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7. The animals in and around the house freak out.

Used in: The Legend Of Hell House (1973), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Messengers (2007)

Not too many haunted house movies feature households with pets, and that’s a positive—based on the few examples of domesticated animals in these kinds of genre flicks, the temptation to have the dog, cat, or bird attack any one of the human characters is too overpowering to resist.

It makes sense; the family dog is often a source of love and companionship, so there’s an immediate horror associated with said dog turning cold and lashing out against its owners. And when the non-human assailants are the neighborhood critters or Mother Nature’s daily players, the film in question suddenly takes on a wider, beyond-the-front-porch sense of inescapable menace.

In 1973’s The Legend Of Hell House, a cat’s vicious assault on one helpless character is a memorable, if not somewhat cheesy by today’s standards, shock; on the flipside, seeing crows go all batty in the middling 2007 ghost bomb The Messengers makes for a glaring problem in an already shitty flick. Leave the animals out of it—if a director can’t scare us with actual ghosts, they should’ve tried a comedy, not a haunted house picture.

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