5 Photos That Shatter Your Image of Horror Movie Locations
On some level, we know that Saw is happening on a dilapidated soundstage instead of in a dilapidated bathroom, but we pretend not to so that it stays a scary movie instead of devolving into a meditation on how unkind the years have been to Cary Elwes. But sometimes seeing where these horror movies were filmed is so jarring that it makes it impossible to think of them the same way. So at the risk of ruining the horror classics for you, let's point out that ...
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Farmhouse Is Now a Family Restaurant
While Leatherface is the most famous thing to come out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the real star of the movie is the cannibalistic family's freaky house. The plot basically follows different teenagers as they are drawn into a large, dilapidated farmhouse one by one and face various horrors (most of which involve meat hooks). So it's natural to expect that the interior of the building was built on a soundstage, because something so grisly and horrific could never exist in real life, right?
Nope -- turns out that the machinations of fate have seen fit to fashion the home of the most notorious family of cannibals in cinema history into a family restaurant.
No word on if they kept the original management's policy on dine-and-ditchers.
It's currently the home of the Grand Central Cafe, and they even have a collection of Texas Chainsaw Massacre memorabilia on the second floor, because looking at images of grisly cannibalism is exactly the kind of thing you want to do before eating.
"Uh, I'll have the salad."
The weirdest part is that, paradoxically, no one else seems to think this is weird -- some people who've run the place appear to have been comfortable living there at one point, and the news article describing the whole thing makes bland reference to the fact that the "beautiful polished stairway" was of "great significance in the Chainsaw movie" with the kind of charming ignorance you normally only get from a grandmother.
He let her go after she promised a positive Yelp review.
Oh, well. Texans, right?
The Halloween House Became a Chiropractor's Office
Since Michael Myers (or "The Shape") has the advantage of being an undead mercenary or a living nightmare, he's always needed to rely on atmosphere a little more than his slasher film brethren, which is probably why his home is such an iconic part of the series. It's where he commits his first murder, and he's found an excuse to return there in five of the six sequels he's appeared in. So naturally, the real building must be some kind of haunted nightmare, right? You can't see that much fictional killing without absorbing some terror into your wall paint.
Well, no. Actually, the building is currently home to a chiropractor's office.
So technically, people are still getting crippled there.
But horror movie fans love their pilgrimages (you're not a true fan until you can stand right in the spot where Michael got shot and flew off the balcony!), and they'll cling to any semblance of terror any way they can, like this video some fans posted on YouTube:
Yes, they're at the house that is now a chiropractor's office, recreating the iconic nighttime POV opening of the first film in broad daylight, with a camcorder, while mysterious women creep into frame with the eerie mystique of someone who just blew their paycheck getting de-subluxated.
And with this, the house has fallen behind The Love Guru on the Horrific Myers Things rankings.
Just watch how defanged that opening scene feels now that you know that the room where Michael stabs his sister to death is currently populated by people with lower back pain reading People magazine.
Friday the 13th's Camp Crystal Lake Is a Boy Scout Retreat
If you've seen Friday the 13th, you know that Camp Crystal Lake, the setting of most of the movies that don't inexplicably go into space, is a dirty cesspool of moral compromise. At Camp Crystal Lake, you're more likely to get drunk, have sex, and then put on a hockey mask and get macheted to death than you are to go swimming or make an ashtray out of clay. So of course the real location is now a goddamned Boy Scout camp.
The scariest thing is their choice in logo font.
Actually, it was a Boy Scout camp first -- a retreat called Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco. All the most iconic scenes were filmed in the same buildings where Cub Scouts were earning merit badges for landscape architecture.
And watching people drown, apparently.
And remember what we said about how horror fans can't resist swarming iconic movie settings so they can show their friends back home? You can get a sense of the camp's frustration by the sheer number of times the Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco website begs die-hard Friday fans to please stay away. They're probably worried about sweaty nerds re-enacting inappropriately violent film scenes while Cub Scouts look on in pants-shitting terror -- because, back in 2011 when they held the first BSA-sanctioned tour, that's exactly what happened.
"We've made a huge mistake."
The rules for the hypothetical future tour have some oddly specific caveats, like "Do not call the camp with any tour-related questions" and "Please do not arrive in costume," although that second one is probably for the tourists' sake, since the only thing more embarrassing than realizing you're the 25th person in a 25-person group to decide to dress as Jason Voorhees is having to sheepishly carry your rubber machete around for the rest of the five-hour tour.
