In the novel IT, Stephen King describes Derry, Maine as a haunt. In Derry: The First Interlude, Mike Hanlon begins the chapter with all the definitions of the word haunt. The last definition reads: “A feeding place for animals.” It is a relation that applies to seemingly all horror locations. A place that is haunted – a place that is territory to the beast.
There are places, the places between our daydreams and our nightmares, where we know we should not go – places like Midian of Nightbreed, places that invite us, and if you go to them, you become meat for the beast. In many horror movies, it is the going that is the common root system the tales share. They are about people from the city, going somewhere rural, somewhere isolated, somewhere wild; somewhere haunted.
Filming locations can define a film visually, and they can bring something amorphous that heightens the experience and immerses the audience – atmosphere. The landscape is as much a monster in a horror movie as the beast itself. Some of the locations on this list provide the imagery for iconic scenes in the films they appear in, some are used for establishing geography in a movie shot in another state, and one of these is not even real – it is a set on a Hollywood lot.
The land or set design is its own character. It says things—like the camera says things with its slow zooms, Dutch angles, and super close-ups. The land tells you the temperature, latitude, ecosystem, fauna, lighting, and the weather.
Horror is a genre of feeling. Horror deals in psychology. Your brain reads the atmosphere and climate, even if you are not reading it consciously. Horror is the only genre that has to scout for locations or build sets that evoke a sense of gloom – some darkness lurking beneath the surface, something in the lake or the sewer or buried in the soil. It is covered. It is hidden. It is watching. The windows of the house are eyes.
10 Psycho (1960): The Bates House
The location of the Bates house from Psycho in both the 1960 and 1998 remake were filmed on Universal Studios Hollywood’s lot, but the 1998 production built a new house at a different location on the lot. Despite the criticism of the remake being a slavish reshoot of the original film, the house’s exterior was extensively redesigned for the remake, with a pitched roof.
This is an odd divergence from the 1960 movie whose house, with a mansard Victorian roof, is a design aspect of the original which is iconic to the imagery of the film. One sees the original house and knows immediately what movie it is. The 1960 house is a character design itself, as iconic as Freddy Krueger’s combo of a Christmas sweater and a fedora.
9 The Amityville Horror (1979): The Houses
There are two houses for The Amityville Horror – there is the one the 1979 movie was shot at in Toms River, New Jersey; and there is the real house where the reported haunting occurred in Amityville, New York. The film house was modified to make it resemble the real house.
It has since received a remodeled to remove the aesthetic of the Amityville home in an attempt to stop tourists from visiting the location and disturbing both the existing residents and neighboring homes with traffic.
8 The Evil Dead (1981): The Woods
In The Evil Dead, the location is alive. From the beginning of the movie, before the characters ever arrive at the cabin and find the Necronomicon, there is a force in the woods, and we are given the eye of the forest as it zooms through the trees. After the gang of college students play a recording of the translation of the Book of the Dead, the woods attack one of the characters and sexually assault her.
The movie was filmed in Morristown, Tennessee. Morristown sits east of Knoxville in the Tennessee River Valley, between the Smoky Mountains to the south and the Cumberland Mountains to the north.
7 Night of the Living Dead (1968): The Cemetery
If you are an avid zombie fan looking to get photos of yourself, or more ambitiously, film your own reshoot of the opening of Night of the Living Dead with the composition and backgrounds from the film, your destination is the Evans City Cemetery in Evans City, Pennsylvania.
This is where the movie begins, with sister and brother, Barbara and Johnny, arriving to place a wreath at a grave before the first zombie attacks them only minutes into the movie. This is the most iconic setting and most iconic scene of the movie, with the most memorable line as well: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
6 Friday the 13th (1980): Camp Crystal Lake
It is the first, it is still the best, and it is the only camp in the series in New Jersey where the franchise is set. Camp NoBeBoSco in Hardwick, New Jersey is the home of Camp Crystal Lake in the original Friday the 13th. Crystal Lake has been cast all over the map—Georgia, Connecticut, California, Texas, Alabama, and British Columbia.
