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Halloween Feature: 10 Haunted House Films You'll Never Forget

by The Playlist Staff
October 29, 2010 3:32 AM
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You may not have noticed, as there's been absolutely no marketing, or themed TV episodes, or party invitations, but it's Halloween again. The Playlist team are already assembling their collective Human Centipede outfit for the weekend, but if you're not keen on fancy dress, or maybe just fancy a night in with a movie, what are your options?

In theaters, they're not great -- "Paranormal Activity 2" is surprisingly ok, but you may have already caught that last weekend. "Saw 3D" hits theaters today, but hopefully you're crossing the road to avoid that one already. We'd recommend "Let Me In" if you can find anywhere that's still showing it, but otherwise maybe it's time to hit the classics.

Inspired by the season, by the release of "Paranormal Activity 2," and by the banging we hear in the attic at night, we've compiled a list of 10 of our favorites from one of the most prominent horror sub-genres: the haunted house picture. Next year sees two new haunted house flicks that are getting some decent buzz: the Guillermo del Toro-produced "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," and "Insidious," from original "Saw" helmer James Wan, and further down the line we'll see Daniel Radcliffe taking on one of the classics of the genre, "The Woman In Black." So, what better time to pick out our 10, which should provide a decent night's entertainment over the holiday weekend. Check them out after the jump.

And if you missed it last year, you can check out our Halloween feature on the Best Horror Scores of all time here.

"Hausu" (1977)
When Robert Rodriguez consults his son, Racer, about what he wants to see in a movie, Troublemaker Films gave us “Shorts.” But when Nobuhiko Obayashi asked his 12 year old what she wanted to see in a movie, we got “Hausu.” Advantage: Obayashi. To limit “Hausu” to the genre of horror comedy is to ignore a film that is completely bent in every way, a celebration of all things peculiar. The story concerns a group of girls away at a summer home run by a ghostly aunt, but that neglects to mention the omniscient cat, the carnivorous piano, and the pools of stop-motion blood that populate this mad, one-of-a-kind film. Fans of “The Evil Dead” will find a lot to worship, but so will true lovers of camp: “Hausu” moves herky-jerkily from set piece to set piece with the sort of pacing given to musicals with expository surrounding tissue. And then a head is chopped off, but the good vibes remain, creating perhaps the cheeriest, most infectious blood bath in cinematic history. To see “Hausu” is to love “Hausu.” As you'll have seen from our review yesterday, a shiny new Criterion edition hit stores this week, and is well worth picking up.

"Session 9" (2001)
There are few horror movie locations as terrifying as the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. Brad Anderson, a director who works wonders with atmosphere, didn’t have to do much to make the setting a character in its own right. As a result, “Session 9,” dealing with an overstressed asbestos removal team in the location, alternates between upsetting shock scares and unnerving moments of characters beginning to question their own sanity. The story gradually comes apart, but it’s the details (particularly a truly unsettling series of audiotapes) that let “Session 9” truly inhabit the darkest areas of the mind. It helps that the cast, including Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, veteran character actor Paul Guilfoyle, horror vet Larry Fessenden and, in an almost unique occurrence, a decent performance from David Caruso, are a cut above the disposable teens you usually find in this kind of thing. The film more-or-less disappeared on release, but it's gained a cult following since, and it's well worth tracking down.

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  • Val Lewton's Valet | October 10, 2013 1:36 PMReply

    Two suggestions to add to this list:

    1. Coraline (2009)
    I know, I know, it's for kids. Except it's not just for kids because it is super creepy. And for one very good reason: few cinematic characters have ever demonstrated as much treacly menace as The Other Mother. This is the only movie that I really wish I had seen in 3-D. I would put this one ahead of Monster House by at least 2 lengths. Not that Monster House is bad -- it's really quite entertaining. But Coraline has the goods. And the old, creaky house setting is fun.

    2. The Seventh Victim (1943)
    Stay with me here. I know it is not a haunted "house", per se, but the movie creates places -- a Greenwich Village apartment building and the shadowy New York streets surrounding it -- that have palpable menace. You have a sense of place and you just know something sinister is going on there, even if it isn't clear whether it has any supernatural origin. Very creepy.

  • Val Lewton's Valet | October 10, 2013 1:46 PM

    I couldn't resist adding just one more, although I am sure it is on a number of other lists:

    Suspiria (1977)
    This waking nightmare is unsettling for at least a dozen reasons, including the score and the sound production. To me, however, it is the primary setting -- an oozing-with-satanic-menace European dance academy -- that really puts it over the top.

  • Jake | April 26, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    Best haunted house comedy is "The Selling"

  • MishuPishu | October 31, 2010 11:49 AMReply

    Nice. Poltergeist scared the crap out of me when I was a kid but The Shining always creeps me out (it's almost scary how well-made the movie is).

    Another film, made back in the late 90's, that is off the radar but has a cool independent creepy style is The Eternal, with an old house in the countryside where Christopher Walken plans to pass the spirit of an ancient druid witch into an unsuspecting Allison Elliot.

  • TheoC | October 29, 2010 8:14 AMReply

    Poltergeist was the last movie to scare me, well that and the Happening(just mark wahlberg), I really want see the innocents now.

    Great feature this week, well done.

  • taptup | October 29, 2010 7:41 AMReply

    @ Lookf4r

    Considering the limited range of elements on which horror movies are based, I'd say that's the only similarity.

    Good feature, but I can understand why Kevin didn't sign (whatever?)

  • The Playlist | October 29, 2010 4:54 AMReply


  • randy | October 29, 2010 4:50 AMReply

    this is the best feature ever.

  • Lookf4r | October 29, 2010 4:05 AMReply

    I watched the changeling and the similarities to the ring blew my mind. Specifically the portion where he goes on his investigation to the rural hotel and find a hole in the floor concealing a well with a dead body.

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