The Shining's Overlook Hotel Was in a Christmas Movie
The real villain of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining isn't a lonely Jack Nicholson, it's the hotel that makes him go insane -- which is why Kubrick put so much effort into making the building into an actual character. The interior makes no geometric sense, and the repeated Native American imagery creates the impression that the building itself is at war with its occupants. And while the interior shots were all done on a soundstage, the building they used for the exterior shots, the Timberline Lodge, had a haunted and violent past involving- oh, wait, no, they filmed a Christmas musical there.
We look forward to conspiracy weirdos working this into their moon landing theories.
It tells the "story" of a bunch of wealthy people enjoying Christmas and singing a lot. Jingle Belles was just your standard Christmas-themed musical filler with a misspelled title when it was released in 1941, but after the release of Kubrick's The Shining, it became a bit more unsettling, because it seems to be about the very people who are haunting Jack Nicholson. For example, the guy who spills bourbon on Jack Nicholson's shirt and cleans him up in the bathroom seems like he just might be the butler for the party happening in the dining hall:
And does the woman singing "That Sly Old Gentleman" know that people are getting dog-costume-themed blow jobs just one room over? Of course she does -- who do you think the "gentleman" is?
Why? What did you think that song was about?
Jingle Belles was directed by Reginald Le Borg, who went on to direct The Mummy's Ghost and assimilate Captain Picard. The whole thing's available to watch on YouTube. Go watch it and pretend it's a Shining prequel -- it'll be the creepiest goddamned thing you see all year.
The Blair Witch's Woods Were Full of Families
We've mentioned before that The Blair Witch Project was basically an eight-day prank where the prankees just happened to have camcorders and the support of a major movie studio. And once again, the horror comes from the setting, not the monster -- you never see the latter. The filmmakers are hopelessly trapped in a wooded area they cannot escape, no matter how far they trudge in any one direction, as if the dead trees and chilled air around them were the real menace. The "witch" is embodied by the landscape itself ... or it could have been one of the hundreds of tourist hikers just off camera.
The Blair Witch Project was shot in Seneca State Park, and according to its website, the park features a host of activities, including fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and running trails. Many of the "we're hopelessly lost" arguments that make up the majority of the film's 9-billion-minute-it-seems-like runtime were held within sight of happy American families riding on bicycles, innocent people on vacation who probably assumed that all they were seeing was a bunch of dumbass 20-somethings who didn't know how to use a camera. Fun Cracked Fact: That's exactly what they were seeing.
"I know we lost the map, but, like, we could just use one of theirs."
That's right, everyone: Nothing in film is real, and the "victims" in horror films were just actors all along, playing pretend in circumstances that were nowhere near as terrible as they seemed.
The Sanitarium That Inspired Arkham Asylum Is Now a Trendy Condo Building
Danvers State Insane Asylum in Massachusetts is probably one of the most influential buildings ever: Not only was it the basis for Arkham Sanitarium in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep" (and therefore the inspiration for Gotham City's Arkham Asylum), but it more recently served as the set for the David Caruso cult horror film Session 9, a movie about a man investigating mysterious circumstances who eventually learns that his alternate personality is killing people (slightly-too-late spoiler warning). On a totally unrelated note, it also may have been the birthplace of the prefrontal lobotomy.
It's from the "deeply disturbing" school of architecture.
The hospital was shut down in 1992 and fell into disrepair. Although it was falling apart even when they made Session 9 and much of it was demolished in 2007, the facade still stands. And in either a genuine attempt to succeed at the real estate business or a savagely satirical critique on the American upper class, someone decided to fill the former insane asylum with fancy new condominiums.
A confused Batman keeps swooping in and tackling the clowns at kids' birthday parties.
Apparently, even the scariest of scary movie locations is not immune to gentrification. The new Avalon Danvers building boasts a swimming pool, gym, and basketball court, all in the exact same place where men mad with power cruelly mistreated the mentally ill, and also someone made a David Caruso movie. We have no idea why these two ideas keep showing up next to each other, we're honestly not doing it on purpose.
"The implications for my career choices are..." *puts on sunglasses* *slack-eyed drooling*
J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com.
Related Reading: Did you know the abandoned island from Skyfall is a REAL place? It is. And if you've ever seen crazy slanted desert rocks in a sci-fi movie, they were the Vasquez rocks. By the way, there's totally a real version of the Ewok village from Return of the Jedi. It probably smells better than a whole town of furry half-men, too.