Today is all about haunted house horror films and maybe even the books they are based off of. The one that comes to mine for me as the definitive scary one is "The Haunting "(1963), based off Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Yes, there was a remake in 1999, with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but that was not well done. No the original closely patterns the book, which is the only book to still scare me during the daytime, in a schoolroom full of people when I was in junior high school in El Cajon, California. As says in the beginning of the summary on IMDB, "Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion."
Of course, the nephew of the owner of Hill House joins them in this scary adventure.
The dark energies of the house zeros in on Eleanor Vance. A woman in her thirties, she is lonely and living with her sister and brother-in-law after her mother died. No matter of the frightening things happening in the house, Eleanor feels a sense of belonging and happiness in the house. The book makes it hard for anyone to determine is it the house and the ghosts in the place, or Eleanor herself that causes what happens there. Not unlike my short story, "Bottled Spirits." Is it madness or real ghosts that are affecting my character, Jessica. Those are always the best kind of scary movies or books, they make you wonder which is it.
Another 'haunted house' horror film, is "Legend of Hell House," based off Richard Matheson's book of the same name. In this film from 1973, a physicist, his wife, a young female psychic and the only survivor of the previous visit (a psychic too) come to the notorious Hell House to prove/disprove survival after death. Previous visitors have either been killed or gone mad, and it is up to the team to survive a full week in isolation. Though the book was set in New England, they changed the setting to England, because of the British actors used. Like "The Haunting," it is a good, scary movie. I enjoyed the book too, when I read it while in college, though the novel had more intense sexual scenes and more graphic violence. The movie screenplay was toned down to a more 'brooding' atmosphere. The ghostly owner of Hell house is actually based off loosely of Aleister Crowley.
The Conjuring (2103), based off a real incident in the 70s, where a paranormal investigation and eventually an exorcism was preformed. Though centered more on the demonic spirit, this is also centered around the farmhouse the spirit lived in life and where the modern residents are tormented by the entity. There is a website for the real Perron family and real Bathsheba Witch that you can fread about at http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/conjuring.php The movie was not based off the trilogy House of Darkness House of Light by Andrea Perron, but off the case files of Ed & Lorraine Warren. I am looking forward to buying the Blu Ray edition of the film on Tuesday, October 22, 2013.
House on Haunted Hill was first shown in theaters in 1959 and there is also a remake, released in 1999. The first one starred Vincent Price (my fave classic horror actors), and the remake had Geoffrey Rush who kind of looked like Vincent and was the character, Stephen H, Price, as the owner. In the original, Vincent as Frederick Loren offers ten thousand dollars to five people to be locked in a spook house with him and his wife. In the remake, Rush's characters pays some people $1,000,000 (inflation?) to spend the night in a haunted house with a horrifying past. I would suggest both to watch. I actually enjoyed the remake this time around.
The Amityville Horror ( 1979) and the remake (2005)--the first one is the best. The remake, so-so. Though originally about a family tormented by demonic spirits and the husband possessed, it was found all faked. Still, some scary stuff.. whether you believe it or not.
Paranormal Activity (2007) is the first movie in a series that keeps spitting out sequels around Halloween. Strange things happen in the night and a couple decide to try and capture it on video. What ensues is a gradual building of suspense and terror, and how with "Ghost Hunters" and "Ghost Adventurers" on TV influencing regular people who will try to prove or disprove a haunting with a camcorder.
Monster House (2006) is because the kids need a scary movie to watch and I enjoyed it. Made with computerized animation, this film has three teens discover that their neighbor's house is really a living, breathing, scary monster.
Other 'haunted house' films to check out (some are super, others, not so):
The Changling (1980) --one great scene makes this one of the scariest films: George C. Scott tosses his dead daughter's ball into the river, then comes back home, and sees it fall down the stairs.
Poltergeist (1982)--famous word: "They're here!"
The Shining ( 1980)--there is a TV remake that Stephen King was more like his book. Watch both.
House (1986)-- There is a second, House II.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Thirteen Ghosts (2001)--This is a remake of the film of the same name from the Forties.
Return to Haunted Hill (2007)
The Woman in Black (2012)--actor, Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame in first grown up role. I enjoyed this movie in the theater and own it on DVD.
The Orphanage (2007)
The Others (2001)
Burnt Offerings (1976)--haunted house chiller from Dan Curtis has Oliver Reed and Karen Black as summer caretakers moving into gothic house with their young son.
Ju-On: The Grudge ( 2002)
Rose Red (2002) --mini series. This is so obviously The Haunting of Hill House redone.
The House on Skull Mountain (1974)
There are haunted hotels and haunted apartment movies, but I focused on the home versions. Whatever you feel about these films as you view them--what Halloween is about begins with the phantoms and ghosts haunting one's home that goes back to the primal fear of the caveman in his cave, doing all he can to prevent monsters and the dead from terrorizing him in his own place of safety.