ByEszter Simor, writer at
Eszter Simor

has always been interested in the darker side of life. We know his attraction toward monsters from films like Pan's Labyrinth, Mimic, Hellboy, Blade II, or his most recent movie, Pacific Rim. After this monumental movie about gigantic sea monsters versus gigantic robots, del Toro is returning to his roots by directing a gothic horror flick called Crimson Peak. It's a ghost story set in England and it centers around a young author who discovers that her husband is not who he seems to be. It is produced by Legendary Pictures and shooting is expected to start February 10. 2014. It stars , , and .

Del Toro described the movie to Deadline as

a very set-oriented, classical but at the same time modern take on the ghost story. It will allow me to play with the conventions of the genre I know and love, and at the same time subvert the old rules.

While we are waiting for del Toro’s newest chiller, we can prepare ourselves by re-watching how the legends did it. I have collected five haunted house film classics. The motif seems to be a bottomless pit of inspiration for directors who want to depict human evil. Strangely, a lot of these movies are also set in England...

5. Gaslight (1944)

’s 1944 Victorian villany thriller builds heavily on the Gothic tradition: it features a scary old house (the scene of a murder) and a woman in love and in peril. It is beautifully filmed with the classic visual elements of a film noir and uses the same idea as del Toro’s new movie: a woman has to find out that her husband is not what he has appeared to be. is the ultimate actress to play Paula, a woman in peril; she is heartbreakingly beautiful and sweet even in the darkest depths of her despair. As an insecure woman with a tormented mind (after the painful experience of witnessing the murder of a loved one) she became easy prey for psychological terror. It is a story of a wife who is slowly driven mad by her husband (). His hypnotic spell manipulates her into doubting her own sanity. It is a female noir with a young wife threatened by her own husband: the house thought to be the place of security turns into a wicked trap. Luckily a persistent detective () rushes to her rescue. The best is the final scene, where Paula takes revenge on her evil husband. The tables have turned: the dagger she could cut him free with, is only imaginary.

4. Rebecca (1940)

Do you remember that famous first line, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again?" It is from the one movie that did win a best picture Oscar, but no best director. Rebecca is the perfect example of how the dead can haunt the living: the ghostly presence of the deceased ex-wife of Maxim de Winter () bitters the relationship with his newly-wed bride (). There is one other character however, who you will never forget, if you ever set an eye of this movie: The terrifying housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (), who keeps the ghost of the English mansion alive.

The new Mrs. de Winter does not really find her place in her new home. Although she is desperately trying to fulfill the role of the perfect wife; Mrs. Danvers constantly summons the ghost of the former mistress and causes a lot of despair with her evil tricks. In the end the Hitchcockian complicated mystery of Rebecca is unveiled. Was it a murder? A suicide? An accident? Or all three? The couple can only be freed when the haunted house is destroyed and the faithful ghost-servant burns with it.


3. Rosmary’s baby (1968)

There are not many movies where you can see Satan having sex. In ’s film about an evil cult, you can. What I love about Polanski is that he has a good sense of humor. Even in a psychological horror, he manages to hide eerie little jokes that serve as a comic relief in the devil’s presence, like when one of the dead-serious satanic cult members is stroking a black cat… The movie is based on ’s novel about witches and demons. Here plays the woman who is forced to suspect that her husband is not who she thinks him to be. Guy (, who always plays wicked characters by the way) is probably the most sinister of all the evil husbands. What is great in Polanski’s storytelling is that our knowledge is not reduced to that of the poor protagonist’s. We know very well quite from the beginning what is going on in the neighbour’s flat. We deeply sympathize with Rosemary and know that eventually she has to find it out, too. But we dread that moment when she does...

2. The Innocents (1961)

’s beautifully shot black and white horror classic has such a peculiar atmosphere that it still gives you creeps today. It is an absolute Gothic classic with a scary big old house, where every door squeaks, the wind always blows the curtains like someone was behind them and strange voices can be heard at night. It is a spine chilling horror story adapted loosely from Henry James' famous tale, The Turn of the Screw and that was partly shot at the Gothic mansion of Sheffield Park, in South East England. Del Toro named this perennial legend of haunted house movies as a major inspiration for Crimson Peak. Not by chance.

It is a story of a governess called Miss Giddens (), who is hired to look after two lovely children, Flora () and Miles (), in their uncle's house. But it usually goes with horror stories, the children turn out to be rather sinister and demonic than sweet and polite as they firs seemed and the governess has some serious conditions herself. She is suspiciously frustrated and repressed sexually. What makes Clayton’s movie more than a traditional story of possession is that it balances beautifully between a traditional ghost story and a psychological horror. Is Ms Giddens really seeing ghosts or is she just going crazy? When the little boy pushes his lips to hers, is it an innocent infant's kiss or a fantasy of a sex-starved frustrated woman?

1. The Shining (1980)

The "Mount Everest of the haunted house movies." I could not agree more with del Toro’s words (via Screen Rant). There is no place creepier than 's Overlook hotel: blood spilling from the closed doors of the elevator, curiously old-looking little girls, the haunting presence of a murdered family….

This is the ultimate story about madness. We have three protagonists, but we cannot trust either of them as reliable. Jack () is "a recovering alcoholic" and has visions of supernatural creatures, Danny () has the psychic ability to "shine" an communicates through Tony, a "little boy who lives in his mouth," and in the end also Wendy () shares Jack’s visions and sees the ghosts of the hotel…

What makes the movie interesting is that every time we see one of Jack's hallucinations Kubrick shows them in the reflection of mirrors. The beautiful woman who he kisses in the bathroom turns into a rotting body when he notices themselves in the bathroom mirror. He complains about his marriage at the bar in the hotel’s Gold room, but is the ghostly bartender Lloyd () really there or is Jack only talking to himself in the mirror in front of him? Kubrick shots these scenes from such cunning angles that it is impossible to decide. Are the ghosts really haunting the Overlook hotel or do they only exist in Jack’s mind? And if it is "only" a psychological horror about a guy who decided to live as a caretaker in an isolated hotel for the winter, went crazy and wanted to murder his family then why is Jack smiling to us from a picture taken in 1921? We do not get answers and that makes Kubrick’s ultimate haunted house movie so perfectly disturbing.


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