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Dezeen 10 horror movie architecture roundup

Ten horror films and television shows where the haunted house is the star

Here are 10 of the best horror films and shows where the haunted house plays a starring role to watch while you're trapped at home during lockdown – if you dare.


The Haunting, 1963

Some houses "are born bad" warns the ominous narrator of The Haunting, a 1960s adaption of Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House. A group of paranormal investigators studying an old New England house with a nasty past find themselves simultaneously terrorised and beguiled by the building.

Strange noises come from behind ornate doors and a precarious spiral staircase holds a particularly terrible draw for one member of the unlucky party. Art director Elliot Scott created the Expressionist-style interiors, featuring angled walls that screw with perspective and – unusually for a film set – real ceilings, to create a suitably claustrophobic atmosphere.

The Haunting is available on YouTube and Amazon Prime.


Hereditary, 2018

There's something terrible lurking in the attic of this house in Utah, but the most unsettling part of director Ari Aster's Hereditary is the miniature models of houses and rooms that feature in many of the scenes.

Main character Annie Graham is a miniature artist, so real life miniaturist Steve Newburn was brought onboard to make the sinister models and dioramas that correlate to key moments in the plot.

One model, almost three metres tall, shows a series of dollhouses in different architectural styles sinking through the ground towards hell.

Hereditary is available to stream on A24.


The Haunting of Hill House, 2018

Floor plans can be deceiving in this tv series adaption of Jackson's novel, following five grown-up children coming to terms with their paranormal-filled childhood in a Gothic wreck of a house their parents planned to fix up and sell.

The 10-part Netflix show features a mysterious room at the heart of a house that's trying to put a sinister twist on the idea of a "forever home".

The Haunting of Hill House is available to stream on Netflix.


House, 1977

Nobuhiko Obayashi's psychedelic comedy horror film House follows a group of schoolgirls' misadventures while staying in a house belonging to the aunt of one of them – which is also trying to eat them.

Domestic items such as mirrors and mattresses, light bulbs and jars become possessed and devour the girls. Obayashi consulted his young daughter for the script, and used animation to create the bizarre furniture attacks.

House is available to stream on Criterion.


The House That Jack Built, 2018

BIG founder Bjarke Ingels consulted on the architecture of this stomach-turning story of a failed architect turned serial killer, directed by Lars von Trier. Together the architect and director came up with a truly horrifying prop for the film's denouement – a house built out of frozen corpses.

The House That Jack Built is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Poltergeist, 1982

Even cookie-cutter new builds in the suburbs can become haunted, as the 1982 cult movie Poltergeist shows. Unfortunately for the Freeling family, their California dream house is part of a housing development that was built over an ancient cemetery, and the existing residents don't take too kindly to their new upstairs neighbours.

Poltergeist is available to stream on YouTube.


Crimson Peak, 2015

Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak is set at the fictional Allerdale Hall, a crumbling British manor built on top of a mine. Leaves drift in to the grand foyer through a broken roof, and sinister red clay seeps up from the basement.

Production designer Tom Sanders built the entire house, in its exaggerated Gothic Revivalist style, from scratch as a series of sets that were dismantled after filming finished. Every detail was customised, down to the patterns of moths on the tiled floors.

Crimson Peak is available to stream on Netflix.


The Shining, 1980

Isolation can take its toll on the human psyche, as explored in Jack Nicholson's famous turn in Stanley Kubrick's adaption of the Stephen King horror novel.

Despite having the run of the Overlook Hotel and its decidedly groovy decor, the lack of contact with the outside world, strange nightmares, and a ghost in room 237 drives an aspiring writer round the twist.

The Shining is available to stream on Google Play.


American Horror Story: Murder House, 2011

1120 Westchester Place in Los Angeles is stuffed to the rafters with the ghosts of murderers and their victims, who walk among the living and play havoc with their lives in this 12-episode series.

A real house, built in 1902 in a mix of the Tudor and Gothic Revival by Alfred Rosenheim, served as the exterior. Interior sets were created to be exact replicas, down to the stained glass originally designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

American Horror Story: Murder House is available to stream on Netflix.


The Cabin in the Woods, 2011

No category of horror sub-genre is safe from being sent up in this horror movie. A clichéd cast of characters, attempting to have a weekend away at a remote cabin, end up fighting for their lives when they discover monsters in the woods. But the real scares only start when they find the secret laboratory under the floorboards.

The spooky cabin, filled with two-way mirrors and mysterious items in the cellar, is the bait for a much bigger trap.

The Cabin in the Woods is available to stream on Google Play.

Main image courtesy of Universal.