Bly Manor to Malasana Street: 5 haunted-house films and TV shows to get you in the Halloween mood
Turn out the lights, double lock the doors and whatever you do, don’t go down into the basement, as we pick the fright-fests that really bring the horror home
Spooky stories set in graveyards and crypts are all well and good, but is anything scarier than a haunted house?
After all, the likelihood of finding yourself in a moonlit crypt is pretty slim, whereas a house? Well, most of us live in those, which can’t help but bring a dreaded sense of familiarity to the viewer experience.
As Halloween approaches, fans of scary shows will want to start getting into the spooky swing of things, so we've picked five films and shows that make the house the star.
1. 'The Haunting of Bly Manor', Netflix
Loosely based on Henry James’s 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, this follow-up to the acclaimed The Haunting of Hill House is set in the 1980s.
American au pair Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) arrives at Bly Manor to look after two children, Miles and Flora Wingrave (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelie Smith), who have ended up in the care of their uncle.
The deaths of mum and dad Wingrave are more than a little mysterious, and there’s also the matter of the demise of the previous governess, Rebecca, who drowned in the lake on the estate.
The rest of the Bly Manor staff are all suitably "off", and chef Owen (Rahul Kohli) pretty much nails the vibe of the place when he calls Bly a “gravity well” that sets about trapping the people who live there.
Expect jump-out-of-your-seat frights, and to be second-guessing all the mirrors in your house and double-checking behind the curtains for weeks after you watch.
2. '32 Malasana Street', Shudder
Set in 1976, this subtitled Spanish-language haunted house tale follows the Olmedo family, who quit rural life for a beautiful, spacious apartment in buzzing Madrid. An apartment that just so happens to comes fully furnished, which seems like a bonus, but is actually a big ol’ red flag.
The family react differently to the pieces left behind by the former occupant, an old woman who lived and died alone in it. The mother Candela (Bea Segura) is superstitious, teenage daughter Amparo (Begona Vargas) quickly riffles through the wardrobes for vintage pieces, and the youngest son, Rafael (Ivan Renedo), is thrilled that the television turns itself on and talks to him.
Unfortunately, while everyone’s busy settling into new schools or looking for work in the big city, no one has time for grandpa, who is suffering from dementia and babbling about the woman who wants to take Rafael away.
Bonus points are awarded for that classic scary staple: the rocking chair that rocks by itself.
3. 'I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House', Netflix
When a film starts with the main protagonist declaring that she’ll be dead within the year, you’re pretty much guaranteed scares. And atmospheric ones abound in this tale set in Massachusetts.
Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) arrives at a house to take care of Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), the elderly, bed-ridden woman who lives there.
Tension builds from day one as Blum starts calling Lily "Polly", which was the name of a character from a famous book she once wrote called The Lady in the Walls.
It all leads Lily to take a peek inside the book and wonder if it just might be a tale of things that actually happened in the house. And if it is, then was Blum really writing about Polly, or was her tome actually penned about Lily?
4. 'The Haunting of Hill House', Netflix
Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s classic 1959 horror novel, this critically acclaimed 10-episode show is set in 1992, and follows the Crain family as they snap up a gloomy estate in the hopes of doing it up and flipping it for profit. Naturally, the house has other ideas in this show, which moves between two different time periods.
With a permanently locked study in the centre of the house, within which shadows are seen in the crack under the door, the ghosts include the infamous Bent-Neck Lady, making for some seriously scary moments in a show that is relentless in ratcheting up the sense of impending doom. Carla Gugino stars as the matriarch Olivia Crain, alongside Timothy Hutton as her husband Hugh, in a series that’s as much a study of familial discontent and broken relationships as it is a straight up scare-fest.
5. 'Haunted', Netflix
“The following is a true story” is the big declaration at the start of each episode of this Netflix show. Whether it truly is or not is for you and your Reddit thread-of-choice to decide.
With a "real person" recounting their story and setting the tone, each episode focuses on a different scary story, such as Demon in the Dark in which a woman, Eryn McGarry, speaks about being haunted by a spook since she was a little girl, or The Woman in White, in which a young boy sees an apparition of a woman in his wardrobe after his family moves into a new home.
Cellars and basements loom large in this show, which has stirred up its fair share of controversy thanks to its first person accounts. Although, as it's made by the producers behind horror franchise The Purge, you can probably take that with a pinch of salt.
A condiment which, if Supernatural’s Sam and Dean Winchester have taught us anything, is your best defence against unwanted spirits.
Updated: October 21, 2020 11:13 AM