10 Scary Castle Horror Movies, Rife With Atmosphere

Vampires, witches, deadites! So many different monsters can be hiding in your average creepy castle.

By Dolores Quintana · @doloresquintana · September 18, 2023, 10:30 AM EDT
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Into the gothic world of castle horror movies! Let's go! If you see a castle, admit it; you probably wonder if the place has ghosts or ghouls. It is natural to think that of a castle. While these structures used to be places of safety during war, nowadays, they are likely to be abandoned or abused, which is the perfect place for a monster to hide. Many of horror's most famous monsters live behind stone walls or were born there. Places where royalty dwell, like a count or wealthy families, live under a curse. It sounds romantic and cold simultaneously—probably not the best home investment these days. Read more: Elves Attack In The First There's Something In The Barn Trailer.

Dracula (1958)

DRACULA (1958)

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The 1958 version of Dracula, starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing, his foe and vampire hunter extraordinaire, is also known as The Horror of Dracula. It was the first very successful film in a series of eight movies from Hammer Studios. The teaming of Lee and Cushing was very popular, and in the series, Lee played the Count six more times, and Cushing played Van Helsing four times. This adaptation bypasses the novel's move to London, and most of the action occurs at Castle Dracula. The director, Terrance Fisher, was intent on infusing the movie with a sexuality that he felt was missing, and Christopher Lee came through with a powerful, sexy, and romantic interpretation of the Count.

Black Sunday (1960)


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Black Sunday, the official debut feature film from Mario Bava, is a marvelous gothic horror film based on Nikolai Gogol's short story Viy. It features the ancestral castle of the Vajda family in Moldavia. Two centuries earlier, a member of the family, Asa Vajda, and her lover Javutich, were put to death by her brother, Griabi, for being in league with Satan. Asa cursed her brother and his descendants, and the angry mob could not burn her body because of a rainstorm. She was buried in the family crypt. In the present day, Griabi's descendant Katia is a twin of Asa and Asa's target in her plan to reanimate herself. The castle's atmosphere is heavy, and the family has dwindled to only a few members. Barbara Steele's dual performance as the evil witch Asa and innocent Katia won her stardom. The castle does become part of the plot, especially when a secret passage gives Asa and Javutich a way into the family's quarters. Read more: We Visited All 8 Universal Halloween Horror Nights Houses: And Survived.

Castle Freak (1995)


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After director Stuart Gordon noticed art for a film called Castle Freak in producer Charles Band's office, Castle Freak was made. They agreed that the film must have a castle and a freak, and the movie was filmed at a castle that Band owned in Italy. The film stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who work wonderfully together as a team in Gordon's other horror films, Re-Animator and From Beyond. They are filming at a genuine castle, which shows in the movie, giving the film a note of realism over other films that merely filmed their castle sequences on set. Fans of castle horror films get their money's worth.

Army of Darkness (1992)


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A castle in an Evil Dead movie? Yes, it happened when Ash Williams was sucked through a temporal vortex at the end of Evil Dead II. Ash and his trusty Oldsmobile Delta 88 land unceremoniously in the Middle Ages to find that people think he is a spy for a rival lord and that the Deadites are a problem in this era, too. He is soon released with his natural Deadite killing powers, and Lord Arthur accepts his counsel. Even though he starts a relationship with Sheila, the sister of a knight, Ash wants to get back home. It is then up to him to find the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to find the spell that can send him back. It's not filmed at a real castle, but the process of Introvision, which uses front projection of images with actors, sure made it look like they had a castle in the film. Read more: Bruce Campbell Says He'd Star In Another Evil Dead Movie—On One Condition.

Subspecies (1991)


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The Subspecies series of scary movies was filmed in Bucharest, Romania, and the region of Transylvania. Ted Nicolaou directed and co-wrote the films, which indeed take advantage of the locations in Romania and the traditional birthplace of Count Dracula. Atmosphere does count in horror films, and it makes a big difference in the scares. Even for less successful films, a good setting gives the film advantages. One of the things that critics pointed out about Subspecies is that the locations in Transylvania added much to the film. It concerns two vampires, Stefan and Radu, one evil and one good, who fight over Radu's desire to do evil. Both are the sons of King Vladislas (Angus Scrimm) but have different mothers. The movie stars Anders Hove, Michael Watson, Laura Tate, Irina Movila, and Michelle McBride.

The Terror (1963)


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The story of The Terror is pretty complicated. Boris Karloff agreed to film for two days with Roger Corman, who decided to make a gothic horror movie along the lines of his popular Edgar Allen Poe films but didn't have a finished script. After two days of shooting with Karloff, who agreed to sign on for the film when Vincent Price wasn't available, another four directors were hired, including Francis Ford Coppola and Monte Hellman, to film additional footage with Jack Nicholson and Sandra Knight, who played a French soldier and Helene/Ilsa, a shapeshifting witch. Knight was married to Nicholson then, and he suggested her for the role. With the sets from The Raven, one thing that the film has firmly in its favor is the scary ambiance. Read more: Six of the Most Gorgeous Roger Corman Adaptations In The Poe Cycle.

Castle of Blood (1964)


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This is a little-known fright film directed by Antonio Margheriti, a name you should be familiar with if you watched a specific Quentin Tarantino film that stars the luminous Barbara Steele. A reporter, Georges Rivière, as Alan Foster, who doesn't believe in Edgar Allen Poe's stories, spends the night in a supposedly haunted castle on All Souls Eve to prove his point. Lord Blackwood bets the reporter that he cannot stay the entire night. Foster is haunted by the angry spirits in the castle and learns the truth about the castle's spooky history. Steele plays one of the ghosts in the castle who tries to help the reporter, and they fall in love.

Hour of the Wolf (1968)


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Has master Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman made a horror movie? Why yes, he has. Hour of the Wolf is a spooky movie that stars Max Van Sydow and Liv Ullman and is about a painter who disappears while living on an island after suffering from insomnia and frightening visions. The painter, Johann Borg, and his wife, Anna, are invited to the local castle, and things don't go well. Johann gets increasingly obsessed with his former mistress Veronica Vogler and the "hour of the wolf," a Swedish legend about the time between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. When Borg returns to the castle, he is attacked by the demons he has seen in his visions.

Castle of the Living Dead (1964)


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Castle of the Living Dead is an Italian film that Warren Kiefer directed and stars Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, and Donald Sutherland in the triple role of Sargeant Paul, a witch and an "old man." Lee plays Count Drago, who has developed a chemical that instantly embalms animals or humans. Of course, when a roving theater troupe arrives at the castle, Drago has a ready-made cast for his "eternal theater" or group of embalmed performers who will never leave. There are rumors that Michael Reeves, an assistant director, may have done more work on the film than first thought and that Mario Bava may have created effects for the film.

Baron Blood (1972)


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Baron Blood is the second film directed by Mario Bava on this list. He really likes castles. It stars Joseph Cotten, Elke Sommer, and Antonio Cantafora. In the movie, Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) and Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) revive the evil Baron Otto Von Kleist one night at his castle. The Baron rises from the grave and starts to go on a murder spree, killing anyone whom he meets or who helps Peter and Eva. The two people who raised him from the grave are the only ones who can destroy him, so naturally, the Baron comes after Peter and Eva.