Burnt Offerings (MGM, 1976)
Summer rentals are a dicey proposition, especially when you take the wife, son, and grandma to live on a sprawling estate that has a mysterious old lady living in the attic, the ghost of a chauffeur haunting the grounds, and a house that feeds on death. This American flick from the '70s, which costars Oliver Reed, Bette Davis, and the always-loony Karen Black, is an underrated haunted-house gem.
Castle of Blood (Synapse, 1964)
This black-and-white chiller conjures up a fun premise: Edgar Allan Poe meets an American journalist in a British pub and dares him to spend the night in a haunted castle. When our hero finds it occupied by a couple of hot babes, it seems like a snap, but things turn surreal and scary pretty fast. This lost classic, now uncut and uncensored, costars Italian horror beauty Barbara Steele and has been compared to the original The Haunting.
The Changeling (HBO, 1980)
Winner of nine Canadian Oscars (a.k.a. Genies), this is the greatest haunted-house movie ever. George C. Scott plays a composer mourning the loss of his wife and young daughter in a gi-normous mansion outside Seattle. Naturally, the house is occupied by the restless ghost of a boy reaching out from beyond the grave to demand that he solve a decades-old mystery. The turbulent séance scene is the creepiest one ever filmed.
(Lions Gate, 2001)
This movie is a prime example of why you need a good travel agent. When an American tourist and his girlfriend lose two companions in a boating mishap offshore of a Spanish seaside town, they journey to the mainland and become hunted by half-human aquatic mutants. Director Stuart Gordon is known for the infamous Re-Animator, but this film is every bit as good at making you squirm.
While the American remake with Jennifer Connelly was decent, the Japanese original, directed by Hideo Nakata (Ringu), is superior. This tale of a divorcée and her daughter trapped in a leaky apartment with a ghost upstairs is one of those films that doesn't scare you outright upon viewing it. But you'll feel really creeped out after you turn off the TV.