Halloween is fast approaching, and I can't wait. By far my favorite holiday. I dig all things spooky, and movies about haunted houses are high up on my list. Feeling a bit of the 'spirit' of the season, I thought I would compile a list of some of the haunted house films I like. All of the ones listed are recommended. I was only going to share a few, but I quickly learned that was going to be impossible, so I narrowed the list below to 14 titles. There is a little something for everyone, from the extremely scary to the funny. The titles range from 1944 thru 2002. Maybe you'll find something new to you. Leave me a comment if you check any of them out.
#1: "The Haunting" (1963) - If you've seen the remake from several years ago with Liam Neeson, PLEASE block it from your mind and see the original. Based on the short story "The Legend of Hill House" by the brilliant Shirley Jackson, this was Robert Wise's first directing gig after producing the film version of "Westside Story". It is shot in black and white, and that was by choice. It's a beautifully shot and well acted film that scared me when I was a kid and still creeps me out even though I've seen it more times than I can count. I highly recommend it.
#2: "The Innocents" (1961) Stars Deborah Kerr who you might remember from the musical film "The King & I" where she played Anna. Based on the book 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James, this is spooky fare. Children, a governess, ghosts...also a black and white film filled effectively with darkness and shadow. There are also some sexual under-tones that add to the creepiness of this film.
#3: "House on Haunted Hill" (1959) In the past few years, there was a remake produced of this film that isn't bad, but it doesn't compare to the original. Frequently unintentionally camp and funny, this film still has its creep factor. A great performance by the always memorable, Vincent Price.
#4: "The Uninvited" (1944) Stars Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Donald Crisp. Milland and Hussey play brother and sister who rent a beautiful house by the sea. Before long they discover that they're not alone.
#5: "The Legend of Hell House" (1973) A wealthy old man buys the infamous Ballasco (msp?) house and hires a couple of psychics and a scientist to spend a weekend in the house to seek proof that there is life after death. The always great Roddy McDowall plays the only survivor from the previous expedition...all who participated in the first investigation met their death after leaving the house through one means (accident, suicide, etc.) or another. Clive Revill plays the scientist who will not be swayed in his convictions - he believes that science will disprove the paranormal. (On a side note, Clive used to shop in one of the grocery stores I frequented when I still lived in Hollywood...very nice and when I first met him, shocked that I knew who he was.)
#6: "The Changeling" (1980) George C. Scott is great in this. He plays a composer who has lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident. He rents a historical home to get some peace and quiet to work on his latest composition. Turns out 'someone' is already living in the house...
#7: "The Sentinel" (1977) I recently found this streaming on Netflix. It was great to see it again. Very creepy and a little weird. Young woman rents apartment...let the screams begin!
#8: "The Others" (2001) Starring Nicole Kidman, this film actually made me jump a couple of times. That's really hard to do! The ending also hit me out of left field, and that's even harder to do. I'm a pro at being able to see where a film is headed and how it will end. (A favorite actor of mine, Christopher Eccleston, has a small part in this, too.)
#9: "Darkness" (2002) Stars Anna Paquin. Does it have a creepy factor? Yes! In spades! Very stylized, and shadows are used masterfully.
#10: "The Ghost & Mr. Chicken" (1966) I loved this movie when I was a kid. A comedy starring the always great Don Knotts, it did give me a few chills as a youngster. But mostly laughs.
#11: "High Spirits" (1988) Castle Plunkett is not doing well. The castles drunkard owner (played by the wonderful Peter O'Toole) is in danger of losing his business ( he runs it as a hotel) to an american businessman. In a last ditch effort to save his ancestral home, he launches a new strategy: it's haunted. O'Toole heads up a cast full of notables in this one. Yes, it's pretty silly, but thoroughly enjoyable.
#12: "Burnt Offerings" (1976) starring Karen Black, Oliver Reed, and Betty Davis, is a classic mid-70's haunted house flick. An unsuspecting family rents a massive mansion for a cheap price, and soon find that they got more than they bargained for. If you haven't seen it and are a fan of the haunted house genre, I recommend it.
#13: "The Entity" (1982) This one is definitely not for the kiddies. Barbara Hershey plays a woman who is repeatedly attacked and raped in her home by an unseen force. This one is supposedly based on a true story.
#14: "The Watcher In The Woods" (1980) Presented by Buena Vista Studios (Disney), this is a pretty good film. Starring Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards (who is now on 'Beverly Hills Housewives'), and David McCallum, the story centers around a family who move into a country estate. The girls become imbroiled in a supernatural thrill ride as they get pulled in a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young girl in the woods. This is more family fare, but it will probably get to younger kids. Highly recommend.