The Top 10 Houses of Horrors

October 15, 2008

Halloween is here again, so we're taking a look at the top 10 horrific houses in cinema. There have been a lot of hellish domiciles over the years in movies, but these 10 are renowned for the terror they inspire in all who are foolish enough to enter their premises. Whether it’s trespassing ghosts or inbred killers, these walls hold enough horror to keep us tuned in to the grisly end.

10. House of Wax


Most killers are brutes with knives or ghosts with unresolved issues, but the “hacks” in this movie don’t have hack saws, they have wax. Lots and lots of wax. Which doesn’t mean they’re above the occasional beheading or dismembering, only that when they have their druthers they spray people in wax and let them age with the furniture. Strangely, these artistic savages managed to build their entire house out of wax…and not have it melt.

In real life: the House of Wax is set in Ambrose, a fictional town in Louisiana that's been abandoned for a decade.

9. The Others


Anyone who’s ever had an annoying roommate knows what it’s like to be constantly putting up with obnoxious habits: leaving the peanut butter out, not washing the dishes, occupying rooms without actually being in them and appearing as demonic apparitions to little children. These things get on one’s nerves. Nicole Kidman has to share an entire estate with ghouls such as these, and after spending much time in denial and chastising her children for lying, she finally realizes she has more roommates than she bargained for. And it’s scary as crap.

In real life: the Oheka Castle was used for exteriors of the estate, located on Long Island's Gold Coast and built by Otto Kahn (no, he did not rule the Hapsburg Empire at any time). The second largest house in America, it boasts 127 rooms and more than 100,000 square feet. For the macabre amongst you, you can even get married there.

8. Evil Dead II


After Ash brings his girlfriend, Linda, to the evil cabin from Evil Dead I, she soon becomes an evil zombie. When that kind of thing happens no amount of couples therapy will fix the problem. Yes, this movie is hilarious (could any movie with Bruce Campbell not be?), but it’s also violent and awesome, and no one in their right mind would visit this evil cabin – twice. That takes man balls. Crazy man balls.

In real life: The interior and most of the outer cabin scenes of the film were shot on a set built inside the JR Faison Junior High School gymnasium in Wadesboro, North Carolina.

7. The Grudge (Ju-on)


You gotta watch the original Japanese version of this movie, because it will freak your shit out. Just like the original Japanese version of The Ring was much scarier than the American version (and had a way cooler sounding name: Ringu), so too is Ju-on much scarier than its American counterpart. I’m sorry, but watching someone try to sleep, only to find that they have a white-faced child ghost sprawled under the sheets on top of them has got to be one of the most terrifying images ever. Do not watch this movie if you’re house-sitting alone that night. Seriously.

In real life: director Takashi Shimizu used the same location for the big-budget Ju-on as he did with the two lower budget, direct-to-DVD originals.

6. The Changeling


When composer John Russell suffers the tragic loss of his wife and daughter he takes a vacation at an old house on the advice of a friend. He is soon haunted by a child ghost who reveals nasty secrets about the previous owners of the house. The child ghost only appears at 6 AM so as to ensure maximum scariness. It succeeds.

In real life: The mansion scenes of this movie were filmed at what was then the Royal Roads Military College in Victoria.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


The first time I saw this movie (which, incidentally, was the last time) I couldn’t get to sleep until around 5 in the morning. I’m talking about the original, mind you, from 1974. It’s not just the graphic violence, it’s not just the evil giant, aka “Leatherface”, it’s not just the horrible house they’re trapped in. It’s all of these things. Director Tobe Hooper tapped into a primal vein of fear in everyone, so that by the time you finish watching this movie you don’t ever want to travel south of the Mason-Dixon line.

In real life: Contrary to popular belief, the events depicted in the film were not based on a true story, but rather inspired by a bizarre murderer by the name of Ed Gein.

4. The Amityville Horror


Married couple George and Kathy Lutz and their three kids arrogantly move into a house off the coast of Long Island despite warnings from the realtor. Pretty soon it’s clear there’s an evil spirit hanging around and even a priest who tries to exorcise the spirit incurs its wrath. This movie is actually based on a “true story”, which makes all the horrific stuff this fam goes through that much scarier.

In real life: You can actually visit the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in -- you guessed it -- Amityville. Back in 1965, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed 6 members of his family at this house, claiming to have "heard voices". I know where I'm throwing my Spring Break '09 party! This one’s a classic – put it at the top of your list.

3. The Haunting


This movie is great because it’s both a haunted house horror film and a psychological thriller. Dr. Markway decides to do some psychic research at Hill House after finding out about its history of death and tragedy. Having brought Eleanor with him, a woman who has much experience with spirits, it’s not long before the good doctor can’t tell who is losing their mind and who is losing their soul. The Haunting is an oldie but a goodie.

In real life: They filmed the exteriors of the of the house at Ettington Hall, near Stratford-upon-Avon. 

2. Poltergeist


It appears Tobe Hooper is the only director with two movies on this list (he also directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre), though, to be fair, received wisdom and rumors that have become – over time – fact, have it that Hooper was booted from the director’s chair at some point during production and Spielberg took over. He was wrote and produced the film to begin with, so this isn’t a stretch. And when you take a look at Hooper’s CV, it becomes pretty obvious his career went downhill after Poltergeist.

Whoever directed Poltergeist, it is an extremely scary movie. Freaky people walking backwards down stairs. Giant child-devouring esophagi. People pulling their faces off. I’m getting scared just writing about this. This entire movie has Spielberg’s genius touch all over it, and my only regret is that they’ve seen fit to remake this movie. This is one movie that does not need remaking. If you for some unfathomable reason haven’t seen this movie yet, watch it tonight. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say this movie wraps things up better than any other haunted house movie. Ever.

In real life: little Carol Anne's house is just your standard two-story located in suburban Simi Valley. Just goes to show Spielberg can make anything seem supernatural.

1. The Shining


This movie combined the talents of three very talented men: Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson and Stephen King. With their talent combined they made the scariest haunted house movie ever, and it still scares the crap out of people to this day. There are few places you can go and creepily utter, “Red rum!” without having people know what you’re talking about.

The genius of this movie is that the evil spirits occupying the huge house use Jack Torrance to become the agent of evil: he is much more dangerous than the spirits that haunt the place he and his family are staying in. His psychological susceptibility is what gives the spirits their power, and ultimately his feeble mind gives in as he tries to hack his entire family to little bits. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re in need of a good fright this Halloween…heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!

In real life: The exteriors of the film were shot at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon, while the interiors were filmed in England at Pinewood Studios, as well as Elstree Studios. The Timberline Lodge actually had Kubrick change the haunted hotel room number from 217 (as it was in the book) to 237, so as to not scare customers away from the room. I'd be surprised if people weren't scared away from the lodge altogether.