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10 Homeless “Haunted House” Movies

Who needs a house when the world is your haunt?
Days Houses
By  · Published on October 6th, 2018

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Personally, no horror film is more fun, more accessible, or has more potential for true blue scares than a haunting film. And I don’t even have to wonder where in my childhood that sprung from, I know why! Perhaps it was my brother and I’s mutual love for Ghostbusters, or my growing interest in paranormal TV shows like Sightings, but my parents let me watch two cerebrally intense ghost films when I was probably six or seven. The first was Robert Wise’s The Haunting, adapted from the lauded Shirley Jackson novel. The other was Peter Medak’s The Changeling, which I found so terrifying that I forever associate the film with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the movie my brother and I forced our parents to turn on after watching The Changeling just to come down from the paranoid fear.

But the connecting thread for most all haunting films is that they happen in a house. Nothing is scarier than the invasion of your home by that which you can’t evict, but based solely on my experience watching Travel Channel ghost hunting shows: we know hauntings don’t always happen in homes. From late 80s health spas to antiseptic funeral parlors, sometimes the most effective, and most fun, hauntings happen anyone but your own front door. Keep reading for a look at the 10 best haunting films that take place anywhere but the home as voted on by Chris Coffel, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, and myself.

10. As Above, So Below (2014)


As Above So Below is perhaps best remembered today for being an unfortunate victim of the found footage fatigue experienced in the decade following the global hit franchise Paranormal Activity. And while I’m a lifetime stan for found footage as a storytelling construct, what truly sets As Above apart is its use of an Eldritch Location in lieu of your a-typical “haunted house”. Within an Eldritch Location, in this case, the labyrinthian Paris Catacombs, the natural order of the world does not apply. Entryways disappear behind you, what you thought was up is actually down, and you can’t trust what you are seeing in front of your own eyes. And by tying this directly to the real world fears of being trapped underground in a cave-like system of tunnels, as our protagonists pursue the mythic philosopher’s stone, it amplifies the films claustrophobic horror. Featuring some truly mind-boggling and scary set pieces, the film most notably is anchored by its lead performances from the forever likable Ben Feldman (Superstore). – Jacob Trussell

9. Death Spa (1989)

Death Spa

I worked at a gym my first three years out of college which gives me a tiny look behind the curtain of the fitness club at the heart of cornball classic Death Spa. Ironically, despite the cutting edge club’s absurdly large “control room” that looks like an Off-Broadway production of War Games, Death Spa did correctly predict the rise of automated technology to track your fitness goals! So, don’t let anyone tell you Death Spa is completely unrealistic. But outside of the undercurrent commentary of spas and gyms in the 80s birthing the original hook-up culture (seriously, our lead Michael basically uses it as a proto-Tinder), techno-chiller turned supernatural romp Death Spa should be best remembered for its absolutely outrageous practical effects that beg to be cheered with a voracious crowd. It’s undeniably fun, charmingly of its time, and the epitome of a light-hearted “Saturday Morning Horror.” – Jacob Trussell

8. Oculus (2013)


Aren’t mirrors crazy, the way they just reflect you? On some level they must be capturing part of your essence, right? How else would they work. Sounds like dark magic to me. That’s not quite what Mike Flanagan’s eerie supernatural thriller is about, but it’s in the ballpark. There is a creepy mirror that causes people to hallucinate which leads to attacking family members and walls. Also, at one point Karen Gillan eats a light bulb and that’s a disturbing image that has resulted in my fear of changing the light. – Chris Coffel

7. 1408 (2007)

Quoth John Cusack’s paranormal writer and hardened cynic Mike Enslin: “hotel rooms are a naturally creepy place.” Even without the ghosts. There is certain off-ness about hotel rooms; the same forced neutrality you’d find in a zoo. When Mike finally enters the dreaded room 1408 with its 56 recorded deaths, he finds a typically innocuous setup and laughs. But, unfortunately for Mike, expectation is the perfect stage for spooks in this creeper from writer Stephen King. – Meg Shields

6. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Jane Doe

Morgues are inherently frightening places. I mean, they’re meat lockers for dead bodies. Which makes you wonder why we have so many haunted house movies and so few haunted morgue movies?  Whatever the case may be, André Øvredal fixed that problem with his incredibly and supremely scary 2016 film. A pair of father and son coroners receive a body that was discovered in a mysterious way. As they begin to operate to determine the cause of death strange things start happening and before you know it you’ve pulled all three of your cats close and crawled under the covers. Also, the father and son are played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch and that rules. – Chris Coffel

5. The Innkeepers (2011)

It’s cool that you love Ti West‘s The House of the Devil, but this later gem remains his best and most terrifying feature. The film moves its ghostly shenanigans to an inn with history, and rather than simply afford the supernatural a single outlet the hotel setting allows for multiple tenants of terror. Human misery spills from every room… or does it? The beauty of the film is in its recognition that we empower our own fears. We give them life as well as permission to scare the shit out of us, but even recognizing our own imagination as the culprit doesn’t lessen the horror. It’s real if we believe it. – Rob Hunter

4. Pulse (Kairo) (2001)


By the early 2000’s, the internet was mainstream and finding its way into the majority of households. Naturally, Japanese horror cinema responded accordingly and tried to make us afraid of the phenomenon. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s apocalyptic ghost story sees computer screens serve as a gateway between the land of the living and the realm of the dead. The film explores the idea that the internet isolates people rather than connects them, thus serving as a warning that we shouldn’t get too attached to technology. Watch it, shiver, then go outside and take a hike or something. – Kieran Fisher

3. The Orphanage (2007)


Wait, hold on, isn’t an orphanage basically the same thing as a house? Well, in that it is a place people call home: sure. But after that, the similarities start breaking down and wafting of something unnervingly institutional. The titular orphanage of J.A. Bayona’s 2007 horror flick is a dilapidated sea-side estate just big and empty enough for shadows to move in dark corners and for eyes to play tricks. It’s from another time and lousy with the lives of others. All that plus the inherent creep factor of kids make it the perfect candidate for a haunting. – Meg Shields

2. Session 9 (2001)


The premise behind most haunted house movies is that something terrible happened to a family there, and now the terror permeates the walls. Blow that up to the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital — a place where suffering and terror were magnified a hundred-fold — and you have a horror film powered equally by misery and madness. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the experience of moving through these halls carries the weight of such immense sorrow, confusion, and pain as to be an unrelentingly haunting experience. – Rob Hunter

1. The Shining (1980)


Zzzzzzzz -THUMP-zzzzzzzz-THUMP- zzzzzzzz -THUMP. Rolling through the hardwood and carpeted corridors of the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance opens himself up to a myriad of horrors hidden behind each numbered doorway. The vacation resort is a treasure trove of human despair. Pain checks in, but it doesn’t check out. A boy’s supernatural talent grants him access, but he’s going to need a lifetime of analysis to move beyond the nightmares accessed at his father’s winter gig. The Overlook collects misery like a flame incinerates moths. A haunted house can offer its fair share of frights, but a cursed hotel contains a nearly endless supply of shock. Ghostly bartenders, blood-vomiting elevators, lustful rotting corpses, pleasure-seeking furries. Each ghastly revelation adds a chink in your psyche’s armor and will stay with you years after experiencing The Shining. – Brad Gullickson

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). Available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)