There are few things more delightful in the world of scary movies than a properly terrifying haunted house story. It's an evergreen sub-genre that was as relevant in the Gothic fiction of the 19th century as it is in the mainstream horror cinema of the 21st century.
The dark corners and creaking doors of a cavernous building are the perfect venue for a horror film. There's plenty of space for evil presences to hide and the prospect of a lone protagonist wandering through the halls, usually wielding a comically huge candelabra, is more than enough to invoke shivers without the need for an expensive CGI beastie to leap out from behind a grandfather clock.
It might seem as if the haunted house movie is wedded to a particular and obvious structure, but it is actually a setup that has rich potential for thematic exploration. Many filmmakers over the years have been able to use the notion of a haunted house as a vessel for sexual paranoia, childhood innocence, and the cabin fever of familial domesticity.
The haunted house has a unique power in its ability to make viewers fear the apparently cosy environment around them. A home is where people feel at their safest, but these movies turn that right on its head and force the audience to fear every single thing that goes bump in the night.
10. The Woman In Black (2012)
On paper, The Woman in Black was a film that could have gone either way in terms of quality. The talent in front of the camera was something of an unknown quantity, with Daniel Radcliffe taking on his first major role after Harry Potter in a movie that put him on screen alone for almost the entire running time. On the other hand, though, director James Watkins had shown real horror skill with the brutal, terrifying Eden Lake.
The film sees Radcliffe hopelessly miscast as lawyer Arthur Kipps, who is tasked with organising the affairs of the recently deceased woman who owned Eel Marsh House, with a view to readying the property for sale. He is soon pursued by increasingly horrifying apparitions in the house, while children begin to die in the nearby town.
This is perhaps the best example of a horror movie driven solely by jump scares. Watkins builds the tension between the sharp jolts with real craft and skill, judging every loud noise and surprising image to perfection. Radcliffe sells the creeping dread with real skill, en route to a finale that gives the story a memorably bleak sign-off.