Everything comes in cycles. The ghost or haunted house story is no exception. From Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill to Eddie Murphy in The Haunted Mansion, there are plenty of good ones and even more bad ones. Tonight I offer you three legitimately terrifying haunted house/ghost stories.
61. Ghost Story
Talk about an all-star cast. Not just a good ensemble cast, we’re talking about cinematic legends here – Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Melvin Douglas star opposite Alice Krige, who makes her second appearance in the countdown (Sleepwalkers).
Four gentlemen fall in love with the same woman and kill her in a tragic accident. Rather than be honest about it and report it to the authorities, they cover it up to save their prep school, or Ivy League, or whatever reputations and high-falutin’ career aspirations. Sound familiar? Krige comes back to haunt her suitors turned killers.
I have an affinity for this because it was one of the first horror films I saw when my family first got cable in the early 1980s, and it has haunted me ever since. Spoilers be damned, this is one creepy movie. And one helluva ghost story.
60. The Conjuring
I gave this a chance and I am glad I did. I watched it on a flight and landed before the movie was over and I couldn’t wait for the return trip to finish it. I was very skeptical at first because I am not a Lily Taylor fan. She was awful in The Haunting and didn’t add much to the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove. However, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are fantastic as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sound editing is phenomenal and there are some legitimate jump factor moments. A demonic spirit of a witch attaches itself to the matriarch (Taylor) of a large family and the Warrens come to the rescue.
This film launched what has become known as the Conjuring universe. Director James Wan has re-invented the ghost story, a genre that was practically dead in the water. The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Anabelle, Anabelle Creation, Anabelle Comes Home, and The Nun make up this mythos. The other films are hit and miss. But The Conjuring was unexpected and is truly frightening. Ron Livingston (Office Space) is excellent as the patriarch of the afflicted family.
59. The Amityville Horror
Speaking of Ed and Lorraine Warren, James Brolin and Margot Kidder star as the newlywed Lutzs in this shocking haunted house story. Written about, talked about, visited by tourists, parodied, discussed by stand-up comics, The Amityville Horror involves the most vicious haunted house story ever filmed. Based on a “true” story, the DeFeo family was brutally murdered in the house and the Lutzs moved in anyway. The house telling them to “get out” is the least of their worries.
This is not only one of the best horror films of the 1970s, it’s one of the best period. Well-acted and featuring some truly messed up practical effects, this film is truly frightening. The great Rod Steiger also stars. The mythology surrounding the house is legendary and the house scares people half to death to this day.
Avoid the remake with Ryan Reynolds. Watch the original.