Filmmaking is a funny thing. Los Angeles is the epicenter of movie production, but a lot of projects cannot afford to film there. And even when films do shoot there, it’s not usually what you’d expect. By and large, there are a lot of places in the world that are cheaper to shoot in than Los Angeles. And that leads to location-specific horror being shot in extremely non-specific locations.
Obviously soundstage work doesn’t count as much because a set can be built anywhere. But when a low budget horror movie tries to pass itself off as something bigger but can’t afford to look like anything other than what it is, that warrants attention.
And that’s exactly the sort of thing we’ll be pointing out here. Some of these films are actually impressive in their attempts to dress up one place as another and some of them really, really are not.
Return of the Living Dead
Return of the Living Dead actually looks just fine. But it’s set in Kentucky and is actually filmed in LA. On its own, this makes it seem a little weird, because why wouldn’t it be set in LA when the action could easily have taken place in California. On the other hand, Kentucky is a little more in the middle of nowhere and that’s probably what O’Bannon was going for. Either way, it works just fine.
Leatherface sticks out like a sore thumb to be the only entry in the original Chainsaw series not to be filmed in Texas. Instead, it was shot in California just a few minutes away from Magic Mountain. According to director Jeff Burr, they had to frequently stop filming because the sound of the roller coasters would interrupt takes.
Stephen King adaptations are interesting. A surprising amount of them, from Pet Sematary to The Langoliers to Graveyard Shift are actually filmed in Maine. When they’re not, they’re typically shot in California. If they’re not filmed in one of those two places, the director usually changes the setting of the town in which the film takes place. But The Mangler does none of those things. It’s still set in Maine, but is shot in Australia and South Africa, with some additional shots taken in Los Angeles.
Many low budget horror films are shot in the American south, particularly Louisiana. Pumpkinhead seems perfectly catered to that, but even the first two were shot in California. Pumpkinhead 3 and 4 were filmed in Romania and were done as cheaply as possible. Now, dozens upon dozens of indie horrors in the mid-2000’s were shot in Romania to save cost. And while a few keys and stars came over from America, the bulk of the cast was comprised of Romanian actors trying to do Southern accents. The result is really something else, to say the least.
This pseudo-remake of The Howling was done at a quarter of the cost of the original. It was supposed to look like the same California locations as the first—or at least the book that inspired both—but it was shot entirely in Africa. And it looks like it. The film does a terrible job trying to pass itself off as anything else. It definitely feels like the Bollywood version of The Howling, despite some neat effects.
It’s bad enough that only twenty minutes of Jason Takes Manhattan is set in New York, but only about two minutes of that was actually filmed there. The rest of the time the big guy terrorizes the big apple, he’s actually stalking the alleys of Vancouver. Tons of horror movies are shot in Canada—at least they used to be—but fans expected a little bit more New York out of this one, which is fair.
Seed of Chucky was shot in Romania, which should not be surprising at this point, but it is. It’s set in Hollywood. Everything about it is about Hollywood and it manages to even look like California for the most part. Not to mention the fact that there are some big stars in this one and it’s a little surprising that they got Redman and John Waters to travel all the way to Romania to film their parts, but they did. However, Waters did almost back out when he found out where it would be shooting.