We love a haunted house. There is something so mystifying about a building so ancient and dipped in tragedy that the remnants of the past have stuck around to make themselves felt. Haunted houses remind us that the spaces we occupy don’t belong to us, and that maybe we should be afraid of things that go bump in the night. That said, the Haunted House as a concept, has of late fallen into disrepair and ironically become an echo of its former self. Though movies like Insidious try to flip this script, eventually they too have fallen prey to the clichés they were once subverting.
There is, however, the odd horror movie that takes the idea, and does something fresh with it. Either changing what it means to be “haunted,” or moving away from the traditional “house,” these stories take us outside the decrepit manors, and find new and unexpected places to frighten us just the same. Here are 10 horror movies that take you to terrifying locations.
You might be familiar with Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010’s The Social Network, or the neurotic Columbus Ohio in 2009’s Zombieland and sequel Zombieland: Double Tap. But did you know that he’s done more than just the one foray into horror?
Cast alongside Imogen Poots — a horror veteran in her own right with movies like Green Room, 28 Weeks Later and Fright Night (2011) under her belt — the two play a young couple looking to move into a new house in Vivarium. Once inside, they find themselves in a suburban maze with no end, straddles with an alien-humanoid child and no means of escape.
Directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name), Vivarium puts a sickeningly plastic sheen on the traditional haunted house and explores themes of corporatization, parenthood, religion, aging, gender roles, alienation and self-isolation all within a tight 90-minute runtime. By the time the credits roll, you’ll have experienced a lifetime and then some.
Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night as a child and walk to the kitchen for a glass of water? Now imagine your parents are gone, and your house is trying to kill you.
Skinamarink became a short-lived but popular internet sensation after the success of its original short film, aptly titled Heck. Watching this “movie” feels more like watching cursed CCTV footage through an old CRT monitor. With its distinct film-grain look, and distorted, crinkly audio ramped all the way up, once it has its hooks in you, Skinamarink won’t let you find moment of comfort.
Viewers have described it as nightmarish and fever dream-like —like being four years old again and feeling the overwhelming weight of the darkness close in around you. And though it received some polarizing reviews, this grungy night terror is definitely worth exploring.
8 The Borderlands
What happens when you cross Mythbusters with religious horror? You get The Borderlands (or Final Prayer, depending on where you live). Deacon, a chatty camera technician, and Gray, a grumpy older Catholic Priest, are investigating a church in rural England that claims to have experienced a religious miracle. And although they expect to initially debunk such a claim, strange events transpire that can’t be explained.
As viewers, we are all too familiar with this format to be swayed, but the film does a good job of presenting us with the argument of “What if they’re right and there’s nothing here?” versus “What if there is something else afoot?”
This movie has gained a small cult following as a hidden gem from the found footage genre. And though the marketing may indicate generic scares, the film itself keeps the scary stuff as a backdrop to the budding friendship between its two leads. Another great 90-minute romp, The Borderlands tells a tragic tale of religion, faith, obsession, and hunger. When you’re done, this movie will definitely leave you with something to chew on.
7 In the Mouth of Madness
“Do you read Sutter Cane?”Eeven if you haven’t heard of the 1994 John Carpenter classic, In the Mouth of Madness, horror fans will be sure to recognize this iconic line that haunts every frame of this maddening feature.
When famed horror novelist Sutter Cane abruptly goes missing on the precipice of his latest release, an insurance investigator, played by Sam Neill, is hired to locate him by any means necessary. What starts off as an innocuous search with a simple answer turns into a mind-bending and grisly meta narrative on the nature of story itself. Literary horror fans may also be familiar with this movie’s Lovecraft-inspired roots, with its title inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.
If you watched John Carpenter’s The Thing and want more of his style, you’re in luck! In the Mouth of Madness is the second film in his thematically-connected “Apocalypse Trilogy.”
6 Beyond the Black Rainbow
If you enjoyed 2018’s acid-fueled fever dream Mandy, then Beyond the Black Rainbow should be next on your list. The story follows the journey of a heavily sedated woman with Extrasensory Perception (ESP), who is held captive in a new age research facility by a mad scientist, and her attempts to escape his clutches.
Panos Cosmatos’ breakout feature, this film retains much of the same DNA that made Mandy such an irresistible visual treat, albeit with a more oppressive atmosphere, thanks to its blend of influences. Marrying Cosmatos’ signature hazy visuals with chilling, brutalist architecture, the film creates an alternate version of the 1960s, that feels cold, unflinching and dystopic.
5 Prince of Darkness
They say alcohol is the Devil’s drink, but in this case, the Devil is the drink! This threequel to John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy asks us all-important question: can evil be condensed into liquid form? When a university professor and his students assist a local priest with uncovering an unnerving discovery in the basement of a church, disturbing truths come to light, as they face the consequences of trying to quantify a canister that contains — what can only be classified as — “Essence of Satan.”
Prince of Darkness is one of our weirder entries in this list, boasting a truly unique cast with Victor Wong as the university professor, Donald Pleasance as the priest, Dirk Blocker as a student, and most amusingly, Alice Cooper as a devil-worshipping homeless man. This movie has it all: haunted churches, possessed teens, debates on the nature of evil, and pure 80s camp.
4 The Boy
An empty nest can lead to sinister intrusions. In The Boy, when a nanny is hired to take care of an elderly couple’s life-size porcelain doll, she initially passes it off as a simple excuse to have an empty house all to herself while they vacation. Despite being given a strict list of instructions, Greta (Lauren Cohan) seems to see through her employers’ madness and uses the time on her hands to call her sister every day. However, the longer she ignores their instructions, the more things start to go awry.
Living dolls are no mystery to the average moviegoer. Thanks to little guys like Chucky, Annabelle and M3gan, the haunted doll has become a staple of the horror genre. But The Boy is no mere haunted doll movie — its story will leave you chilled to the bone, and then some. Best not to dawdle, though, the walls have ears…
3 The Lodge
Don’t you just hate it when dad starts dating again? Everyone knows stepmothers are bad news! Indeed, the world of two young siblings is rocked by the suicide of their mother in The Lodge. Now, six months later, their father takes them to his new girlfriend’s lodge where they’re forced to spend Christmas with what can only be described as her replacement. Or so it seems. Over the course of their stay, Grace is plagued by strange nightmares, missing belongings and gradually worsening mental anguish as we find out more about her past.
A psychological thriller from start to finish, this movie boasts an impressive cast with heavy hitters like Alicia Silverstone and Riley Keough, as well as up-and-comers Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh.
No good deed goes unpunished. A videographer goes to a remote cabin to shoot a day’s worth of footage of a stranger for his unborn child. The reason? The stranger has an inoperable brain tumor that will end his life before his daughter can start hers. But as our protagonist peels back the layers bit-by-bit, the less likely this story seems.
Another found-footage entry into this list, Mark Duplass stars as the titular Creep and becomes our guide in this psychological thriller as it explores the darkest corners of the human mind — telling us that sometimes, maybe the best way to live, is not let live.
All houses have history. The longer it’s been there, the more stories it holds. On the face of it, Barbarian could have been your run-of-the-mill slasher — with a sleepy town, double-booked Airbnbs, and a house with a mysterious owner. In fact, that’s the very thing that it’s using to lull us into a false sense of safety.
Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman, finds out that she has rented an Airbnb on the same date as Keith (Bill Skarsgård) one dark and stormy night. Unable to leave, she has to inexplicably trust him for one night and ensure her safety until the next morning.
It’s impossible to describe the plot of Barbarian without giving everything away, so we’d suggest you go into it blind. Let’s just say you’ll never view Airbnbs, or parenthood, the same way ever again.