Gothtober staycation: The scariest horror movies about home
If you’re really into horror films that explore the terrors within a home and the inherited horror of a bad family, Ari Aster’s widely acclaimed Hereditary dropped last year – following the Graham family as a bunch of terrifying shit happens to them following the death of the difficult family matriarch – and David Gordon Green’s new take on Halloween also came out.
Both movies drew on the irrepressible and damning presence of a toxic family member (even if they happen to be dead or locked up in prison) while also delving into the idea that the place we think is our safest is actually our most dangerous – home.
We were super excited for both movies – we love a terrifying tale that delves into the untold horrors that can be lurking within the otherwise safe and familiar. Here’s our ranking of the eight scariest films where the monster takes root within a family, a relationship, a romance, or a bedroom, and tries to destroy it from the inside.
8. Hellraiser (1987)
As much about the consequences of dark family secrets as it is about deadly kinks and a weird BDSM portal into hell, Clive Barker’s iconic horror brings the jaws of hell into a suburban home where a whole family is forced to pay the price of a bad uncle’s unruly fetishes.
7. You’re Next (2011)
Adam Wingard’s (Death Note) home invasion movie isn’t just about a bunch of maniacs in some zany masks hunting down a rich family. As a second act twist reveals, the call is legitimately coming from inside the house in that two of the family’s slacker sons are actually working in cahoots to murder their own family so they can get their hands on a fat inheritance. Post-recession horror at its finest, folks!
6. Scream (1996)
Unlike other movies on this list, Scream doesn’t so much root itself into a homebound horror as it does delve into the idea of inheriting the consequences of your parents’ mistakes. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is still mourning the mysterious murder of her mother when her peers start getting picked off one by one a year later.
Lo and behold, it’s Sidney’s “bubble butt boyfriend” Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and his dumb friend (Matthew Lillard) who slaughtered her mom and everyone else in revenge for Maureen having broken up the marriage of Billy’s parents.
5. Gerald’s Game (2017)
This is a movie in which a wife (Carla Gugino) finds herself permanently handcuffed to a bed. In a cabin, in the middle of nowhere. After a kink-sesh gone wrong with her husband who kicks the bucket in the middle of a harrowing argument.
If that’s not the most blatant and eerie metaphor for the isolating constriction of a bad relationship and toxic home life – complete with a savage scene in which the wife has to violently remove herself from those literal and metaphorical chains of her vacation home – we don’t know what is.
4. The Witch (2015)
Thought provoking and compelling, Robert Eggers’s New England folktale sees a puritanical family facing the supposed unseen sin and evils of the wider world without acknowledging or even realizing the wickedness at work in their own home.
The family’s rigid sense of faith is stifling and their attitude towards the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is so wildly oppressive, the final scenes are made all the more scary, satisfying, and strangely empowering.
3. The Babadook (2014)
Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut offers a vivid psychological interrogation on how grief, mourning, and depression can manifest in physical ways. The movie is creepy but also ultimately moving in suggesting how monsters and an infallible sense of dread can grow within ourselves and the home out of places of pure love.
2. The Orphanage (2007)
Another movie that ruminates upon the pressures of motherhood and the heartbreak of losing a child, J. A. Bayona’s (A Monster Calls) terrifying ghost story uses emotion to burrow deeply under the skin. Laura (Belén Rueda) buys her old orphanage with plans to convert it into a home for sick children, only to find the ghosts of the former residents are eager to make contact with her when her child disappears.
What makes The Orphanage so monumentally devastating is that the whereabouts of her son had been under her nose the entire time.
1. The Shining (1980)
There will likely never be a scarier exploration of an abusive husband and father as the one showcased in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. By isolating the Torrance family in The Overlook Hotel while Jack (Jack Nicholson) slowly loses himself to the spirits of the old building, we’re drawn into all of the dysfunction of the family, with Kubrick shrewdly suggesting it’s Jack’s alcoholic and cruel past rather than making it a conspicuous villain.