What’s your favourite scary movie? With Halloween just around the corner, many of us are planning a movie night full of spooky classics. Now that travel is back, why not take things to a new level and visit some of the iconic horror movie locations around the world? Expat Explore has put together a list of filming locations that scary movie fans can visit in real life!
Location: Wismar and Lübeck, Germany
For our first entry, we’re taking it all the way back to the early days of horror films. To the time before the talkies! Nosferatu is a silent, German expressionist horror film that was released in 1922. This unofficial retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was actually the very first vampire film! It is certainly one of the most influential horror films of all time. Its striking images are still referenced in pop culture today.
There are two cities in northern Germany that served as filming locations for Nosferatu. The port city of Wismar was used as the setting for the fictional city of Wisborg in the film. Exterior shots were taken in multiple locations including the Saint Mary’s Church, the harbour area and the marketplace. In Lübeck, another large port city, shots were taken at the abandoned Salzspeicher and in the Aegidienkirche churchyard.
Related: Discover more beautiful destinations to visit in Germany!
Location: Oakley Court, Windsor, United Kingdom
This next site was actually used as a location for multiple horror films, produced by British production company Hammer Films, between the late 1950s up until the 1980s! Oakley Court is a Victorian Gothic country house located in Windsor, Berkshire. Just under an hour outside of London, this idyllic house along the River Thames is a popular 4-star hotel today. Perhaps not very spooky but it certainly has an old-world mystery to it!
The most famous of the films to be shot at Oakley Court was the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This iconic cult classic boasts the longest-running theatrical release in history. It is still regularly shown in cinemas 47 years after its initial release in 1975! The film follows Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) who, as a result of getting lost with a flat tire, wander over to a mysterious nearby castle. This castle (which is actually Oakley Court) turns out to be the home of the eccentric Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). As an ode to the Hammer films that had previously been shot at Oakley Court, much of Rocky Horror’s plot, setting and style is similar to previous Hammer horror films.
Related: For the ultimate Great Britain travel experience, check out our 13-day Best of UK & Ireland tour!
Location: Belchite, Spain
Fans of horror and dark fantasy will know the work of Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro all too well! Del Toro is an award-winning director and writer best known for his Best Picture Oscar-winning The Shape of Water and Best Director-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. The latter is a Spanish language film that was beloved and celebrated all over the world. By horror fans and non-horror fans alike. With its fairytale elements, spectacular special effects and historical drama, there is certainly something for everyone to appreciate.
Part of Pan’s Labyrinth was filmed in the village of Belchite in Zaragoza, Spain. The opening scene displays a ruined city. This is actually the old town of Belchite, once home to 4,500 people and gorgeous Baroque and Gothic architecture. Tragically, this was all destroyed during the Spanish War in 1937. A new village was built nearby in 1939 but the old village remains largely deserted and unrestored. The Spanish War is a theme present in many of Del Toro’s early works. His films urge viewers not to forget about this rarely spoken-about part of European history.
Related: Spend a night in Zaragoza when you embark on our Taste of Spain tour!
Location: Mt.Mihara, Izu-Ōshima, Japan
Many Japanese horror films have been remade for American audiences. However, most of these versions pale in comparison to their originals. Japanese horror (often referred to as J-horror) features unique elements that differ from Western horror. They tend to focus on psychological elements, suspense and supernatural horror rather than gore and jump scares. One of the most popular and influential works of Japanese horror was The Ring (Ringu). This film became a cult classic in the West and was consequently one of the first to be remade in English!
On the Japanese island of Izu-Ōshima stands Mount Mihara, one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. This otherworldly site is popular with hikers and nature enthusiasts due to its dramatic black rock formations and tropical plants. *Spoiler Alert* In The Ring, tortured character Shizuko Yamamura uses her psychic abilities to predict that Mt. Mihara would one day erupt and, after becoming deeply depressed, ends her life by jumping into the volcano. The last volcanic eruption took place in 1990 and major eruptions only occur every 100-150 years, the last of which was in 1986.
Related: Experience the Highlights of Japan with our 11-day tour!
