Among all the types of stories found within the horror genre, haunted houses have to be one of, if not the, most common. Examples of this kind of tale have been recorded throughout history. Every region in the world has them; everyone claims they know where a haunted house lies.
What makes haunted house movies so appealing is their unpredictability. The setup may not always be diverse, but the execution is, in a way, almost comforting. Which kind of makes sense seeing as home is where the heart is. So, it's no wonder haunt houses affect us to our core so much. As we search through the history of horror cinema, let's visit ten of the scariest haunted house movies ever made.
10 The Echo (2004)
Marvin is enthused over having his own apartment, but there is one problem. Down the hallway, a couple is constantly having loud arguments. These disputes eventually become violent, and Marvin is conflicted about what to do when the building manager is of no help. When Marvin finally gets involved, he is thrown into a supernatural situation he never could have foreseen.
Yam Laranas' The Echo (originally Sigaw) is a slow burn of a ghost movie that defies its limited resources. It rallies around the idea that everyday transgressions can continue in death, and it's never too late to do the right thing. Laranas directed an English-language remake in 2008, and it stars Iza Calzado of the original movie from the Philippines.
9 Sweet Home (1989)
A film crew visits a reclusive painter at his mansion in hopes of documenting the artist restoring his own paintings. During their stay, the crew experiences a series of paranormal incidents tied to the painter's innermost secrets.
Sweet Home was a tie-in film for the Capcom game of the same name, the influence of which can be seen in other survival horror titles that came after. Despite its familiarity, the Sweet Home movie boasts eyecatching practical effects because Dick Smith (The Exorcist) helped with the visuals. Unfortunately for fans, Toho hasn't released Sweet Home on a home video format beyond Laserdisc.
8 The Pact (2012)
After her mother dies, a woman returns to her childhood home. As she stays there, the anxiety she feels about her upbringing triggers a chain of supernatural occurrences tied to the house.
The idea of people returning to a place they grew up in and dealing with their past is one of the oldest tropes in horror. Dread manifesting from adolescent trauma is particularly popular. The Pact, however, taps into the emotional baggage of familial pangs. It's never the most exciting film, but you can't deny that it makes you feel the whole weight of the protagonist's ordeal.
7 The Innocents (1961)
A woman named Miss Giddens wins the role of governess in a Victorian home, despite her lack of experience. The owner, an uncle of two children, would rather travel and fraternize than care for his niece and nephew. Miles and Flora are orphans who were left in their uncle's care when they were just infants. Now, Miss Giddens tends to the children, unaware of a supernatural force that may or may not be influencing her charges.
Based on Henry James' novel The Turn of the Screw, this 1961 adaptation represents some of the finest psycho-horror storytelling to date. It's finely acted, and it's eerily unequivocal. There is no doubt modern horror classics like The Others were inspired by The Innocents.
6 The Haunted (1991)
The devout Smurl family moves to a new town. They quickly take to their new community, but that same community turns its back on the Smurls when the family's house is faced with a paranormal problem. In a bid to exorcise the malefic entity inhabiting their home, the Smurls enlist the help of the Warrens, ghost-hunting husband and wife of The Conjuring fame.
This TV-movie first aired on Fox. The Haunted is an effective creeper that succeeds due in part to its mood and acting more than its production values.
5 The Witch in the Window (2018)
A divorced father brings his son to the house he is trying to flip. While they work on the place, they learn of the previous owner, who they now think is a malevolent spirit haunting the property.
As generic as the basic plot sounds, The Witch in the Window is actually a coup for supernatural dramas. Foremost, the film's main goal is to address the strained relationship between the son and father. By the story's end, you're not only concerned about their safety, you're also invested in their emotional well-being.
4 We Are Still Here (2015)
After losing their son, a couple moves to an isolated house in the New York countryside. Their grieving, however, awakens a family of dormant, sinister spirits looking to hurt someone.
This ghost story feels more 'realistic' than its contemporaries. The acting is very natural and never too obtrusive. The scares are accented by exceptional visual effects that sit in your memory bank long after the movie ends. Something also worth noting is the soundtrack. Or rather, the lack thereof. Keeping the music to a minimum actually elevates the degree of tension.
3 The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Researchers and their crew enter the infamous Belasco House, a mansion once home to a now-deceased serial killer. It's said that the spirits of his victims are still in the house. The team's leader, Lionel, is highly skeptical, whereas his colleagues are believers. Together, they enter this murder house in hopes of debunking — or proving — the existence of paranormal activity.
Based on Richard Matheson's novel of the same name, The Legend of Hell House is one haunted house movie that does its source material justice. In terms of scares, the movie is an underrated ghost romp from the 1970s.
2 The Entity (1982)
A single mother who has been physically violated is led to believe the incident never happened. This is simply because there is no physical evidence indicating someone broke into her house. When the woman seeks help from two parapsychologists, however, she's informed that she may actually have a ghost problem.
The Entity scares us on an entirely different level. For one thing, the movie hits closer to home for people than a mere ghost story might. Barbara Hershey gives a fantastic, raw performance that just has to be seen, too.
1 Ghostwatch (1992)
As part of a live television investigation, a field reporter is sent to a council house in Northolt, North London. The residents — a single mother and her two daughters — are convinced their home is being haunted. As Halloween night comes to a close, the reporter and the show's hosts all realize there's more to the family's bizarre story.
This event aired on BBC1 on Halloween night back in 1992. Until after the fact, audiences assumed this special was legitimate. As in, not staged. Since Ghostwatch was so controversial, the movie hasn't been shown again in the UK since its original airing.