"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays. Click on the titles to find out how you can watch the movie right now.
In what has now become an annual October tradition, Paranormal Activity 4 is scaring up buckets of cash at the box office. The latest found-footage frightfest has a teenage girl recording supernatural activity in her home when her family takes in a little boy who lives across the street after his mother is hospitalized. Chandeliers crash, knives fly through the air, and an Xbox Kinect proves to be an extraordinary ghost-tracking device in this scary sequel in which we find out what happened to possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) and her nephew, Hunter.
The haunted house has a long tradition in Hollywood with far too many movies to list them all, but we found seven that are particularly sinister if you want to turn up the scares this weekend at home. One of the best is the classic 1963 version of The Haunting, in which four guests stay at Hill House—a massive manor with a legacy of death and ghostly possession—in an effort to investigate the strange phenomena. Turn up the volume, because what Julie Harris and friends find is a house that seems to be a living, breathing entity.
Speaking of entities, the titular one in The Entity is ghost-raping Barbara Hershey in her house. The film is based on the true story of a California woman who was repeatedly assaulted by an invisible force in her home. The woman eventually fled her home and moved to Texas, where the attacks supposedly continued but to a lesser degree.
Also based on a true story is Amityville II: The Possession, the first sequel to the original Amityville Horror. Whereas the original movie starring Margot Kidder and based on the bestselling book is kind of hokey and people have questioned whether the whole thing was a hoax, there is no question that a young man who previously lived in the house went crazy and blew away each member of his family with a shotgun while they slept. That is the true story that Amityville II: The Possession milks for this sinister shocker that surpasses the original.
When it comes to deadly homes, few are more lethal than the Tokyo hell house in The Grudge, which is the English-language remake of Ju-on. In Japanese lore, a curse is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. The unfortunate souls—including Sarah Michelle Gellar—who enter the house where a mother and her son were murdered by her husband become haunted by vengeful spirits that literally scare them to death.
No haunted house roundup would be complete without mentioning Poltergeist, in which a little girl is whisked away into another dimension in her house as lost souls continue to terrify the Freeling family. Trees comes to life and crash through windows, a clown toy attacks the son, an investigator's face appears to melt off before his eyes in the mirror, and the bodies from the cemetery the house was built over come to life before the whole house is sucked into the other side.
Inspired by Poltergeist, the more recent Insidious also involves a child that has attracted the interest of sinister supernatural beings. This time a young boy, Dalton, who can astral project when he sleeps wanders too far and falls into a coma. While the boy is lost in a dark realm on another plane of existence, his family calls in a psychic to help them get their son's spirit back in his body before a more insidious entity possesses it. Barbara Hershey—who knows a thing or two about this sort of thing after surviving The Entity—appears here as the boy's ghost-believing grandma.
The ultimate haunted house movie has to be Stanley Kubrick's The Shining with its Overlook Hotel. When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes his wife and young son, Danny, to the isolated hotel to care for it for the winter, he slowly loses his grip on reality like the last caretaker who chopped up his family with an ax. Blood rushes from elevators, a decayed old woman attacks Danny, and madness ensues until father and son face off in a snowy hedge maze that only one of them will emerge from alive.
All of the movies listed above are available on DVD, Blu-ray and/or various VOD services. Sinister opens in theaters everywhere on October 12.