Haunted houses are the most common settings in horror films. The premise is usually the same: a happy, unsuspecting family moves into a large house with a dark and traumatic past. Soon after, strange things begin to happen: they hear eerie sounds and voices or see inexplicable apparitions, or even come to be possessed. As it turns out, the house is haunted — and its ghostly residents aren’t pleased with their new housemates.
The early 2000s is stacked with haunted house movies. While not all of them are critically acclaimed, these movies still bring the scares. They’ll have some viewers jumping in their seats, anxiously anticipating the moment that the main character turns around or opens that door and finds something terrifying. Here are ten of the scariest haunted house movies of the 2000s.
10 The Messengers (2007)
Before she became a star and took over the world with the Twilight franchise, Kristen Stewart starred in a little horror film called The Messengers. Here, the Solomon family moves from big-city Chicago to a farmhouse in North Dakota.
Naturally, ominous events start taking place: crows are constantly swarming their property, and ghostly figures keep popping up. The Messengers was panned by critics, mostly because it didn’t offer anything original. One reviewer called it “The Grudge on a Farm.” The Messengers may not be the most unique film ever made, but it’s still a decent haunted house story with a few jump scares.
9 The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
The Haunting in Connecticut is exactly like it sounds. A family moves into a haunted house in Connecticut that, of course, used to be a mortuary. The film supposedly captures true events that are based on the real-life Snedeker family (they’re the Campbell family in the movie), who lived in a haunted house.
There’s even a book written about them: In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. However, there are people who claim that the story is false. Even the book’s co-authors have admitted that the story was fabricated. Real or not, The Haunting in Connecticut is another horror film that lacks originality. But the horror clichés and jump scares that it depends so heavily on are enough to make you gasp.
8 The Skeleton Key (2005)
Actress Kate Hudson is known mainly for romantic comedies and chick flicks. But back in 2005, she tried something a little different and starred in the Southern gothic horror film The Skeleton Key. Here, she plays a hospice aide who cares for an elderly couple at a remote Louisiana plantation house.
While there, she uncovers secrets about the house’s dark history. Unlike other entries on this list, The Skeleton Key revolves around voodoo rather than traditional ghosts. But make no mistake: this house is very much haunted. The Skeleton Key was applauded for its unique Southern backdrop and for doing away with traditional ghosts. It’ll keep you in suspense for most of the film, all the way up to its twist ending.
7 What Lies Beneath (2000)
A horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford almost sounds made-up. And yet, it exists. What Lies Beneath follows a married couple, Claire and Norman (Pfeiffer and Ford respectively), who live in a Vermont lakeside home.
Unlike the other entries on this list, the ghost who lurks within their house isn’t necessarily here to terrorize the residents. It’s here to lead Claire to a dark and terrible secret about her husband. What Lies Beneath is a spooky, adult-oriented film that, despite some cliches, manages to stand apart from other typical haunted house stories.
6 The Amityville Horror (2005)
Released in 1979, The Amityville Horror and its tremendous success birthed a series of films. They’re not as famous as, say, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise or the Halloween franchise, but the Amityville Horror series is still popular among fans of the genre. One of its installments is a 2005 remake of the 1979 film, which was likely inspired by the 2003 remake and box office success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s weird to think of funny man Ryan Reynolds, who’s known for sarcastic characters like Deadpool, in horror movies. But in 2005, that’s what we got. Fun fact: this movie also features the debut of Chloe Grace Moretz.
The Amityville Horror, both the remake and the original, is based on the 1977 book of the same name, which documents the paranormal activity experienced by the Lutz family after they move into a house in Amityville, New York — the same place where real-life mass murderer Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed six members of his own family. There are doubts about whether the Lutz’s story is even true. But hey, at least we got a new horror franchise out of it. The 2005 remake didn’t offer anything new from the original, but it’s still a creepy film. And its more modern look, which comes with improved gory effects, will delight younger horror fans.
5 Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
The early 2000s loved remaking horror classics. Thirteen Ghosts is another movie that falls into this category, a remake of the 1960 original. Its set-up is a little different from the usual haunted house story. Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) and his family move into the home of his deceased uncle, who worked as a professional ghost hunter. In an interesting twist, the ghosts that had been captured by Arthur’s uncle are trapped inside the house, imprisoned by enchantments.
The ghosts are an intriguing cast of characters, some with tragic backstories. Some of them are benevolent spirits, like the Dire Mother or the Withered Lover. Others are dangerous and violent, like the Jackal and the Juggernaut. When wandering this haunted house, you never know which ghost will be lurking around the corner. Thirteen Ghosts is reportedly being developed into a 13-part TV series, which will hopefully improve upon, and be more frightening than, its predecessors.
4 The Grudge (2004)
After the monumental success of 2002’s The Ring, which was an American remake of a 1998 Japanese horror film, Sony Pictures decided to remake another Japanese horror movie and bring it to American audiences: Ju-On: The Grudge. Titled simply The Grudge, this version stays true to its Japanese source material while giving it an American spin — most notably with casting Sarah Michelle Gellar in its lead role. It did, however, cast several Japanese actors from the original film.
The Grudge isn’t as good or scary as The Ring (or as the original film for that matter), but it does have some frightening moments. The film’s ghosts, Kayako and Toshio, are disturbing with their stark white skin, bulging eyes, and unnatural movements. The scene where Kayako crawls down the staircase is the stuff of nightmares. And let’s not forget that eerie, throaty noise she makes, which is sure to send tingles down your spine.
3 The House of the Devil (2009)
The House of the Devil is regarded as one of the best haunted house films ever made. It pays homage to ’70s and ’80s horror films, mimicking their styles and techniques. For instance, the film opens with claims that it’s based on true events, similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though this isn’t actually the case.
The House of the Devil also does away with the gorey cliches and jump scares of modern horror; instead, it slowly builds up the tension in a scene, until your heart is pounding against your chest. Obviously, this movie contains elements from the haunted house genre. But it also borrows elements from slasher films and satanic cult movies, combining all these subgenres to craft a well-made and terrifying tale.
2 Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity is one of those horror films that sets the world on fire. The kind of movie that becomes a cultural phenomenon and gets everybody talking and watching — and screaming. It follows an innocent young couple, who believe their house is experiencing…well, paranormal activity. To prove this, they set up a camera to film the strange occurrences and the supernatural forces that are haunting them. Unlike most horror movies, Paranormal Activity relies on realism rather than gore, and it’s incredibly effective.
Its disturbing, homemade footage is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, another low-budget independent film that killed it at the box office. One of the film’s most memorable, spine-tingling scenes is also one of its simplest: the woman is watching her husband as he sleeps, seemingly possessed, standing in place as the minutes fly off the clock. Paranormal Activity’s massivesuccess launched a franchise that continues to make films today.
1 The Others (2001)
The Others might seem like your typical, run-of-the-mill, haunted house horror story at first. But this film’s brilliant twist reveals that it’s the main characters, who are supposedly being haunted throughout the film, that are the ghosts.
The supernatural forces that we see are actually living people: a group that consists of an elderly medium, who’s performing a séance, and the new family that’s now living inside the house. As it turns out, the main character Grace (Nicole Kidman) murdered her two children before taking her own life as well. Since its release, The Others has become one of the best and most unique films in the horror genre.