16 Haunted House Movies To Watch Before Netflix's Haunting Of Bly Manor
Of the many horror subgenres that have proved popular over the years, the haunted house movie is perhaps the most varied, and has never gone out of style. Unlike vampires or zombies, there are no "rules" to the haunted house movie. All you need is a house, and some spooky s*** going on inside it.
Next month sees the release of The Haunting of Bly Manor, the latest Netflix show from director Mike Flanagan. It's an adaptation of Henry James's classic 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, and follows 2018's The Haunting of Hill House, which adapted Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel of the same title. Hill House was one of 2018's most acclaimed shows, and it expanded Jackson's story without losing any of the mystery and tension that made it so effective to start with. It wasn't the first adaptation of the novel, but absolutely stands alongside the classic 1963 movie version.
So hopes are high that Bly Manor will deliver a similar mix of emotional drama and expertly-crafted scares. The Turn of the Screw has been adapted a lot more than Hill House--and in fact, we're already had another version this year, the movie The Turning. But Flanagan has revealed that the show will take elements from other James stories, and it looks set to stand apart from other versions of the novella.
While we wait for Bly Manor to hit Netflix on October 9, there's time to catch up on some must-see haunted house movies. So we've rounded up 16 of the best. Some of these films take inspiration from James's and Jackson's hugely influential novels, while others take the genre in very different directions. Some are funny, some scary, and others just plain weird. But they're all worth a look, and with horror season nearly upon us, now is a great time to start investigating.
16. Housebound (2014)
Director Gerard Johnstone took inspiration for this spooky New Zealand comedy from both Ghostbusters and The Haunting, and the result is a confident new take on the genre. The film focuses on a troubled teenager named Kylie who is sentenced to house arrest--in a haunted house. The interplay between Morgana O'Reilly, playing Kylie, and Rima Te Wiata as her domineering mother provides the laughs, while Johnstone delivers plenty of atmosphere and spooky scares as the pair are forced to deal with whatever spectral presence is in the house with them.
15. Burnt Offerings (1976)
Burnt Offerings may have been marketed as an Exorcist copy at the time, but it has a very different tone. It's slow and avoids many of the noisy clichés of other possession and ghost movies, instead focusing on creeping dread and a weird, dreamlike atmosphere. Acting legend Oliver Reed delivers an intense performance as a man under the grip of something evil in the house he's renting, while Bette Davis plays an old woman who lives in the attic and might have something to do with it. It takes its time to get there, but the climax absolutely delivers.
14. I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016)
Director Oz Perkins might be the son of legendary Psycho actor Anthony Perkins, but his three movies to date have seen the filmmaker step easily out of his dad's shadow. Perkins made this Netflix Original between the disturbing The Blackcoat's Daughter and the recent eerie fairytale Gretel and Hansel. It's an old-fashioned gothic chiller in which a nurse comes to a remote house to look after the old, infirm author who lives there. Of course, some weird stuff starts happening. Perkins successfully avoids many of the clichés of the genre and delivers a subtle, atmospheric movie that'll appeal to fans of classic horror.
13. Crimson Peak (2015)
The influences on Guillermo Del Toro's haunted house melodrama might be obvious, but the modern fantasy master still puts his own unique spin on the genre. It's a stunningly directed film, with incredible set design and cinematography, and the mix of gothic romance and surprisingly gory horror works well. Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and Charlie Hunnam are among the cast getting terrified in a ghost-populated Gothic mansion, but they are secondary to the visuals, atmosphere, and freaky crimson spectres.
12. House (1977)
There are few movies as weird as Nobuhiko Obayashi's Japanese cult classic House (aka Hausu). Obayashi based his script on wild ideas provided by his young daughter, and the result was a one-of-a-kind comedy horror film about a schoolgirl named Gorgeous who travels with some friends (Kung Fu, Melody, Mac, Sweet, and Fantasy) to stay in her aunt's house. The strangeness doesn't stop with the girls' names--the whole movie is like a deranged fever dream, with non-existent acting, bizarre set design, and scenes that include futon attacks, a limb-eating piano, watermelons that turn into heads, and a creepy cat with glowing eyes. The movie was actually a hit in Japan, but it took a belated theatrical US release in 2009 to finally bring this deranged masterpiece to the attention of Western viewers.
11. The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring plays out like a horror greatest hits package, but while there might not be anything original going on, and it's skillfully handled by director James Wan. It blends the haunted house movie with the possession film, in which the spirit of the evil witch Bathsheba torments unlucky homeowners Roger and Carolyn Perron. The film is one of the most successful scary movies of the past decade, inspiring a whole connected horror universe.