Location: The Dakota, New York City, USA
Speaking of horror films which use suspense and psychological tension to unsettle the audience, there is one film that does this better than most. The horror classic Rosemary’s Baby managed to terrify audiences upon its release in 1968 despite having no violence or gore and mostly depicting mundane scenes of everyday life. Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby tells the story of Rosemary (Mia Farrow), a young pregnant woman who suspects her elderly neighbours may be members of a cult and that her baby is in danger. Most of the film takes place within the fictional Bramford building – which you can actually visit in real life!
The exterior of the Bramford building as seen in the film is actually the Dakota apartment building on the Upper East Side of New York City. This apartment block was built in 1884 in a Renaissance Revival style. The Dakota has been home to many famous residents including Judy Garland, Paul Simon and, most notably, John Lennon who was tragically killed outside the Dakota in 1980.
Related: Enjoy three days in New York when you embark on our Eastern USA & Canada Escape (incl. New York) tour!
Location: Isle of Skye and Anwoth, Scotland
Scotland is a land of many myths and legends, and folklore plays a major role in Scottish culture. All over Scotland, you’ll see icons of Scottish folklore such as the famed Loch Ness Monster and the unicorn, which is actually the country’s national animal! Edinburgh, Scotland’s historic capital, has many ghost stories to tell. It is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the world. With such fascinating tales of mythical creatures and spirits across its cities and hauntingly beautiful glens and moorlands, Scotland is the perfect setting for a scary movie!
Although the Scottish accents are somewhat questionable in the 1973 film The Wicker Man, the imagery and storytelling are impeccable. The film popularised the folk-horror sub-genre which incorporates elements of folklore and nature and usually takes place in a remote setting. To capture the isolated essence of the fictional town of Summerisle, The Wicker Man was filmed almost entirely in small Scottish towns. Some of the opening shots were filmed over the Isle of Skye while the majority of the scenes were filmed in the town of Anwoth in Dumfries and Galloway. Here, you can visit the church ruins as seen in the film!
Related: Along with the Isle of Skye, these are some of Scotland’s most-visited tourist attractions.
Location: Florence, Italy
There are few horror films as quoted as The Silence of the Lambs and few villains as reluctantly beloved as Hannibal Lecter. To date, The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror film to win a Best Picture Oscar! Anthony Hopkins expertly portrays the famous psychiatrist who is both admirable for his intellect and terrifying as a cold-hearted serial killer. The immense popularity of The Silence of the Lambs prompted writer Thomas Harris to write the sequel, Hannibal, in 1999. It was finally made into a film in 2001, ten years after The Silence of the Lambs was released.
While the critical reception was not nearly as favourable, Hannibal still contains impressive visuals and acting. The second act takes place in Florence, Italy. As the “Jewel of the Renaissance”, Florence is worth visiting for many reasons, namely its spectacular art and architecture. The Baroque Palazzo Capponi, iconic Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio (town hall) and the Gothic Florence Cathedral can all be seen in the film.
Related: Explore Florence with an expert local guide when you join an Expat Explore Italy tour!
Location: Timberline Lodge, Oregon, USA
What do you get when you combine one of the greatest horror writers of all time with one of the greatest directors of all time? You get the horror classic, The Shining. Based on the novel by the “King of Horror”, Steven King and directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is by far one of the most loved and referenced films of all time. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you will likely have seen some of the scenes. Perhaps involving creepy twins, a deranged Jack Nicholson or a seemingly endless hotel corridor?
The film takes place almost entirely within the fictional Overlook Hotel which is located in an isolated area of the Rocky Mountains. The exterior shots of the Overlook actually display the Timberline Lodge in Oregon. The owners of the hotel requested that Room 217 (the room number in the book) be changed to the non-existent Room 237 out of fear that guests would not want to stay there after the scary movie! The Timberline Lodge is home to a ski lodge which is open to skiers and snowboarders all year round. Staying at this historic lodge, which first opened in 1937, is a far more pleasant experience than showcased in the film, thanks to its gorgeous alpine surroundings and the fact that it is not actually haunted!
Related: Here are some more movie locations you can visit in the USA!
While the USA is certainly home to the most filming locations, you can find spooky spots all over Europe, the UK, Asia and beyond! Have a look at Expat Explore’s upcoming tours and start ticking destinations off your bucket list.
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