Haunted House movies, Are They A Thing of The Past?

Andrew Murphy

One of the most popular sub-genres of horror these days is haunted house movies, and they have been around for a long time. But where has the creativity gone, and is this the beginning of the end for them?

Some of the most popular horror movies that came to light around the 70’s and 80’s were haunted house movies, some like The Amityville Horror were based on ‘true events’ and spawned infinite sequels because of the firsts success. Other haunted house movies like The Shining, Poltergeist, The Changeling and House also were very big hits with people all over the world. Though these movies (and countless others, before the 70’s and 80’s) all have something in common, they all innovated and brought something new within the haunted house sub-genre.

But in the past few years with more and more haunted houses to visit in movies, the ugly question of, “are these movies really doing anything better, or bringing something new to the table that others aren’t?” rose its ugly head, and I found myself answering the question with ‘not really’.


Without a doubt one of the biggest horror movies in general over the past few years has been the Paranormal Activity series. Though I know a lot of people don’t like the series in general, the first movie was an instant success with a wide range of people who wouldn’t even normally like horror movies. Finally bringing something new to the table of haunted house movies, making the movie seem almost real, that’s what appealed to the big audience – and it worked. Though the movie did have that ‘Blair Witch Project’ feel to it, it felt more real because of where it was set – a home. The way the movie portrayed scenes was different, you couldn’t see the ‘demon’ they were against nor could the characters. That’s what was freighting, then add the fact that the movie had that ‘feel’ that it was shot on a handheld camera and could be possibly real? It raised the bar. The film was given the title, “most profitable film ever made” based on return investment. When other film companies saw how much money a film like this could be made for, and how much it could bring in? It seemed only genius to make rip-offs of Paranormal Activity, such as Paranormal Entity and Paranormal Incident.

But where else has the recent innovation for haunted house movies come from? Well, very little has actually come. Since the first Paranormal Activity, the sequels have brought nothing new. All just a rehash of the first movie with a bigger budget and a more confusing plot-line. The most recent one (Paranormal Activity 4) has done some very minor changes, such as using a web camera at points instead of a handheld camera, but the innovation kind of stops there. Some movies like Insidious have changed the haunted house formula a bit, making a child ‘haunted’ instead of the actual house they live in which was a nice change but apart from that, it really didn’t do anything major.

The haunted house movies of today just seem to be living in the past, thriving on past ideas that were innovative and hoping that they still amaze people now, but they don’t. They become boring, repetitive and most of all, I feel like I have seen the same film countless times over.

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Now saying all this, there has been some good haunted house movies that have surfaced, such as The House of the Devil, The Orphanage, Session 9 and even The Innkeepers. But none have reached the height that previous haunted house movies have reached.

I just feel that the most recent haunted house movies have been slowly but surely declining. We need these writers, directors, anyone that is involved, to really think about what they can do before going down the same old boring road that a million other haunted house movies have gone.

We need innovation, because I feel as if this sub-genre could be slowly dying.

1 Comment

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      1. bob101910 March 3, 2013 at 6:22 am

        I’ve seen several in the past couple years and they all seem to have no innovation. Mostly they have obvious “twists” like in The Orphanage or The Pact. There’s been so much already done, that I’m not sure if there’s anything left to do.

        I think what makes movies like The Shining and Poltergeist scary, is that people think that what happens in those movies can happen to them. Those are my favorite kind of movies. This worked for the 1st Paranormal Activity (only one I liked), but after that they started with the silly cult stuff, so it didn’t feel as real.