The original camp location in New Jersey captures what a Friday the 13th should feel like. It is North East Coast. The only other entry whose lake scenes were filmed in the region was Part 2 in Connecticut. The sequel’s filming location, Spectacle Lake, is a more epic body of water compared to Sand Pond at Camp NoBeBoSco, but the camp’s rustic architectural style remains superior.
5 The Exorcist (1973): The Steps in Georgetown
The steps from The Exorcist are an iconic horror site that has perhaps become more iconic because of their real-world location and gravitational pull upon cinema lovers. The Exorcist is undoubtedly the most powerful horror movie ever filmed, and fans are able to experience a piece of it at the bottom of the steps where Father Damien Karras tumbled to his death at the end of the movie.
Earlier in the film, the motif of the exterior stairs is echoed in the house when the possessed Regan MacNeil performs the spider-walk down the steps immediately after Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mother, learns that Burke Dennings has fallen down the steps outside and died. This scene was cut from the original, theatrical and VHS versions of the movie.
4 Fear Street Part 2/Friday the 13th Part 6: Camp Nightwing/Camp Crystal Lake
Both Fear Street 2: 1978 and Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives were filmed in the same park at two different camps. Fear Street 2 was filmed at Camp Rutledge, and Jason Lives was filmed at Camp Daniel Morgan. The uninvitingly named Hard Labor Creek State Park is located east of Atlanta in North-central Georgia.
Netflix originally mistakenly tweeted that Fear Street 2 was filmed at the same camp as Friday the 13th Part 6. Technically, it may be true as Fear Street 2 may contain one or two shots from Camp Rutledge, but the majority of the movie was shot about 20 minutes away at Camp Daniel Morgan. The movies are not location-siblings, but rather cousins. Fear Street 2 is in love with Friday the 13th, and filming in the same forests as one of the entries is the most subtle and clever homage among many in Fear Street 2 to the home of Jason Voorhees.
3 IT (1990): Derry, Maine
Derry, Maine is the home of Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s novel IT. King-based Derry on Bangor, Maine, located in the southern half of the state. For the 1990 television movie adaptation of IT, Derry moved to the West Coast to Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver’s latitude is about 304 miles further north than Bangor. British Columbia defined Maine for a generation of kids who saw the television miniseries.
The location provided lush green exteriors for the Barrens and an overcast, rain-soaked atmosphere to the movie that helped to bring a gloomy quality that Derry needed. The waterway seen in the Barrens, the most haunting location in the movie, was shot at Beaver Lake in Stanley Park in Vancouver.
2 The Blair Witch Project (1999): The Black Hills Forest and Burkittsville
The Blair Witch Project was the movie that made us afraid to go into the woods. The forest scenes, which compose most of the movie, were filmed in Seneca State Park in Montgomery, Maryland. The park is about a 40-minute drive from the real-world town of Burkittsville, where the cast filmed some scenes in the first act and is credited as the location of the original town of Blair, from which the titular witch gets her name.
After The Blair Witch Project was released and gripped the world, the tiny town of Burkittsville was invaded by fans exploring the filming locations of the movie. The second movie took the path of a film with traditional camerawork and told a story about the story of the phenomenon of the first film and the tourists who traveled to Burkittsville to set out into the fictional Black Hills Forest.
1 The Shining (1980): The Overlook Hotel
Stephen King’s inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his novel The Shining came from the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. For Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation, the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon served as the exterior filming location and the exterior design of the set for the Overlook. The director filmed the real-world hotel for exterior, aerial shots at the beginning of the movie, but Kubrick had a copy built on a set in England that combined the Timberline’s exterior with interior design elements from the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.
The interior was designed to be maze-like and illogical, and it was intended to disorient the audience, making it difficult to create a mental map of the interior. The maze-like layout echoes the hedge maze that was also built for the movie. The hedge maze does not exist at the Timberline Lodge. It is unclear why Kubrick exposed the missing maze in his aerial shots. Perhaps his intent was to further warp the reality of the film with this inconsistency, drawing into question if the hotel is changing or if the characters are already dead and experiencing time-jumps and renovations occurring at the hotel.
The introduction of the Overlook is preceded by scenes of Jack Torrance’s Beetle driving through the mountains. The opening aerial sequence, featuring a foreboding bass performance of Dies Irae, was shot at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.