Rogue 10: Ten Creepy Cinematic Houses

Wednesday, 07 March 2012 13:48 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue 10: Ten Creepy Cinematic Houses

A home provides literal and figurative shelter, protecting us from the elements and the dangers of the outside world, while also being a sanctuary, a place where we can always feel safe, as if four walls truly separate us from the nightmarish scenarios that can be offered up at any time.  Effective thrillers and horror stories can use this against us, turning a house into an inescapable trap inhabited by or even – as is the case in haunted houses – comprised of, malicious forces.

The new thriller Silent House, arriving in theaters this Friday, March 9th, stars Elizabeth Olsen – fresh off her unanimously acclaimed turn in last year's Martha Marcy May Marlene – as a young woman trapped in her family's derelict lakeside retreat.  Open Water directorial duo Chris Kentis and Laura provide a stylistic novelty, playing out all of the film's 88-minute runtime in what purports to be a single unbroken shot.  That's a hell of a technical hook, but Silent House is more fundamentally built on the fears of entrapment in a truly scary setting.

With Silent House in mind, IAR has decided to compile, in no particular order, a list of cinematic houses that are the last places you'd ever want to be, those movie homes you'd never want to spend a night in, for fear of your life.  Here they are:

Jame Gumb's Place, The Silence of the Lambs

The house ostensibly belonging to Jame Gumb looks entirely normal from the outside and, despite a bit of hoarding and tacky decorating, pretty ordinary on the inside as well.  In his spare time, though, Gumb is the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, and beneath the house is basement-turned-dungeon where he does some truly horrible stuff.  The only way anybody gets to visit Bill's house is at the bottom of a well where they're doomed to put lotion in baskets, get barked at by an obnoxious dog, and eventually due a horrific death.  No thanks.

The Lutz Home, The Amityville Horror

Oftentimes in scary movies, the inhabitants of an obviously uncool house foolishly stick around long enough to end up victims of dangerous forces, be they supernatural or physical.  When the Lutz family moves into their new house on Long Island in the original 1975 Amityville Horror, though, they're all aware that the previous homeowner viciously murdered his entire family there, so they're a bit more wary.  Still, with that kind of information, it probably shouldn't take a month before they cheesed it.

The Cabin, Evil Dead and Evil Dead II

This list wouldn't be complete without a secluded cabin in the woods that serves as a setting for horrific goings-on.  Naturally, the cabin in Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II immediately springs to mind.  It's a simple, dusty old cabin on the ass end of nowhere, but the professor who owns it left the Necronomicon and a convenient audio translation laying around for five vacationing friends to find.  The "ultimate experience in grueling terror" ensues, complete with demonic possession, a big chin, quippy one-liners, voluntary dismemberment, and molestation by trees.

"Sloth" Apartment, Se7en

Okay, it's not a house, it's an apartment.  But considering that the sole inhabitant of this dank and dirty domicile is an ex-convict who has been kept barely alive by a madman while slowly, horrifically decomposing on his bed, it warrants inclusion on the list.  Never before nor since have those little tree-shaped air fresheners seemed so ominous.

Cannibal Family Farmhouse, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The house featured in Tobe Hooper's 1974 original contains, amongst other things: furniture made entirely out of human bones, a conveniently human-sized industrial freezer, an old lunatic who'd happily smash your face in with a hammer, so many meathooks, and, of course, Leatherface, a chainsaw wielding nutjob who wears a mask presumably made of human skin.  No further elaboration is needed.

Hill House, The Haunting

In many ways, Robert Wise's 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel is the locus classicus of the haunted house subgenre.  Hill House itself just looks like our shared image of a haunted house, and the way it torments the visiting characters is not with bucketfuls of blood or piles of victims, but with creepy sounds and suggestions of raw, evil power just on the other side of any given door.

Formerly The Carmichael Mansion, The Changeling

In trying to emotionally and psychologically recover from the death of his wife and daughter, Dr. John Russell, played by the great George C. Scott, moves across the country to rent an isolated mansion.  His impulse to escape that trauma is understandable, but his selection of a giant, thoroughly creepy Victorian-era manor makes less sense.  Naturally, the house has an attic covered in cobwebs and containing the secret to the ghostly presence of a dead kid.

The Maitland/Deetz House, Beetlejuice

The setting for Tim Burton's comedy undergoes several different phases of creepiness.  First, as the pastoral abode of Adam and Barbara Maitland, it has a musty simplicity that is too squeakily wholesome to be comfortable.  Once the Maitland's die in a car accident, their ghosts make that mustiness more appropriate, but then the Deetzs move in and turn it into a cold avante-garde experiment.  Finally, during the climax, the title character turns it into a full expression of Burton-y stylings.

Oshare's Aunt's Country Place, House (Hausu)

If you're a high school kid who doesn't want to go to your dad's summer house because he's bringing along his obnoxious girlfriend, its important that you do some due diligence on your backup plan.  If, for example, you decide to bring a bunch of your friends to your aunt's place out in the country, you should probably make sure your aunt isn't actually a ghostly presence inhabiting a nightmare palace of surreal batshit craziness.  Doing so would've saved Oshare a lot of trouble in this 1977 Japanese weird-fest.

The Bates Estate, Psycho

It's probably the first thing most people think of when they think "creepy house," even if they've never even seen Alfred Hitchcock's classic.  The Bates Motel itself would be unnerving enough as it is, what with the obviously askew proprietor Norman – played to perfection by Anthony Perkins – and his predilection towards taxidermy, but the house above the motel is downright iconic.  It seems like just the sort of place where a guy keeps the dessicated corpse of his mother in the basement while having schizophrenic arguments with himself.

Silent House hits theaters this Friday, March 9th.

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