A sort of supernatural homage to Hitchcock, What Lies Beneath is a slick, big-budget production about a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) who begins to think that her house is haunted by the ghost of her next-door neighbor. It has the classic feel of an old-fashioned murder mystery with the added fright factor of the ghost of the victim returning from her watery grave.
25. Darkness (2002)
This English-language debut from Spanish director Jaume Balagueró (REC) was ill-treated in the US -- edited for a PG-13 rating and delayed for two years -- but the stylish direction and striking imagery of the apocalyptic haunted house tale shone through.
24. Shutter (2004)
23. 1408 (2007)
22. Candyman (1992)
A ghost story bordering on slasher, Candyman brilliantly mines the fear inherent in urban legends and campfire tales in this story of a Bloody Mary-ish ghost who appears if you say his name into a mirror three times. Unlike Bloody Mary, though, he has a hook for a hand.
21. Al Final del Espectro (2006)
Sort of a Columbian version of an Asian horror movie, Al Final del Espectro features the familiar female ghost with long, dark, stringy hair, this time in a Columbian setting. The film presents the intriguing scenario of an agoraphobic woman whose new apartment is haunted, meaning she must decide whether it's worse to stay in her comfort zone with a ghost or venture out into the non-haunted public world. A remake starring Nicole Kidman was slated for 2010, but that appears to be dead.
This old-fashioned ghost story about experts investigating a haunted house delivers scares without the sight of a single ghost. Instead, director Robert Wise expertly manipulates sounds and shadows to convey the sense of being surrounded by malevolent forces. Even in black and white, The Haunting still manages to have an impact today -- much more so than the bland 1999 remake.
In this Spanish film, a woman returns to live in the orphanage from which she was adopted but begins to suspect that it's haunted. Her fears are compounded when her son goes missing. Gut-wrenching and heartfelt, The Orphanage exemplifies the power of emotional investment in building up cinematic scares.
18. The Eye (2002)
This entry from Hong Kong eschews the now-standard long-haired ghost woman scenario for a more unique story of a woman whose corneal transplants leave her with the ability to see ghosts -- some nicer than others. Despite the less stylized, more "realistic" spirits, The Eye had its share of terrifying moments, the elevator scene in particular a slice of genius.
The Others mines the vintage gothic setting of a World War II-era mansion for spooky thrills in this tale of a mother and her two young photosensitive children stuck in their house as they await the return of their soldier father. Of course, the house just happens to be haunted. Marvelously paced with a delicious twist ending, this is the kind of high-end cinema that appeals to viewers who don't even like horror movies.