Do you just love creepy old houses? Do you go nuts for dark tales of gothic romance and murderous secrets of passion? Are you inexplicably drawn to the sight of a frightened woman wandering around a dimly lit corridor in a nightdress while holding a candelabra? Then do we have the list for you.
Ghost stories have captivated audiences for as long as stories have been told and the past decade hasn’t broken that trend. From the blockbusters that go bump in the night to psychological dramas that worm their way into your soul, these are the ten most haunting ghost movies of the 2010s.
10 We Are Still Here (2015)
Scream Queen legend Barbara Crampton teams with up-and-coming schlock icon Ted Geoghegan for a movie that may be all about the gore but definitely does not disappoint. Channeling the disgusting genius of masters like Lucio Fulci, We Are Still Here centers on an unassuming New England country home that demands blood – and gets it.
It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t just scream low-budget, but wears the title of low-budget like a badge of honor. You’re really just waiting for things to turn ugly with this movie and – if you have an appetite for waves of spurting, exploding, gore – you will be totally satiated.
9 The Awakening (2011)
Nick Murphy’s post-WW1 ghost story finds Rebecca Hall’s mythbusting skeptic embroiled in the many mysteries of a reclusive boarding school where the numerous still-open wounds of the war get reexamined. The Awakening is a very stiff-upper-lip haunted house yarn, leading into a journey of twists and turns that doesn’t skimp on the ghostly jump scares.
Though a little less emotionally impactful – and a lot less opulent – than the contemporary Spanish ghost story movies that it’s trying to emulate, The Awakening stands apart for the reasons that British period pieces always do – the performances. Hall, Imelda Staunton, and Dominic West all being on top form.
8 The Innkeepers (2011)
Ti West supplants the English country manor for a rundown hotel in Connecticut, the sexually repressed schoolmarm for a down-and-out millennial and the results are quite unique. Though a little slicker than a movie like We Are Still Here, The Innkeepers is still all about how small its budget is and how it works this to its advantage.
Shot in real-life paranormal hotspot The Yankee Pedlar Inn, this is a movie for those horror lovers out there who savor the build up more than the payoff. Everything reaches a ghoulish conclusion but The Innkeepers gets more frights out of creaks in the attic than it does with gore splattered on the walls.
7 Ghost Stories (2017)
Maybe the most guilt-free fun you can have from being repetitively jump-scared throughout an entire movie. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's adaptation of their stage play of the same name is a dark and brooding series of campfire tales that never forgets to have a sense of humor. It still maintains a level of emotional terror and dramatic impact while never losing sight of the fact that it's meant to be entertaining.
Ghost Stories is an anthology movie tied around a central character and each segment finds bluntly effective ways to get genuine chills out of the same setups that we've been hearing about since our first sleepover.
6 The Woman In Black (2012)
Another take on the theatrical roots of the genre in Britain, The Woman in Black still has a lot of bang for you buck if screaming specters are your thing. It was the first big screen adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name but by no means its first appearance in popular culture. (A few years after publication, the novel was adapted into a stage play on London’s West End where it still runs today.)
Simple but elegant. The Woman in Black is as classic as haunted house movies come these days. Daniel Radcliffe, in his first post-Potter movie role, elevates the jack-in-the-box frights to something with real staying power.
5 I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016)
As the son of Anthony Perkins (the titular psycho from Psycho), Osgood Perkins has been leaving a fitting mark on the world of horror movies for several years now. His chilling debut February (A.K.A. The Blackcoats’s Daughter) made huge waves and its prompt follow-up shows an encouraging level of restraint from the budding director.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a deeply literary horror movie that channels more Edgar Allen Poe than it does Stephen King. Ruth Wilson’s brilliant central performance as a timid live-in nurse makes the understated creepiness of her humdrum haunted home seem all the more subjectively relatable and familiar.
4 Over Your Dead Body (2014)
A few years ago, back when prolific director Takashi Miike was only on ninety-four movies instead of the hundred-plus he’s on now, Over Your Dead Body was released and mostly forgotten in the whirlwind of the director’s output. And that’s quite a shame. Though dismissed by a number of critics as one Miike’s worst, Over Your Dead Body shows how easily great movies can fall by the wayside in today’s world.
The story follows a company of actors as they prepare their interpretation of the classic Japanese ghost story – practically the Japanese ghost story – Yotsuya Kaidan. The jealous love triangles of deception and violence spilling out from the brilliantly realized stage show to the reality of the actors’ lives.
3 Crimson Peak (2015)
Before receiving his Oscar-sweeping recognition for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s other strange romance picture went largely unappreciated. Crimson Peak goes a little too far past the point of homage, even for Guillermo del Toro fans, and that hurts the movie. But, underneath the overly predictable plot, lies the same loving care that made all of the director’s most acclaimed works.
Usually, movies as jam-packed as every shot of Crimson Peak is feel like a gaudy mess. But every single aspect of the production design – the sets, the costuming and the props – is so attentively detailed that it flows together in a very unassuming kind of perfection.
2 The Little Stranger (2018)
Director Lenny Abrahamson’s follow up to his Oscar-winning 2015 hit Room, The Little Stranger is, well, a little stranger. It’s an equally intimate and emotional movie but in an entirely different way. Set in a decaying country manor in post-war England, The Little Stranger takes the metaphorical nature of its ghost to a deeper level than most ghost stories ever take them.
Ruth Wilson proves herself one of the top faces of the modern ghost movie as the downtrodden daughter of the house, forced through misfortune to take care of the haunted Hundreds Hall and be taunted with a taste of the independent life she enjoyed during the war. But it’s the aspirations of Domnhall Gleeson’s semi-machiavellian doctor that she has to keep an eye on.
1 A Ghost Story (2017)
David Lowery’s lowkey hipster ghost story is intimately minute and cosmically sprawling at the same time. It’s exactly what every pretentious babble is attempting to be, genuinely profound in a simple and emotional way. It achieves this by both having a sense of humor about itself (the movie essentially follows the recently-deceased Casey Affleck wandering around in a sheet with two black eyes on it like a halloween costume) and being legitimately well-made.
A Ghost Story taps into the heart of the genre perfectly and reimagines the themes of love, loss and memory into something strikingly contemporary but still restrained. It will stay with you, but not for the reasons that you may think.