Haunted houses. What is it about the dead still hanging about that fascinates us so much? And what is it about creaky old locations that brings out the superstitious in even the staunchest atheist?
For my part, the romance attached with a ghost locked to a location is too much to resist. I love old places. I love their history, their timeworn imperfections, their atrophied surfaces the only reminder of those who were here before us, and who are now long gone... or are they?
I think part of the allure of ghosts is that, if we could just see one, just once, and KNOW for sure that what we were seeing was real, then we'd have actual tangible proof that there is more out there after we die. It's like we want a cheat sheet for spirituality. Why have faith when we can see, hear or feel eternity? Proof. It's what every ghost hunter is seeking. Proof of ghosts. Proof that we have a soul.
I had a friend once say to me he hates having to have faith that there's a God. Nothing, he told me, would make him happier than if Satan himself appeared in a puff of smoke and stood there snickering and flipping us the bird. At least then there'd be proof that there's something more.
"Also proof that Satan is a bit of a douchebag," I added.
So that's why I think we don't just like ghosts, but we actually need them. They're something to cling to, even if it's just smokey shapes or a whisp of ectoplasm.
Okay, so now that you're thinking about ghosts and haunted locales, here are my top ten haunted house films. I'm 100% certain that I've missed one or two that should be here and I'll kick myself for it tomorrow. Or better yet, you kick me here in the comments section. Since the Haunted House film is my favorite sub genre of horror, I welcome all suggestions of films I may have missed. I love it when someone recommends one that I've missed!
I have a hard enough time coming up with "best of" lists, let alone ranking the top films that made it, so here they are, in no particular order. Oh and as a side note, a bunch of these have been remade, but forget the remakes, they're cheap copies made by people who can't think of their own fucking stories. Always go with the originals.
Drew's Top Haunted House Films
The Changeling (1980)
Spooky widower George C. Scott finds himself consumed with the spectre of a dead child who keeps appearing in Scott's secluded historical mansion.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Oliver Reed and Karen Black! How can you go wrong! When the couple. Along with their son, moves into a gothic mansion as summer caretakers, they find they are not alone.
The Others (2001)
Nicole Kidman is convinced that she and her photosensitive children are being haunted in their darkened old house.
Steven Spielberg's *cough* Tobe Hooper's story of a modern suburban family whose new home and the land it's built on, has an older, darker history than anyone knew...
The Orphanage (2007)
Il Orfanato is one of the best haunted house films of the last decade and follows a woman whose son disappears from the orphanage she just opened for handicapped children.
The Shining (1980)
Not just a great ghost story, but also possibly one of the best films ever made, The Shining follows Jack Torrance and his family as they become the winter caretakers for the ominous and incredibly secluded Overlook Hotel.
The House on Haunted Hill (1959)
This one's not so much scary as it is campy fun. William Castle and Vincent Price at their hammy best in a story of an eccentric millionaire who offers 5 people a million dollars if they can make it through the night in his haunted home.
The Haunting (1963)
Join Dr. Markaway and his team of psychics and skeptics as they explore away some time in one of the most haunted houses in the world. This film scared the SHIT out of me hwhen I watched it alone one night.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Here's yet another film about a team of psychics & researchers who visit Hell House, whose hauntings are legendary. Their job is simple enough. Prove that there's survival of the soul after death. You can't go wrong with any Roddy McDowall film if you ask me.
The Innocents (1961)
Based on a Henry James Novel, A young governess for two orphaned children is convinced that the house and grounds of their gothic mansion are haunted. Or is she nuts? YOU decide... I've gone round and round debating this one with friends. Great psychological/supernatural horror that pits you against your own imagination.
Takahashi Shimizu's tale of terror about a house that refuses to forget the tale of a man who brutally murders his wife and young son.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
James Brolin and Margot Kidder, baby! A young couple moves their family into an old home that was surprisingly cheap... and they soon find out why. This movie will make you fear 3:15 am for the rest of your life.
Honorable Mentions (not haunted house stories, but great ghost stories, nonetheless)
Dead of Night
The Sixth Sense
If you haven't seen any of these, then you're in for a treat. And if you have other recommendations, please leave them in the comments section because, well, I'm addicted to good ghost stories because I too am looking for proof....
Gaudium per Atrox.