Good Haunted House Movies

Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 10:15 am

Good haunted house movies are filled with ghosts, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. While some are right in your face, others emphasize suspense over gore. Either way, you can bet that an effective haunted house film will stay with you for quite a while. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, I’d suggest any of the following 10 films as a good place to start.

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Poltergeist (1982) – A suburban family gets terrorized by a gang of unruly ghosts, and not even the commanding voice of father Craig T. Nelson can stop them. Tobe Hooper directs, and the scene with the clown doll is bound to put you into therapy. Zelda Rubinstein is great as spiritual medium Tangina Barrons. Two sequels would follow.

The Evil Dead (1981) – Sam Raimi first got noticed with this gory haunted house film starring iron-chinned actor Bruce Campbell. Five pals go on vacation to a cabin in the woods, but the fun gets spoiled when they play a tape of someone reading passages from the dreaded Book of the Dead. All hell promptly breaks loose, and it’s not long before Ash (Campbell) is all alone and fighting for his life. Raw and made on a shoestring budget, The Evil Dead was a perfect showcase for the wickedly cartoonish visual style of Raimi.

Evil Dead II (1987) – Ash returns to once again battle demonic spirits at the little cabin in the woods, but this time the danger’s greater and the budget’s bigger. See Ash versus his undead girlfriend. See Ash versus his own possessed hand. See Ash get knocked out by hillbillies. See the rise of Evil Ash and a showdown with a woman in a prosthetic fat suit. If the Three Stooges ran Hell, this is what it would look like.

Beetlejuice – Not every film involving hauntings and spirits needs to be dreary, and this Michael Keeton comedy is a perfect example. Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland are a recently deceased couple who find their home sold and occupied by some big city types (including Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder as their goth daughter, Lydia). Tied to their old home for 125 years, the Maitlands try to scare the new residents away. This proves ineffective, and a ghost named Beetlejuice (Michael Keeton) is called in to deal with the pesky spirits. But Beetlejuice has an agenda of his own, including a plan to marry Lydia and return to the land of the living. A showcase for the talents of Keeton, Beetlejuice features a likable cast, smart script, and even an appearance by Robert Goulet (Goulet!). Directed by Tim Burton.

The Amityville Horror (1979) – James Brolin and Margot Kidder star as a couple who unwisely move into a house where a mass murder occurred the previous year. It doesn’t take them long to realize their mistake, however, as the blood coming out of the walls serves as an excellent warning. They only last 28 days at 112 Ocean Avenue, and the events are based on the supposed real-life experiences of the Lutz family. If you’re looking for good haunted house movies, this one needs to be near the top of your list.

The Shining (1980) – Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is an aspiring writer who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. He brings his family along, including his wife (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son (Danny Lloyd). As it turns out, the Overlook was built on top of an Indian burial ground, and you just know that spells disaster. Soon, both Jack and his son, Danny, are seeing ghostly images, including a pair of twins covered in blood and a mad corpse in Room 237. Danny doesn’t take it well, but Jack flips out and decides to “correct” his wife and child with an axe. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is a masterful take on the paranormal, throwing in elements such as paranoia, addiction and isolation.

House (1986) – Part horror, part comedy, and all William Katt. The star of The Greatest American Hero plays a Vietnam vet turned horror writer who moves into his late aunt’s home to work on a book. As it turns out, this is the very same house where his son mysteriously vanished years before. There’s a good reason for that, as the place is filled to the brim with ghost, spirits, poltergeists, and any other name you care to call them. Will he be reunited with his missing son, or will he die at the hands of spectres from his past, such as deranged soldier Big Ben (Richard Moll)? George Wendt also co-stars.

Stir of Echoes (1999) – Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky, a normal guy who gets his eyes opened to the world of the supernatural thanks to a hypnotic suggestion planted by his sister-in-law (Illeana Douglas). That very same night, he sees the ghost of a young girl named Samantha (Jennifer Morrison) who went missing several months prior. The visits persist, and Tom becomes obsessed with finding out what Samantha wants and where she is. Bacon is his usual charming self, and the material, drawn from a Richard Matheson novel, isn’t your standard ghostly fare.

Paranormal Activity (2009) – A young woman confides in her boyfriend that she’s been haunted for years by a powerful presence. Consulting a psychic, they learn that a demon is the problem. Of course, the boyfriend is skeptical, and he decides to set up a video camera to record any possible late-night hijinks. He gets them, alright, and things become progressively more disturbing as the film hurtles towards a powerful finish. Sure, it’s a little slow in places, but so was The Blair Witch Project. Believe me, your patience will be rewarded.

Thirteen Ghosts (2001) – Most people crapped all over this movie, but I thought it was perfectly suited for a night of brainless fun. Tony Shalhoub plays a widower who inherits a bizarre glass mansion from his eccentric uncle (F. Murray Abraham). But as he, his kids (including Shannon Elizabeth), and their nanny explore the building, they soon come to realize that twelve ghosts are imprisoned in the basement, and everyone in the home is unwittingly taking part in an elaborate and evil ritual. Yeah, it’s corny, but the ghosts all look great, and Matthew Lillard is a hoot as an over-the-top psychic.

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These 10 good haunted house movies should keep you busy for a while, but be sure to check back when you’re done. And just in case you have no intention of watching the above movies, here are a few more options for you to consider.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2009 at 10:15 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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