It sure can be scary to be a real estate agent sometimes.
Who hasn’t had nightmares about telling an exhausted buyer that their offer didn’t make the final cut? Or having to face a seller with a price reduction?
Well, buck up. At least you don’t have to tell a client that what you thought making that noise wasn’t a failing water heater after all but a disgruntled demon wanting out of the walls. Or that the reason they got such a good deal was because the previous owner is still living under your stairs?
See? It could always be worse — just like it was for the people in the following list of the scariest horror movies houses.
“This house … is clean.”
No fan of this film can ever forget the words of the late, great Zelda Rubinstein, who, as diminutive medium Tangina Barrons, helped the Freeling family retrieve their daughter from the walk-in closet from hell.
I won’t even mention the possessed television, the tree with a serious lack of personal space awareness and of course, a life-sized clown doll that liked to hide under beds. (Why would any kid want something like that?)
But this is what happens when suburban real estate developers cut corners by only removing the head stones from the Native American burial ground on which they planned their community. Really, how much more money would it have cost to move the rotting corpses?
Anyway, this is a good lesson for the importance of always reading the restrictive covenants before closing.
Fun fact: Many people think this movie was directed by Steven Spielberg. It wasn’t. Tobe Hooper helmed it, with Spielberg advising.
Watch it: Rent the 1982 original on Amazon
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
“Who will survive and what will be left of them?”
The poster for the original, 1974 version of this gory classic pulled no punches, depicting the now timeless Leatherface, the mute man-child in a flesh mask, hovering over his chained victim, ready to fire up his eponymous carving tool. It was a lot for 1974 movie-goers, and it set many slasher-film precedents.
Also directed by Hooper, the harsh, documentary-style filming choice gave this slightly true story an all too-real feel, sending audiences scrambling for the exits long before the credits rolled over the eerie still shot of Leatherface’s maniacal pursuit of his escaping victim.
But let’s talk about that house, which is the epitome of places to never door-knock for listing leads. Its interiors are fully committed to abattoir-chic, and virtually everything can be deemed a breakfast nook given the residents’ eating habits.
The kitchen came with wall-mounted meat hooks, blood-stained walls, ample freezer space, and a comprehensive collection of bone-and-skin furniture, which would surely convey. (How’s a table lamp made of human femurs going to go over at an estate sale?)
Ironically enough, the home used for filming near Round Rock, Texas, has been relocated from its previous location to be used as a — wait for it — restaurant.
Fun fact: Leatherface and Alfred Hitchcock’s Norman Bates are based on the same actual person, a murdering grave robber named Ed Gein from Wisconsin. Also, the movie originally garnered an “X” rating.
Watch it: The 1974 original is free on Tubi
The Cabin in the Woods
“It doesn’t even show up on the GPS.”
You won’t realize this award-winning horror film is satire until well after you watch it. And the longer you think about it, the more brilliant it becomes. (It’s also a solid testament to the overuse of “quaint” when marketing short-term vacation rentals.)
With bankable young stars such as Chris Hemsworth and Jesse Williams playing against veteran all-stars like Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, Cabin in the Woods takes more turns than a mountain backroad before revealing the true horror beneath its foundation — government bureaucracy. But that’s only the beginning.
The movie only evolves from there, becoming a rollicking cavalcade of overlapping tongue-in-cheek horror movie tropes that only get smarter and more entertaining as bodies pile up.
It’s always multiple steps ahead of its audience, and at no point is that more obvious than at its denouement. (You can almost hear the movie’s producers high-fiving.) No fan of horror can dislike this movie, and it remains “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes at 92 percent.
Fun fact: The movie features “foreshadowing at a gas station,” a scene considered a staple of horror films involving people dying in remote places, e.g. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Wrong Turn,” “Deliverance” and “The Hills Have Eyes.”
Watch it: Watch it on streaming service Peacock
“Always get an inspection.”
Like all good horror movies, writers have to overlook some rather basic details for the sake of plot development. In this movie, let’s call that omission, “the home inspection.”
In a theme familiar to Inman readers, our protagonists find themselves tempted by a home way out of their price range. Granted, our hero has the inside track because his crime scene clean-up company recently finished updating the previous owner’s “paint choices.”
Fast forward to move-in day when we find out the team on mop-up duty missed a few spots, revealing that the home comes with some baggage heavier than the couple’s disintegrating emotions. The movie takes a long time to uncover what’s happening, but you’ll come away from it with a new appreciation for “ample storage space.”
Aftermath is a good weeknight romp with real estate appeal that lacks the lingering dread or cover-your-eyes-until-its-over gore of others on this list. Warning: a dog dies (not on screen), which is always awful.
Fun fact: The film is based on a true story from San Diego — mostly. It’s all about real estate, complete with fake Zillow listings and buyer love letters. Watch the 2015 report here from ABC News.
Watch it: Stream it on Netflix
The Private Eyes
“I said when I died that I’d come back.
If you believe in ghosts then you’re on the right track.
I’m out of the grave and roaming the moors, so if you want to be safe,
you better lock all the windows and screens.”
To lighten things up a bit, sit down with comedy legends Tim Conway and Don Knotts as two (American?) detectives from Scotland Yard sent to the spacious and spooky Morley Manor to investigate the death of its revered owners.
The Private Eyes takes place entirely in the sprawling mountain mansion, which is none other than North Carolina’s 178,926 sf Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned residence in the nation owned by the Vanderbilt family.
The movie is slapstick mystery from beginning to end, and it never stops reveling in the brilliant timing and talent of its stars. The two trip over clues and laughably skulk around hidden corridors, dark halls and disappearing dead bodies as they scrutinize a bizarre troupe of servants, staff and suspect family members to uncover the killer.
With a series of running gags (the non-rhyming clues found on each body) and noir-inspiration, The Private Eyes is Dumb & Dumber meet Agatha Christie. The Biltmore Estate, which has been in many movies, has never been better cast.
Fun fact: Conway and Knotts reprise their roles as bumbling law enforcement officers in the campy but star-studded, “Cannonball Run II.”
Watch it: Buy it on DVD or Blueray from Amazon
The Amityville Horror
“For God’s sake, get out!”
The roots of this movie are indeed true, based on the DeFeo murders in the town of Amityville on Long Island in 1974. The Lutz family moved into the vacant DeFeo home a year after the events only to abruptly leave, claiming to be terrorized by supernatural phenomena. (Should you disclose?)
While the Lutz’s claims continue to be mired in controversy, there’s no denying they eventually made for some terrifying cinema.
From the home’s iconic Colonial architecture and spooky high windows to the young daughter’s “imaginary” friend, Jodie, few movies held such high regard for scaring kids during sleepovers in the early 1980s.
Sequel after sequel after reboot has fed off of the real-life hell of the extended DeFeo family. Everything that came after the 1979 original is silly enough to be ignored. That house—and its damn windows—still gives me chills.
Fun Fact: The home’s current owners have replaced its iconic windows with standard rectangles to disassociate from the film.
Watch It: Stream it on HBO Max