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The best haunted 'house' movies and TV shows to get you in the mood for SYFY's SurrealEstate
Fans of horror, house-hunting, and Schitt’s Creek, get ready, because we are only a few weeks away from the July 16 premiere of SYFY’s SurrealEstate, starring Tim Rozon and Sarah Levy as paranormal real estate agents Luke Roman and Susan Ireland, who sell the houses that quite literally go bump in the night — after they’ve discovered and dealt with the unsettled spirits dwelling inside.
To celebrate SurrealEstate's impending premiere, we’ve taken a look at some choice movies and television series over the years that feature haunted houses and buildings close to our cold, spooky hearts. We can’t imagine anyone wanting to buy these scream shacks, but if anyone could sell them after a much-needed cleansing, it’s our guy Luke Roman and team.
The Shining (1980)
Adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 novel, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining blends the paranormal with psychological horror. Like any good ghost story, the film’s haunted setting is almost its own character. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic with a history of abusing his family, moves into the isolated Overlook Hotel as the off-season caretaker with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd).
This hotel does, of course, have a gruesome past. Not only was it built on a Native American burial ground, but it was also the site of a murder-suicide committed by the prior caretaker. Ghosts of victims and former hotel employees haunt the Torrance family, stirring up violent trouble. Sadly, there are no paranormal real estate agents on retainer to tidy up this hotel’s bloodfest.
Directed by Tobe Hooper from a story by Steven Spielberg (not to be confused with the 2015 remake), Poltergeist centers on a suburban family of five. The father Steve (Craig T. Nelson) is a real estate agent — a common trope in haunted house stories — who moves his family into a cozy new home. Life is good until young Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) starts speaking to the family television.
Although these days illogically yelling at one’s TV screen is not uncommon (read: fans of the New York Jets and The Bachelor franchise), Carol Anne speaks to invisible “TV people” on the static screen. After burying their pet bird, the Freeling family is plagued by flying furniture, exploding glasses, and aggressive trees. Carol Anne is literally pulled into the TV. The problem, as Steve learns from his own boss, is that the house was developed on an old cemetery, and now the Freelings are left to deal with the fallout. We have a feeling they’ll take a break from screen-time after this.
What’s a list of haunted real estate movies without Ghostbusters? Ivan Reitman’s 1984 film supersizes the paranormal to overtake not just one haunted residence, but the entire Big Apple.
Three parapsychology professors (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis) are fired from Columbia University and start a ghostbusting business to clear out spirits in New York City. What starts as a house call to a cellist’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment turns into the revelation that there is a god of destruction planning to take over the world with the help of some creepy-looking ghost servants. The Ghostbusters, now with a fourth teammate (Ernie Hudson), must tackle slime, failed romance, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man to attempt to close the spirit world gateway and return 1980s New York to the normal kind of scary.
Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice flips the haunted house story on its head: The people who call the exorcist are actually a deceased pair trying to clear their home of a living family.
The Maitlands (Gina Davis and Alec Baldwin) are a married couple who died in a car crash, leaving their spirits trapped in their earthly home, even as the Deetz family (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, and Winona Ryder), a sculptor, a former real estate developer, and their daughter, move in. The Maitlands hire Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), a sketchy freelance bio-exorcist, to scare away the Deetzes so they can rest in peace. However, the Deetz daughter can interact with the spirits, and Betelgeuse turns out to be a troublemaking poltergeist. Shenanigans ensue as the families decide if they can live, or not live, together in harmony.
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
In Rob Minkoff’s The Haunted Mansion, the supernatural setting is not only important to the story, but it’s also the inspiration behind it. Based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name, The Haunted Mansion features Sara (Marsha Thomason) and Jim (Eddie Murphy), a couple of, you guessed it, real estate agents and their kids who try to take a vacation at the bewildering Gracey Manor.
Workaholic Jim, however, tries to wheedle a real estate deal at the mansion, walking into the trap of the manor’s ghostly butler (Terence Stamp). Spirits, psychics, and spiders abound as the Evers family is pulled into the mansion’s spooky drama. They discover a love story, a murder plot, and a decades-old curse, but we think the most important question is whether or not Jim learns his lesson about the importance of taking a vacation.
American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)
The first season of Ryan Murphy’s long-running American Horror Story was appropriately titled. A family of three, Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton), and Violet (Taissa Farmiga), move into a recently restored mansion in Los Angeles nicknamed “The Murder House.” Though the family already has enough tension amongst themselves with Ben’s recent extramarital affair, things only get worse when they learn the house lives up to its name, having been the site of several violent murders.
The mansion’s tradition of disturbing violence continues as the family is attacked by spirits and creepy neighbors, culminating in tragedy for a few unlucky characters. The bloodshed, however, is not quite as scary as how quickly the real estate agents market the house to sell to the next unwitting family.
The Conjuring Universe (2013-Present)
Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring Universe franchise was inspired by real-life paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) and includes The Conjuring (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016), and this year’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, as well as spin-offs such as Annabelle and The Nun, among others. The movies dramatize cases taken on by the real-life Warrens, like that of the Perron family in The Conjuring.
The Perrons’ trouble begins when they move into a farmhouse in Rhode Island that, major red flag, their dog refuses to enter. After a series of unfortunate supernatural events, they enlist the Warrens, who learn that the house was cursed by a witch who killed herself and her baby and cast a spell on the land. Not only that, but the witch’s spirit also possesses the terrifying doll Annabelle. A haunted house and a haunted doll? That’s the kind of scary SYFY can get behind.
SYFY's SurrealEstate premieres on July 16 at 10 p.m. ET.