The scariest locations in horror movies

scariest location horror movie

We all know that for a good horror movie we need a creepy villain, but we often neglect the place in which that horror happens. Good scare largely depends on the atmosphere that the physical environment and its soundscape creates. The location of the horror movie is often the most important and overlooked part of the movie, but one which greatly enhances our horror-watching experience.

In this article, we explore the scariest horror movie locations, the qualities that make them so disquieting, and some films that use those locations to great effect.

Amusement Parks, Carnivals and the Circus

Ever since Tod Browning made the movie ‘Freaks’ in 1932, carnivals and amusement parks have been an integral part of visual horror folklore, even though the real freaks in the movie were ‘normal’ people. Admittedly ‘Freaks’ is a style of movie that will never be made again, but the circus and amusement park remain an effective place of horror for filmmakers to this day.

The reason for this, apart from the cultural legacy of carnival ‘freaks’, is the very idea of ​​these places. They are crowded, full of vibrant colors, intense sounds and strange people. They are made for fun and distraction, to give visitors a harmless burst of adrenaline and laughter. That’s why they work so well as places of horror where, if you turn the wrong way, you can disappear into a dark part of the park or get lost in the crowd. Killer clowns are a derivative of this fear.

Oddly enough, the ‘house of horror’ attraction often found in these amusement parks is the least scary thing in the park!

Horror Movies set in Amusement Parks, Carnivals and the Circus

  • Carnivale (series)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • The House of a Thousand Bodies
  • Ono
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Our Home

The home should be impenetrable and protect us from the outside world. It is our place of safety while the rest of the terrible, violent, unpredictable, unjust and exhausting world stays out there past our front door.

Horrors that desecrate the sanctity of home are often the most popular and the best, because we can all imagine the horror of losing control of this safe zone that is so tied to our identity. Not to mention, the real danger that home invasion poses to ourselves and the people we love. Paranormal horrors in particular work well in this setting.

Horror Movies set in Suburbs and Neighbourhoods:

  • Poltergeist
  • Let the Right One In
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Insidious
  • Sinister
  • The Witch
  • The Exorcist
  • Honor
  • The Conjuring franchise

Hospitals and Mental Institutions

Hospitals are a very effective place to scare people for several reasons. They are harshly illuminated, sterile, have a direct connection to our health, and they are full of needles, steel gadgets, microbes that can kill us and of course… blood. It is the combination of our rational knowledge that hospitals are good for us and an instinctive fear of the illness, pain and helplessness that hospitals remind of that makes them so good for horror.

Horror Movies set in Hospitals and Mental Institutions:

  • Session 9
  • Dr. Giggles
  • Dentist
  • Gothic
  • Visiting Hours
  • Halloween 2

The Forest

There’s something instinctively frightening about the woods. Maybe it stems from many generations of dark fairy-tales set in the forest, and/or or the real threat of wolves, bears and other dangerous forest-creatures that humans face there. It is uncomfortable to hear wild sounds that we are normally unfamiliar with coming at us from all sides, especially an owl hooting or a drawn-out howl. It is easy to get lost and disoriented, and you never know what you might find in the woods. What is hiding between the trees? Everything seems like a threat. In such an atmosphere, fear easily sinks into the bones, especially at dusk. Because they are so scary on a primal level, forests are a very popular setting for horror films.

Horror Movies set in the Forest:

  • Annihilation
  • A Quiet Place
  • It Comes at Night
  • The Ritual
  • Gerald’s Game
  • The Monster
  • The Witch
  • The Hallow
  • Honeymoon
  • Open grave
  • Backcountry
  • The Green Inferno
  • The Cabin in the Woods
  • Trolljegeren
  • Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
  • I Spit on Your Grave
  • Antichrist
  • Dead Snow
  • The Last House on The Left
  • The Strangers
  • Eden Lake
  • Wolf Creek
  • Secret Window
  • Wrong Turn
  • Haute Tension
  • Cabin Fever
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Evil Dead II
  • Sleepaway Camp
  • Friday the 13th
  • The Forest
  • What Keeps You Alive
  • The Hallow
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Deliverance

Secluded Cottages, Houses and Retreats

The first thought of secluded cottages, retreats and houses is generally a positive one. Escape from everyday stress, crowds and other people, for a few intimate days with close people and nothing but beautiful nature around for miles. But these comforts and the peace of a secluded retreat can easily flip from a place of freedom into a deadly trap. If something strikes you, there is no help, no civilization – just a wall between you and the darkness that swallows you.

This is a frequently used theme and location for horror movies, and it might seem that secluded retreats have been over-used to such a point that they can no longer frighten us. However, a recent favorite of critics and audiences ‘A Quiet Place’ has convinced us that we still can and do fear this separation from other people and civilisation.

Horror Movies set in Secluded Cottages, Houses and Retreats:

  • Evil Death
  • Friday and 13th
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Cabin Fever
  • Witches and Moms
  • A Quiet Place

Hotels, Hostels and Motels

For the most part, hotels are designed and intended to make people feel comfortable, welcome and safe in them. But at the same time, no one actually cares that you are there personally. Our fear in this situation stems from the temporality of being. How many people have slept on the same bed before? What did they do there? And what was their fate? You will never know.

Hotels are a place of transition where you are surrounded by strangers, detached from the safe environment that you know and where people know you.

Horror Movies set in Hotels, Hostels and Motels:

  • Psycho
  • Radiance
  • Hostel
  • 1408
  • Eaten Alive
  • The Shining
  • Private Parts

Suburbs and Neighbourhoods

Let’s be honest, most mainstream horror movies are designed for a very specific target audience, that is, middle-class white Americans. Many horror films appeal directly to this audience by placing their action in the suburbs, in urban settings this audience already feels familiar with and tends to think of as horrible places full of killers, robbers, drug addicts and poor people of varying ethnicities. While this is just a generalisation and as a society we are starting to break down these predujices, it does seem to be a recurring theme in horror movies from past decades. It is the horrors of suburban action that are some of the most famous in the genre, most often with a killer who hunts teenagers.

Horror Movies set in Suburbs and Neighbourhoods:

  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • It Follows
  • The Devil’s House
  • Scream
  • Ginger Snaps
  • Fright Night
  • Halloween

We hope you enjoyed this list of the scariest horror locations. If you have any suggestions for locations or films that I might have missed, please feel free to throw them in the comments below.

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