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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What scary setting would you like to see a horror movie take place in?

A followup to yesterday’s question about scary movies:

What setting would you like to see a horror movie take place in?

Could be a location you’ve never seen a horror movie set in, or a kind of place that’s underutilized.

Me, I’d like to see more scary movies in urban settings. It’s always the lonely house in the country or the remote campground that horror movies turn to, and it’s easy to see why: isolated characters are more vulnerable. But cities are full of scary places, too: dark subway tunnels, winding streets, empty warehouses… It might be harder to write a convincing horror movie set in a city — you’d need a reason for the protagonists not to just call 911, for instance — but that would make a successful such movie all the more fun.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Anne-Kari

    I with you on the whole “no more remote Victorian houses”. I’d like to see more urban settings, but I’d be very curious to see what a talented filmmaker would do with the suburbs. Poltergeist set the standard – what would they do with a neighborhood like my current one (townhouses as far as the eye can see)?

  • t6

    Scary Move Location Challenge!

    An elevator!

  • The original Halloween was set in the ‘burbs as well. I’d like to echo MAJ’s idea of an urban setting. A Haunted tenement building or office would be refreshing. Perhaps a new skyscraper. Isn’t that the plot of Quarantine?

  • Kathy A

    Wasn’t Candyman set in the Chicago projects?

  • Tony

    What about those sleepy old coal mining/steel mill towns in western Pennsylvania and Ohio? Wasn’t the end of Silence of the Lambs in a small town in Ohio?

  • Ryan

    Disneyworld.

    Or any theme parks. I’m sure movies have been made with this setting, but it IS a good setting for horror.

  • amanohyo

    The Future Conan? That’s right. I’d like to see a horror movie take place in a city of the future when we can all mentally dial 911 and alter the signal from our optic nerves. But it has to be genuinely pulse-poundingly terrifying at times, not just two solid hours of PKDickian paranoia and/or DavidLynchian dread (those are too easy and played out).

    Sort of what would happen if you put Perfect Blue on steroids and set it in the world of Ghost in the Shell 2.

    Besides that, seeing a horror movie from the perspective of the killer would be interesting (and risky). I’m not a horror buff, so maybe it’s been done, but you could jump back and forth from the killer’s regular life (maybe a pilot or a flight attendant since they seem to be hot right now) to their “real life” as a murderer. Sort of like Monster, but less sympathetic with a bigger focus on the murders. The true horror would come as you found yourself identifying more and more with the killer (I suppose torture porn movies like Saw have probably almost reached this point already? I’ve never seen any of them).

    Oooh, how about a horror movie from the perspective of an animal in a city. And the killer is one of those mentally unbalanced children who tortures and kills animals… or is it? It should be animated in the classic Disney style for bonus irony points. Kind of a The Silence of the Bambi. The Clarice Starling character can be a street-smart raccoon of indeterminate sexual orientation.

  • hDJ

    T6- Elevator horror done, It was called “The Shaft” featuring Naomi Watts

    amanohyo- Movie from a Killer perspective done , ” Maniac” “Henry portrait of a Serial killer”, and another one from a Killers point of perspective “The Devils Rejects”. But though they’ve been done they turn out to be pretty good. Because its hard watching a whole movie where you don’t like the lead.

    Tony- coal mining town setting, My Bloody Valentine

    Urban settings? alot of zombie movies are set in cities. But you do make a point if you were Jack the ripper In the city of today you’d have to be pretty damn sneaky.

    So now you question me Mr. Horror hot shot. I dunno Im stuck stumping my self. Its times like this when I question what would JJ Abrams do?

    How about a cargo ship like, like that show deadliest catch, only theres a killer on board.

  • Paul

    The calling 911 issue is resolvable.

    “Help, I’m being chased by a vampire!”

    “Madam, it’s illegal to tie up the 911 line with prank calls.”

  • the rook

    how abou a horror movie set in a strawberry store (http://www.strawberrystores.com/). those places are already pretty frightening so it should be pretty easy.

  • Ide Cyan

    Yes, Candyman was set in the Cabrini-Green development in Chicago; and it centered around an urban legend. (The movie called Urban Legend was set on a university campus in a small town, though.) And “Se7en” was arguably an urban horror movie. “P2” was almost entirely set in an underground city parking lot.

    There are a good few horror movies that take place in subways. To name a couple I’ve seen: “Mimic”, where the monsters live in the tunnels under the city, “They”, which has a couple of key scenes in the subway, “Creep” (the one with Franka Potente), which is set in the London Underground, and “The Midnight Meat Train”, based on a NYC-set short story but filmed in LA, which is coming out on DVD next week (at last!). Oh, and “Marebito” has scenes in the subway of Tokyo as well, IIRC.

    As for underused scary settings I’d like to see in movies… hm. I think it would be refreshing if more horror movies used men’s locker rooms or showed men in the shower, for a change. *Without* making it all about homophobic undertones (like in “Nightmare on Elm Street 2”). There are so, so many scenes of women being terrorised in the shower or while taking a bath, as the camera lingers on their bodies, that it’s about time to soap up the guys.

  • Mathias

    The real problem with setting a horror movie in an urban setting is not the 911 thing, but the over-population thing.

    In a city like NYC with 8 million people, how hard is it to get someone to notice the mad killer with the axe chasing you? Imagine a giant werewolf chasing you down Lexington, wouldn’t it eventually target someone else or wouldn’t at least 50 people immediately take cell phone videos, put it up on youtube and call 911 before you bleed to death?

    Face it, a horror movie is much scarier when you have to face such terror alone without help from civilization.

  • Orangutan

    This is why I would like to see Relic redone, properly.

  • Ide Cyan

    Population density can become a problem in itself when the threat is coming from something like the Cloverfield monster (or its ancestor, Godzilla), although then the story usually turns into the disaster film format. Then there are also infection stories, where the more people there are around the more dangerous it becomes.

  • I dunno about you kids, but the scariest place I can imagine is the planet earth 5 billion years from now, when the sun is swallowing it up. Sunshine (spoilers) had some nice horror elements at the end, and it took place on a spaceship hurtling toward the surface of the sun! That one kept me up at night for weeks after I saw it.

    Kinda like that one Doctor Who episode where they went all the way to the end of the universe. I can’t get enough of that sort of thing; scares the shit out of me.

  • The real problem with setting a horror movie in an urban setting is not the 911 thing, but the over-population thing.

    In a city like NYC with 8 million people, how hard is it to get someone to notice the mad killer with the axe chasing you? Imagine a giant werewolf chasing you down Lexington, wouldn’t it eventually target someone else or wouldn’t at least 50 people immediately take cell phone videos, put it up on youtube and call 911 before you bleed to death?

    And yet horror writers like Fritz Leiber, Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker and–dare I say it?–dare I say it?–dare I eat a peach?–Harlan Ellison have been writing horror stories with urban settings for decades.

    Of course, few such stories get made into movies but still…

  • Scary Move Location Challenge!

    An elevator!

    Wow! Was Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill that long ago? Come to think of it, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead had a scary elevator scene too…

  • hDJ

    right well scary elevator scenes are one thing , but in “The Shaft” the elevator was the killer

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