Halloween is about a few simple joys: hideous decor, Martha Stewart in costume, Starbursts, Photoshopping outfits onto famous starchitects, and scary movies. Whether it's via midnight screenings of Hitchcock films or watching Beetlejuice once a year, some scary movies have a special place in the cockles of our tickers, beloved for a memorable character or score. Then, of course, there are the houses. When films are intended to scare, the production design is an all-out affair, particularly because the spaces are often the impetus for all the good creepy stuff. Below: take a tour of the 13 best residences of Halloween flicks, from old British manors to '80s-mod Manhattan apartments.
13. Cabin in the Woods (2012)Director: Drew Goddard (written by Goddard and Joss Whedon). Starring: Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams
There's nothing too unusual about the titular cabin, here—indeed the New York Observer once wrote that the set "looks like the haunted house at Knott's Berry Farm"—and, well, that's kind of the point. It's bursting with generically off-putting decor: one-way mirrors, rusted refrigerators, musty upholstery, gas lamps, jewelry boxes, dolls, glowing glass orbs, and just your run-of-the-mill painting of a bloody massacre. What really gets the house on this list, however, is its taxidermy, particularly some characters', erm, passion for it.
12. The Skeleton Key (2005)Director: Iain Softley. Starring: Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant
The Skeleton Key takes place in an amazing old New Orleans spread that looks magnificently drafty, mildewed, and chock-full of voodoo spirits. It's all about the declining Southern grandeur here: the darkened sunrooms, the heavy drawn drapes, the pockmarked wood floors, the wiry chandeliers. Plus one scene takes place in an attic full of mirrors, which is just plain pretty.
11. The Awakening (2011)Director: Nick Murphy. Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
In 2011 BBC produced a post-WWI horror flick inspired by Kate Chopin's novel of the same name, a cinematic masterpiece someone for io9 called "possibly the worst movie I have seen in years." It's an oddball choice, but take a look at the manor-turned-haunted-boarding-school (↑) and it's easy to see why it's on this list.
10. The Others (2001)Director: Alejandro Amenábar. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan
What's fantastic about the The Others, a psychological/supernatural flick that takes place in the aftermath of WWII, is that the plot forces the old, beautiful British manor into the realm of maximum creepiness. The story revolves around the sick children of Grace Stewart (played by Nicole Kidman), who have a skin disorder characterized by extreme photosensitivity. As such, the curtains are always pulled closed, and flickering candles are essentially the only source of light.
9. The Conjuring (2013)Director: James Wan. Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
The Conjuring, which came out this summer, has a lot of points to the good. The plot's fine, the dialog's the appropriate amount of cheesy, and the characters are legitimately likable. Still, it all fades compared to the magnificent 1970s set. The peach wall phone! The citrine window coverings! The aqua floor molding! The floral-on-floral bed linens! Plus, there's a lake or pond or something on the property, which is pretty sweet.
8. Beetlejuice (1988)Director: Tim Burton. Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton
Beetlejuice house when owned by the Maitlands: idyllic New England. Beetlejuice house when owned by the Deetzes: '80s modernism/gaudy comic book. Pure gold. Case closed. A shame it's not really a horror film, ergo: ranked at eight.
7. The Orphanage (2007)Director: J.A. Bayona. Starring: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep
More than 30 years after being given up for adoption, Laura moves back into her old orphanage, which has since been shut down and abandoned. Turns out the orphanage with a mysterious past—surprise!—has a few tricks up its sleeve, and we're talking more than just fabulous cherrywood floors, olive wallpaper, and wainscoting.
6. Psycho (1960)Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Vera Miles, Anthony Perkins, John Gavin, Janet Leigh
The oldest on the list, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho would be up higher if it contained more interior shots. That being said, the exterior of the Bates' home is one of the most iconic in the horror biz. The style? Well, as Hitchcock said in a 1962 interview: "They're either called 'California Gothic' or, when they're particularly awful, they're called 'California gingerbread.'"
5. Rosemary's Baby (1968)Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes
If one doesn't mind a history of murder and satanic rituals, Rosemary and Guy's apartment, an airy sprawl in NYC's Bramford apartment building (the city's real life Dakota) is perfect. Like most New York apartments of film and television, the kitchen and living spaces are outlandishly large, the hallways fulsome, and the fireplace working. Hell, the place has bay windows. Are we supposed to believe it's all affordable enough for a struggling actor and a housewife? Puh-lease.
4. The Woman in BlackDirector: James Watkins. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds
Here's a case of a lousy movie (sorry, Daniel Radcliffe) with an amazing old British house. Radcliffe plays a lawyer sent to the Edwardian manor to arrange for its sale, though he quickly gets distracted by dead people and eerie happenings, as many are wont to do in horror movies. The production design in this is amazing, with an overgrown façade, stained glass windows, alphabet wallpaper, and creepy little tchotchkes.
3. American PsychoDirector: Mary Harron. Starring: Christian Bale
OK, so the horror label may be a bit of a stretch for American Psycho, which is probably better described as a (satirical) psychological thriller, but it seems there's enough human hacking going on in the film to justify the choice. Investment banker Patrick Bateman's '80s-mod Manhattan pad has an obsessive flawlessness that reflects the silent instability of his character. Like the man himself, his digs are en vogue, with a detached sterility that shows a lack of personality. Most importantly, it's suave as all hell.
2. The Shining (1980)Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
Overlook Hotel would probably deserve the No. 1 spot if it were more unambiguously a residence. Still, the place is home for Jack Torrance and his family, who arrive to be the caretakers. More to the point, the place is wrought with superbly long hallways, cavernous, colored rooms, and an oppressive amount of wallpaper. The horror here is subtle; there's no demonized armoires or cob-webbed basements or goo-oozing walls, but there's something about the wide rooms—perhaps that they allow for for wide shots, which is uncharacteristic for horror films—that makes Torrance's descent into madness that much harder to watch.
1. The Amityville Horror (2005)Director: Andrew Douglas. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George
Number one is always going to be controversial, but let's explain the reasoning: (1) The Amityville Horror is a classic horror film, (2) both the 1979 and 2005 versions are well-stocked with effusive '70s decor (read: plaid on plaid on plaid), and (3) the house is the film's protagonist. It's basically got all the goodies that make The Conjuring abode worth gawking at—wood paneling! floral wallpaper! mustard everything!—but with the added bonus of being attached to a seminal classic, and thus a template for all other haunted houses. Oh and let's not even get started on those Dutch Colonial bones.
↑ Poltergeist (1982)
↑ House of the Devil (2009)
↑ Burnt Offerings (1976)
↑ The Changeling (1980)
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