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What to watch next if you love Poltergeist

The 1980s were a decidedly hit-or-miss affair for genre fare at the cinemas, with slasher flicks mostly taking center stage in the horror game, to the point of self-mimicking absurdity. There were, however, a few diamonds in the blood-spattered rough hitting the multiplex throughout the decade, with 1982's Poltergeist more than standing tall amongst its genre contemporaries. 

Directed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre helmer Tobe Hooper and produced by the great Steven SpielbergPoltergeist told the twisted tale of a normal suburban family whose peaceful life is upended when malevolent spirits begin to terrorize them in their own home. Unleashed on an unsuspecting public in the summer of '82, Poltergeist went on to become one of the year's bigger box office hits. With its nightmarishly vivid imagery, immaculately executed jump scares, and intensely ominous overtones, the film also became the singular source of sleepless nights for an entire generation of film lovers.

Almost four decades after its release, Poltergeist is still finding viewers willing to enter its dark narrative with expectant eyes. As such, it's all but certain the movie will continue to be a source of nightmares for generations to come. That's at least in part due to Poltergeist's continued influence on modern filmmakers, with writers, directors, and producers alike continuing to mine the film's bone-chilling thrills for inspiration for their own cinematic fright-fests. 

So, as we encourage each and every one of you to discover, or re-discover the unholy cinematic treat that is Poltergeist, here's a look at a few movies you'll want to watch when its final credits have rolled.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a slow-burning haunted house stunner

It would be hard to find a single horror film quite as iconic as Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 chiller Psycho, and the same could also be said of Anthony Perkins' work as Norman Bates. Such a monumental legacy did that film-slash-performance cast in Hollywood, it would hardly have been a surprise if Perkins' son Osgood had avoided the movie biz altogether, let alone the very genre over which his father's massive shadow hangs. Not only has the younger Perkins become a player in Tinseltown, however, he's also surprisingly done so by making his own sinister splash in the horror game.

Perkins' 2015 directorial debut The Blackcoat's Daughter remains one of the most genuinely unsettling, if devilishly slow-burning, genre flicks of the past decade. The director actually outdid himself in terms of creeping menace with his 2016 followup I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, crafting a supernatural story that easily matches the maniacal menace of Poltergeist while almost entirely eschewing that film's jump-scare insanity.

In fact, there really isn't a jump scare to be found in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House's 90-minute runtime, with Perkins dedicating the entirety of the film's haunted house narrative to building a near suffocating sense of raw, unfiltered gothic doom. So heavy is the atmosphere throughout, the simple act of watching the film becomes a test of one's endurance. We'd urge you to stick with it, though, because when I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House finally pays out, it does so with an unhinged sort of grisly glee. 

Verónica is one of the spookiest evil spirit chillers you'll find on Netiflix

For those of you scouring the streaming landscape for Poltergeist-type scares, we'd advise you to head on over to Netflix and immediately add 2017's Spanish-language possession thriller Verónica to your queue. Set in Madrid in the early '90s, Verónica tells the tale of the titular teen who, reeling from the death of her father, talks two of her classmates into conducting a séance with an Ouija board during a solar eclipse in hopes of contacting him. Things do not go according to plan, because they so rarely do in such a film. Not surprisingly, Verónica soon finds herself and her family the target of some particularly nasty spirits who have firmly attached themselves to the girl.

Yes, we realize the "Ouija board gone wrong" narrative has been more or less done to death these days, but we can assure you that you've never seen it done quite as effectively as it is in Verónica. Part of that is the added caveat that the film is based on the true story of a young girl in Madrid who died mysteriously a few days after playing with the nefarious board game with her friends. In the hands of writer/director Paco Plaza (2007's REC), that unnerving true story plays springboard for a supernatural nightmare that has to be seen to be believed. 

Sinister is a paranormal thriller that easily lives up to its title

If you're looking for a horror flick that's a bit leaner and a whole lot meaner, but still very much in the Poltergeist mold, look no further than Scott Derrickson's pitch-black 2012 haunted houser Sinister. Yes, that's the same Scott Derrickson who hit the big time with the psychedelic MCU treat Doctor Strange. It's also, however, the same Scott Derrickson who seriously creeped out movie lovers with the underrated 2005 possession thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose and 2014's less-heralded, possession-tinged procedural Deliver us From Evil

Somewhere in between, Derrickson packed the perfect mix of investigative thrills and paranormal chills into Sinister, which follows a once-famed true crime author (Ethan Hawke) desperate to reclaim his celebrity with a new book about the infamous killing of a small-town family. To get as far into the case as possible, he actually moves his wife and two children into the home of the departed family, and even hopes to potentially discover what became of the family's fifth member, a young girl who went missing after the killings.

On his first night in the house, the man discovers in the attic a box full of Super 8 film stock film that contains footage not only of the murder of the family he's researching, but also of several other killings. Without spoiling too much, we'll offer that Sinister proceeds with about as much — ahem — sinister energy as you might expect from a master flick in which a character discovers a box of snuff films in his attic. We can also say the story's twisted narrative will frequently catch you off guard, and will likely unnerve you in ways you simply can't anticipate.  

The Haunting of Hill House is one of the best haunted house thrillers ever made

Of course, if you're just looking for a first-rate, Poltergeist-tinged haunted house flick about vile spirits and a tragically tormented family, Mike Flanagan's masterful Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is certain to check all the necessary boxes. Based loosely on Shirley Jackson's iconic horror novel of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House finds Flanagan expanding dramatically on Jackson's setup to deliver a frightening, genuinely heartbreaking tale of a fractured family forced to face the ghosts of their past when a fresh tragedy befalls them.

Understand that we mean "ghosts of the past" both literally and figuratively, because the family in question spent significant time as the occupants of the titular house, which is purported to be among the most haunted dwellings in the world. The 10-episode series found Flanagan splitting the narrative into two time frames, one of which follows the tormented family after they initially move into the house and one set many years later, when the now-adult children are forced to revisit torments of the past in hopes of understanding the tragedies of their present.

That might make The Haunting of Hill House sound a bit heavier on emotion than some more traditional horror fare, and it is. That'll come as no surprise to fans of Flanagan's work, as he's developed a certain reputation for building distinctly humanistic tragedies into his terrifying tales of the macabre (OcculusBefore I WakeHushDoctor Sleep). More so than any of his other projects, the multi-episode run of The Haunting of Hill House provides the director a chance to fully develop the human side of the tale, while also giddily indulging in the horror in a way that should make Poltergeist fans happy ... in a totally terrified way, of course.