10. Amityville II: The Possession (1981)
1979's The Amityville Horror was a pretty pedestrian haunted house thriller, but the sequel was something very different. Like pretty much every Amityville sequel that has followed (and there have been a lot), it has very little to do with the first movie, instead just using the title and throwing in all manner of unwholesome fun. In this one, Burt Young--best known for playing Rocky's loveable pal Paulie--plays an abusive father who is targeted by something evil living in the basement. Before you know it, the whole family is possessed, with incest and shotgun murder providing the prelude to one of the most insane exorcism sequences in cinema.
9. The Witch in the Window (2018)
Director Andy Mitton's first movie, We Go On, was one of Shudder's earliest horror exclusives, and his follow-up also found a natural home on the platform. A father and his son start renovating a countryside home with the intention of flipping it for profit, and learn that the house has a dark past--an old woman died there years earlier but still inhabits its rooms. It's an atmospheric and spooky movie but also an affecting drama about the struggles of parenthood and a failing marriage. Strong performances and stylish directing make this a superior ghost story, and despite being only 75 minutes long, it packs an emotional punch lacking from many films twice its length.
8. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
While the basic plot of The Legend of Hell House is extremely similar to the 1963 classic The Haunting (four people stay in a creepy old house to find out if it's haunted), this British movie remains a highly effective slice of horror in its own right. Unseen spirits psychologically manipulate the unlucky visitors, including Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall, while weird, unexplained things happen all around them. It was written by genre veteran Richard Matheson, and the blend of campy horror and genuinely unsettling scares makes it an underrated '70s gem.
7. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
The Ju-On series has been running for 22 years and so far includes 13 Japanese movies, four American films, and the recent Netflix TV spin-off. But it's the original 2002 Japanese theatrical movie (which was preceded by two straight-to-video films) that remains the scariest slice of haunted house horror. The house in this case is a normal suburban home, in which terrible murders took place, putting a curse within it. Whoever enters the house then carries the curse to the location they die in, spreading it out like a disease. Along with Ringu, Ju-On helped establish J-horror in the early 2000s, and director Takashi Shimizu ensures the house itself is a deeply unnerving and oppressive location.
6. The Others (2001)
This hugely successful ghost story draws clear inspiration from The Turn of the Screw, and is one of the 2000s' most effective haunted house films. Nicole Kidman plays a woman living in a remote country house with her two children after World War II, who becomes convinced there are spectral beings living there with them. The Others is a slow but engrossing mystery that refrains from obvious jump scares associated with many films of its type. The movie has a big twist at the end, making it one of those films you want to instantly rewatch to see the details you missed the first time round.
5. The Innocents (1961)
The Innocents was one of the first adaptations of The Turn of the Screw, and it's still one of the best. It's a restrained slice of gothic terror, with potent atmosphere, eerie sound design, and striking monochrome photography. Deborah Kerr delivers a memorable performance as the repressed governess who is employed to look after a pair of kids who she comes to believe have been possessed by ghosts, and the movie also boasts a groundbreaking electronic score.
4. The Changeling (1980)
George C. Scott stars as a grieving father who moves into a haunted house in this super creepy chiller. The Changeling is old-fashioned in the best sense of the term, taking its time to set up the story and ensuring that the audience is fully invested in the characters before delivering the horror goods. Director Peter Medak is a master at evoking maximum chills from minimal props; who would've thought that a bouncing rubber ball or a wheelchair could be so scary? The movie also features one of the most frightening séances in horror.
3. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity cost only $15,000 to produce, and yet grossed $193 million worldwide, spawning a hugely successful franchise. It had an incredibly simple set-up--a young couple set up cameras around their new house in order to record the supernatural evil that is tormenting them at night. Director Oren Peli generates incredible tension by making the audience wait for minutes on end, watching people sleep, for something to happen, before delivering some expertly crafted scares.
2. Poltergeist (1980)
Much has been written over the years about whether Poltergeist writer/producer Steven Spielberg left Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) alone to direct, or whether Spielberg was really the director in all but title. But either way, the result was a brilliant melding of both filmmakers' styles, with Hooper's skills as a horror director balanced by Spielberg's love of magical fantasy and family stories set in suburban America. It's impossible not to root for the Freeling family as they fight evil spirits in their house and try to rescue their daughter, who has been taken by these spectral invaders.
1. The Haunting (1963)
The first screen adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, released only four years after the novel's publication, remains one the greatest haunted house movies of all time. It set the template for the genre, and is still a remarkably effective chiller all these years later. Part of this is due to director Robert Wise's inventive filmmaking approach, which at the time was considered radical. The sets were all built with visible ceilings, to provide a claustrophobic feeling, and Wise used a new wide-angle camera that was still in development that caused the image to distort, adding to the feel of unease. Combined with clever visuals effects, fractured editing, and strong performances, the result is an all-time horror classic.
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