Top 10 Horror Movie Settings!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Very few aspects of a horror film are more important than setting. Think about it. This week’s release of THE FOREST is a perfect example of such, as it takes place in the real Japanese location of Aokigahara, known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, which is sits at the basin of Mt. Fuji. The area has for centuries been a place believed to be infested with spirits of those who committed suicide. Talk about inherent production value!

Anyway, with such a creepily specific setting, we started to think about some of the best places in which to set a horror film. Indoors, outdoors, natural, man-made…we’ve got it all covered. Join us as we explore our Top 10 Horror Movie Settings!


Ah yeah, there’s nothing like a rural ramshackle log-cabin out in the middle of nowhere to make you feel safe and cozy and night. Yeah f*cking right! As we’ve seen in some of the best horror films of all – from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON in the 50s, onto the Camp Crystal Lake of FRIDAY THE 13TH series and its 80s imitators (THE BURNING, MADMAN), to outright homage like CABIN FEVER and full on parody like CABIN IN THE WOODS…the isolated water-side locale has long been a fecund soil for horror stories to blossom. Hell, I’d even include farm-houses as seen in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE!


From the Bates Motel to The Overlook Hotel, there’s no more terrifying a place than a roadside stopover. Hitchcock knew it in PSYCHO, Kubrick knew it in THE SHINING, and although the two flicks have a 20 year age gap between them, there’s no doubt they’re two of the all time best horror flicks ever made. But remember, those aren’t the only examples. Off top, Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE comes to mind, as does VACANCY, 1408, MOTEL HELL, CRAWLSPACE, PRIVATE PARTS and a good handful of others. What is it about staying away from home that’s so damn disconcerting?!


Perhaps the most alarming thing about hospital horror is that it takes place in an institution meant to restore health, to nurture the sick and weak back to full strength. So when the literal opposite occurs, like old Ironside up there in VISITING HOURS ready to plunge the knife bone-deep, hell yeah it’s frightening! Think of Michael Myers going after his sister Laurie in the hospital in HALLOWEEN 2. Hell, think of THE DENTIST or DR. GIGGLES. Worse yet, what about mental hospitals and insane asylums…a la SESSION 9 or SHUTTER ISLAND? ‘Nuff said!


Jesus. Is there a more obvious and germane location to set your horror story than a goddamn graveyard? Few, if any. I mean, I can list three of my favorite films that prominently feature a cemetery of some kind. I’m talking RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, CEMETERY MAN and PET SEMATARY. Of course, certain scenes from other movies that take place in a graveyard are just as lasting, be they in THE OMEN, BLACK SUNDAY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ARMY OF DARKNESS, etc. Obvious implications of a plot of land littered with fetid rotten corpses give way for ghastly spirits, or worse yet, reanimated zombies out for fresh blood!


It doesn’t get more simple or rudimentary than this, ay? I believe it dates all the way back to James Wale’s 1933 classic THE OLD DARK HOUSE, and for more than 80 years now, the creepy decrepit old mansion has a been a place for many a horror story to unfold. From the serious (LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) to the satirical (CLUE), there’s something palpably sinister about a crumbling old facade and its haunted history coming to the fore. Hell, just a few months ago we were treated to Guillermo del Toro’s version of such in CRIMSON PEAK (pictured), which does a great job of depicting the creepy old mansion as one of the key antagonists in the film.


Ain’t school a bitch! As if tests, peer pressure and bullying wasn’t mortifying enough, think about all the f*cked up fatalities that have gone down in the various movie school halls, dormitories and frat houses over the years. CARRIE, PROM NIGHT, HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, THE INITIATION (good 80s slasher-sleeper), GRADUATION DAY, NIGHT SCHOOL…right on to more modern flicks like SCREAM, URBAN LEGEND, DETENTION, DETENTION OF THE DEAD, etc. As for one-off school scenes, how about Tina being dragged through the halls in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET? A+!


What is it that makes amusement parks, carnivals and themed sttractions such a great place to set a horror film? Is it the inherent fun of the place…essentially a giant plan for your inner-child to run free and unencumbered? Well, whatever the case is, flicks like CARNIVAL OF SOULS, THE FUNHOUSE, ZOMBIELAND, CHILD’S PLAY 3, THE LOST BOYS, WESTWORLD & FUTUREWORLD, even PIRANHA 3DD…they all allocate the theme park or carnival setting to great effect. Not sure about you, but it makes me extra pumped to see what HBO has done with their small-screen appropriation of WESTWORLD later this year!


The sea itself is an unforgivably scary beast, so the thought of being stuck rubbing shoulders in the hull of cramped barge, surrounded by peril, well, the claustrophobia must heighten the horror all the more. F*ck a bigger boat Jack, dock this sumbitch at once! JAWS is the obvious example of A-class seafaring terror, but let’s not forget about shite like ORCA, PIRANHA, GHOST SHIP, LAKE PLACID, THE HOST, as well as submarine horror joints like BELOW, LEVIATHAN, SPHERE and the like. Above or below the surface, it doesn’t seem to matter, traversing the high seas is no f*cking joke!


Fighting spirits with spirits, always a good idea in a horror joint right? The great thing about setting fright flicks in a boozy barroom is that it’s supposed to be a place of rest and relaxation, of libation and luxuriation. So when the fit hits the shan, the horror somehow tends to hit a little bit harder. Go visit the Titty Twister in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, the bar in FEAST, Dorry’s Tavern from GREMLINS, The Slaughtered Lamb from AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, The Winchester from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, The Gold Room from THE SHINING, on and one. Hell even sobering alcoholism dramas like LEAVING LAS VEGAS and BARFLY are enough to scare your ass straight!


Few things are truly more unsettling than the mystery of outer-space and the infinite unknown. All that blackness. The coldness. The incomprehensible magnitude. Terrifying! So when you throw in a tale of extraterrestrial aggression, a la 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, ALIENS, EVENT HORIZON, LIFE FORCE, PITCH BLACK, EUROPA REPORT, MOON and the like…shite’s doubly dooming! Of course, one of the inherent perils of space travel is that, should your vessel come under siege of some kind, you’ve nowhere to escape. Being shot out into the icy black universe is no goddamn option!

Tags: Hollywood

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