There are few things more delightful in the world of scary movies than a properly terrifying haunted house story. It’s an evergreen sub-genre that was as relevant in the Gothic fiction of the 19th century as it is in the mainstream horror cinema of the 21st century.
The dark corners and creaking doors of a cavernous building are the perfect venue for a horror film. There’s plenty of space for evil presences to hide and the prospect of a lone protagonist wandering through the halls, usually wielding a comically huge candelabra, is more than enough to invoke shivers without the need for an expensive CGI beastie to leap out from behind a grandfather clock.
It might seem as if the haunted house movie is wedded to a particular and obvious structure, but it is actually a setup that has rich potential for thematic exploration. Many filmmakers over the years have been able to use the notion of a haunted house as a vessel for sexual paranoia, childhood innocence, and the cabin fever of familial domesticity.
The haunted house has a unique power in its ability to make viewers fear the apparently cosy environment around them. A home is where people feel at their safest, but these movies turn that right on its head and force the audience to fear every single thing that goes bump in the night.