The house in Hereditary (2018) is one of the scariest set designs in horror movie history with how much it disorients the viewer. The constant in and out between reality and the miniature dollhouse cause the audience to lose sense of what is real and what is not. The nature of this set almost makes it its own character in the film, as it takes on both animate and inanimate qualities. Another characteristic that makes this one of the scary sets on our list is that it doesn’t have that foreboding terror-inducing look that is often seen in horror films. Instead, rather, it has a homey feel that gradually becomes this dark, possessed space. If you watch this film and find yourself questioning what is real and what is fake, you can thank the carefully designed set and the production team.
2. The Shining
The Shining (1980) easily finds a spot on almost any horror movie list. Rather than just a single room, it is the entire intertwining of the set that creates the unsettling scare factor in this classic. The hotel has a maze-like layout that allows you to lose grasp of where you are at in the hotel. It also contributes to the eerie atmosphere felt throughout the entire film. Spatial awareness is also confused by the inconsistency in spaces. For instance, the size of the ballroom could never have actually fit in the space of the hotel. While this is seemingly obvious, it causes the viewer to question the concept of space. Confusing spatial awareness is innocent enough and not outrightly scary, but it certainly is enough to make you sit on the edge of your seat. Watch this movie and you’re sure to never see burnt orange carpeting the same again.
3. The Witch
The set of The Witch (2015) may seem innocuous, it is this exact thing that makes it excel at scaring the audience. It more a sense of psychological terror as opposed to a jolting scare. This simple set allows the viewer to easily be transported to the scene and feel as though they are experiencing the terror of the characters themselves. Every element of the set was carefully thought out and painstakingly designed to achieve this. This film makes full use of the natural environment as well as the carefully crafted structure that leaves little to the imagination, allowing the audience to become fully engrossed in the story. In fact, it is the researched and purposefully crafted world that makes this one of the scariest horror movies in history and contributed its award-winning status.
4. Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak (2015) varies from others on this list as it is a deviation from the traditional jump-scare movies that fill the annals of horror movie history. The dark, brooding set creates the ideal amount of suspense that nullifies the need for any jump-scare tactics. Each of the rooms in the set are intricately designed, with tiny details that add depth and intrigue, such as the oversized fireplace with astounding Carrara marble reliefs above the mantle, the Gothic designed wooden stairs, and the dark patterned wallpaper. One of the main rooms is the mansion’s foyer, with the open roof that lets snow fall on the moth design inlay (a theme mimicked throughout the different rooms) on the marble floor. This set design is not out rightly scary, rather, it’s downright breathtaking, but the feeling of suspense that is instantly created in each scene that gives it a place on our list of scariest set designs in horror movie history.
5. The Conjuring
It’s the small details of the cellar that put The Conjuring (2013) on our list of scary set designs. Cellars are creepy in their own right so there wasn’t too much that had to be done to add the scare factor. Every little aspect of the cellar is carefully thought out, making it as realistic as possible. There are items pushed into corners and boxes of storage line the walls, like most basements in our homes, but it’s the small details like the seemingly innocent jar of old plastic farm animals that makes the basement especially creepy, according to Lyhpa. Add to this the dim lighting and an evil spirit and it’s enough to earn this cellar a place on our list.