The argument over who directed Poltergeist – the credited Tobe Hooper or producer and co-writer Steven Spielberg – weirdly reflects the tone of the 1982 hit, which starred Craig T. Nelson as a father who moves his family into a California suburb built on a Native American burial ground. The film melds some genuinely strange and galvanizing images of the home rebelling against its new owners with a healthy dose of the thoughtful family dynamics that made E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind so distinct. In a way, one could see Hooper as the malevolent, unbound spirit trying to burst through the veneer of Spielberg’s impeccably designed environs and relatively mild strain of sentimental hokum.
Both Hooper, the ingenious wild man behind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Spielberg are obsessives when it comes to the realms of the supernatural onscreen, clearly versed in creature features, ghost stories, and killer thrillers of all makes and models. Once decoded, major works of early horror can be gleaned in Poltergeist‘s DNA, from Robert Wise’ gorgeous The Haunting to The Innocents to silent masterworks like The Fall of the House of Usher (the French version), The Cat and the Canary, and The Haunted Castle. Haunted house movies are a sub-genre that has weirdly struggled to create new, ambitious variations but that’s not to say that there haven’t been a handful of particularly eerie and visually striking films set in haunted homes and hotels made between the early 1980s and the upcoming Poltergeist reboot. So, in honor of Sam Rockwell running away from a living clown puppet, I decided to take a look at 5 haunted house movies that haven’t received their total due in the eyes of the masses…yet.