the house, and becomes convinced that they are possessed by previous servants.
The Grudge (2002)
The Ring made Japanese ghosts all the rage for a few years, and the Grudge brings J-horror and the haunted house trope together perfectly. This haunted house is home to the murdered Toshio – the perfect creepy ghost child – and his mother, Kayako – who crawls down the stairs wild eyed and croaking.
Fun and scary at the same time, this haunted house is a regular American home in a Californian suburb that’s been built on a desecrated cemetery. The Beast abducts the youngest child, and the family lead the fight to protect their family. Written and produced (and rumour has it, directed) by Stephen Spielberg, it is considered a classic, and has much the same feel as other Spielberg films, despite being officially directed by Tobe Hooper.
*Not to be confused with the recent remake.
The Others (2001)
Set just after World War Two, Nicole Kidman is a devout catholic whose sickly children cannot be exposed to sunlight. Throughout the film, there is a sense that something has happened in the house, and everyone knows something that they’re not talking about.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Originally a novel, it was also a TV film and a play, The Woman in Black is a British ghost story. We have everything that you need from a ghost story – an isolated Victorian house, creepy children’s toys, taxidermy, candlelight, mist and handprints on windows. The house itself is foreboding, tall and eerie.
Crimson Peak (2015)
The latest film on this list is Crimson Peak. A gothic romance by Guillermo del Toro, it is a beautiful looking film, with a haunted house that’s sinking into the red clay that it sits on. The design of the house shares its inspiration with the Bates’ house in Psycho – the painting “The House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper.