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Max Evry

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Max Evry is an incorrigible freelancer in the concrete jungle that is New York City. Besides his writing/illustrations for various movie sites, he's also worked extensively in Film & TV production... more

Cinema’s 10 Most Haunted Towns

Some places in this world are just plain doomed, while others earn their place in hell for one gruesome misdeed or another. Whether its townspeople sank a ship, barbequed a child molester, neglected a deformed kid in a lake or made some very poor real estate decisions, a haunted town is someplace you want to drive past with the windows rolled up, let alone live there.

In honor of this week’s “The Lords of Salem,” in which America’s most famously haunted town is forced to confront its past (again), we collected ten prime examples of such movie places that are downright maggoty with spirits that will not go gentle into that good night. All the Ouija boards in the world ain’t gonna save yer ass now.

Salt Lake City, Utah, ‘Carnival of Souls’ (1962)

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Lots of scary things come out of Utah: Ted Bundy, Mormons, the Sundance Film Festival, but the export with the most per-capita scares has to be this $33,000-dollar B-movie wonder that proves you don’t need a big effects budget to creep the bejesus out of people. The sole (pun!) directorial effort of industrial filmmaker Herk Harvey, it follows Mary (Candace Hilligoss), an introverted musician who takes a gig as a church organist in Utah’s majestic capital only to wind up serially haunted by a creepy pale guy’s visage. This man is played by Harvey himself, and is disturbing enough on his own, but when Mary finds herself at an abandoned carnival pavilion filled to the brim with ghouls you might find yourself in the midst of a full-blown movie-induced panic attack.

Amityville, New York, ‘The Amityville Horror’ (series 1979-2011)

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Unlike any of the other flicks on this list, this is the only one that contends to be based on a “true” incident, as paranormal investigators like Ed and Lorraine Warren claimed. The subjects are George and Kathy Lutz, played with ’70s gusto by James “Josh’s papa” Brolin and Margot “Lois Lane” Kidder, a couple who moved to the title Long Island village only to encounter a full banquet of supernatural red flags. These include black ooze, evil imaginary friends, insect infestations, possession, malfunctioning windows, Native American burial grounds and one very maligned priest in the form of Rod Steiger. Whether you believe in such hauntings, these spirits have persisted in manifesting one sequel/remake after another.

Antonio Bay, California, ‘The Fog’ (1980)

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John Carpenter is one of fandom’s most celebrated genre auteurs, and after defining the slasher movie with “Halloween” what was his next big move? A good old fashioned ghost yarn about a little port town off the coast of California that gets engulfed in a fog super-thick with colonial sailor ghosts. This one was a bit of a family affair: Jamie Lee Curtis is back with Carpenter in scream queen mode, as is her mom Janet Leigh, while Carpenter’s dazzling new wife Adrienne Barbeau plays a radio DJ, much to the chagrin of the film’s co-writer/producer Debra Hill, who had been the director’s previous girlfriend. Ouch! Now that sounds like a whole parallel horror movie in itself.

Crystal Lake, New Jersey, ‘Friday the 13th’ (series 1980-2009)

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The events that marred the seemingly idyllic Camp Crystal Lake all occurred because one pair of horny councilors couldn’t keep it in their pants long enough to make sure a handicapped kid didn’t drown… a kid named JASON VORHEES. Hence, that kid’s mom and eventually the deformed (and pissed-off) resurrected corpse of Jason set about a never-ending cycle of machete choppin’ good times at the blood-soaked lake. At this point, any environmental surveyor would probably condemn the property for all the hot teen corpses scattered around. Even Kevin Bacon’s in there somewhere. “Six-degrees THIS!” *CHOP*

Cuesta Verde, California, ‘Poltergeist’ (1982)

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“You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you?” Ain’t that the million-dollar question. Craig T. Nelson is a real estate broker at the planned community of Cuesta Verde, but after all manner of supernatural hell breaks loose in his house (daughter kidnapped to another dimension, furniture moved, etc.) he decides to pack his family and get the hell out of dodge. What’s the cause of all these shenanigans, which take over the whole division by the end? The old “built on an Indian burial ground” trope. Man, those Indians get no respect. Although an archaeological dig of Cuesta Verde was conducted for the first sequel, that movie is a big steaming pile and mostly takes place in Arizona so it’s not worth talking about.

New York City, New York, ‘Ghostbusters’ (series 1984-1989)

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If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Bill “Groundhog Day Ghostbustin’-ass” Murray, that’s who. He, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and the Ringo of the group Ernie Hudson managed to save the Big Apple from all sorts of free-repeaters and full-roaming vapors over the course of two movies that virtually defined the 1980′s. Probably the most famous ghost in the lot, the ever viscous Slimer, is in fact modeled after writer/star Aykroyd’s dearly departed comedy partner John Belushi, whose appetite for destruction (and hot dogs) is duly represented by the green globule.

Springwood, Ohio, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (series 1984-2010)

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Freddy’s coming for you… like, a lot. As opposed to Amityville or Cuesta Verde, the town of Springwood seemed pretty justified in torching child killer Freddy Kreuger, but somehow the guy won the resurrection lottery and keeps clawing his way through one teenage dream after another. Unfortunately, that does not include Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Robert England became evil personified in his role as crispy killer Freddy, evolving as the series went on from a figure of pure malevolence to a kind of quipy Tex Avery cartoon of a serial killer.

Fall River, Massachusetts, ‘Darkness Falls’ (2003)

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Yet another s***ty town creates their own monster by hanging an innocent burn victim named Matilda (a.k.a. The Tooth Fairy) falsely accused of kidnapping and murder. Of course, said Tooth Fairy comes back to get sweet juicy justice on any child who loses their last baby tooth. One kid who survived his brush with Matilda, Kyle (Chaney Kley) takes it upon himself to lead her to a light house and burn her ugly butt for good, and as one would expect many innocent townspeople are killed along the way. All in good fun, right?

Silent Hill, West Virginia, ‘Silent Hill’ (series 2006-2012)

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The desolate streets of Silent Hill may be based on a spooky Konami video game, but screenwriter/convicted manslaughterer Roger Avary partially based this version on real-life ghost town Centralia, Pennsylvania, which was evacuated due to a perpetual mine fire. In the first movie Radha Mitchell has to bring her daughter to and then save her daughter from the cultish inhabitants of Silent Hill, which include several naughty deformed nurses and a memorably pointy villain known as triangle head.

Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, ‘ParaNorman’ (2012)

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Here’s a case of a more benevolent haunting, seeing as how it’s an animated kids movie and all. Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives in a touristy Mass town not unlike Salem with a celebrated witchy past, and it just so happens this kid can see all the local ghosts and commune with them. This power comes in handy when zombies begin rising from the grave, but it turns out all these are just puritans who wrongly burned a little girl and are trying to make up for their sin. Pretty heavy stuff for a stop-motion puppet movie, but the wizards at Laika totally nailed the mid-’80s “Goonies” vibe. It’s an awesome movie that’s perfect for macabre kids of all ages, and makes a perfect pairing with the equally subversive 2006 flick “Monster House.”


Categories: Features

Tags: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Carnival of Souls, Darkness Falls, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, ParaNorman, Poltergeist, Silent Hill, The Amityville Horror, The Fog