Horror movie fans, rejoice! If you’ve ever wondered what the best American horror flicks are, according to the state in which they are set, we’ve figured it out for you! Yes, welcome to the United States of Horror Movies!
What do you mean you’ve never wondered ...?
Manhunter (1986) as Alabama
Kicking off the list we have Michael Mann’s Manhunter, the original (and still the best) big-screen adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. Although Brian Cox’s wickedly-cold turn as Doctor Hannibal Lector (inspired by the infamous Scottish serial killer, Peter Manuel) alone is enough to make this one of the best films of all time, it didn’t go down so well with the critics when it was first released. Featuring some of the classic Michael Mann trademarks—art-deco, glass brick, and pastel colors—Manhunter’s neo noir setting left some critics complaining that it was too stylish. They’ve come to their senses since, and this gem’s focus on forensic science has left quite the legacy in film and television.
30 Days of Night (2007) as Alaska
Nightkill (1980) as Arizona
It’s got Robert Mitchum in it ,at least!
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1946) as Arkansas
Psycho (1960) as California
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to chilling flicks set in California, but Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho comes out on top. Possibly the earliest slasher movie to hit mainstream cinemas, this subversive movie really set a new standard for violence and sexuality in the American film industry. Kill off the star halfway through? Sure! Cast a matinee idol as a homicidal maniac? Why not?
The Shining (1980) as Colorado
Come on, do we really need to talk about The Shining?!
Friday the 13th (1980) as Connecticut
Survival of the Dead (2009) as Delaware
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) as Florida
No list of horror movies would be complete without a creature feature!
Deliverance (1972) as Georgia
The Beverly Hillbillies they ain’t…
A Perfect Getaway (2009) as Hawaii
Idaho Transfer (1973) as Idaho
Candyman (1992) as Illinois
Based on the short story “The Forbidden” by King of Horror, Clive Barker, Bernard Rose’s adaptation skillfully blends slasher horror with urban legend and created an icon in Tony Todd’s titular Candyman. It’s worth a revisit, especially since 2020 will unleash a reboot in the form of a “spiritual sequel”.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as Indiana
Children of the Corn (1984) as Iowa
Critters (1986) as Kansas
Return of the Living Dead (1985) as Kentucky
‘Cause you’ve got to love those 1980s zombie movies!
Angel Heart (1987) as Louisiana
Alan Parker’s masterpiece perfectly captures the whiskey-soaked, smokey-blues post-war New Orleans of our dreams in this thrilling adaptation of William Hjortsburg’s novel, Falling Angel. It’s hard to believe it now, but at the time Angel Heart caused quite the controversy for casting squeaky-clean Lisa Bonet in a provocative role alongside Mickey Rourke (as Harry Angel) and Robert DeNiro (living out the full Mocata from The Devil Rides Out fantasy) as the mysterious Louis Cyphre.
Salem’s Lot (1979) as Maine
Okay, okay, so this isn’t actually a movie, but a mini-series. However, if you binge watch Salem’s Lot all in one go, it does feel like an extra-long feature film a la Peter Jackson’s LOTR/The Hobbit. A lot of Stephen King’s novels are set in Maine, including IT, Cujo, The Dead Zone and their subsequent small/big screen adaptations, so why did this one make the selection above all the others? Directed by Mr. Texas Chainsaw Massacre himself, Tobe Hooper, and starring the inimitable James Mason, this particular incarnation of Salem’s Lot is easily one of the best adaptations of King’s work. It’s genuinely scary—combining elements of both the haunted house and vampire genres and the Mr. Barlow reveal—whilst differing slightly from the source material. It is the definitive homage to Max Schreck’s Count Orlok.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) as Maryland
Re-Animator (1985) as Massachusetts
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) as Michigan
Put your hands up for Detroit! Motor City is the cultural hub of America—home to everything from a cracking music scene to its very own NFL team the Detroit Lions (who, incidentally, are one of the picks to win the 2019 NFC North futures). There's only one film worthy of representing Michigan on our list: Jim Jarmusch's achingly-beautiful vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive. With stunning lead acting from Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as centuries-old vampires who reconnect (whose performances are superbly fleshed out by Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt in supporting roles), there’s a reason why this movie is widely considered to be one of the 100 best films of the 21st century.
Trauma (1993) as Minnesota
The Argentos + Brad Dourif + Minneapolis = Just suspend your disbelief and go with it!
The Premonition (1976) as Mississippi
Carnival of Souls (1962) as Missouri
Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998) as Montana
Admittedly, this state’s a bit thin on the ground when it comes to stellar representations in horror movies. But this one’s got aliens and found footage and everything!
1922 (2017) as Nebraska
Complete with a soundtrack by the legendary Mike Patton, 1922 is quite the underrated gem.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) as Nevada
The O.G Carter clan.
The Dead Zone (1979) as New Hampshire
The Last Broadcast (1998) as New Jersey
The Garden State’s prequel to Blair Witch
From Dusk till Dawn (1996) as New Mexico
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) as New York
You’ll never look at chocolate mousse or brownstones the same way again.
Cape Fear (1991) as North Carolina
Leprechaun (1993) as North Dakota
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as Ohio
Near Dark (1987) as Oklahoma
Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut injects some new blood into the vampire genre with this part-romance, part-road-movie, part-western, all-round-excellent film.
The Possessed (1977) as Oregon
Night of the Living Dead (1968) as Pennsylvania
The Conjuring (2013) as Rhode Island
Before things descended into silliness with The Nun, Insidious’ James Wan teamed up with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga to portray real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. This first entry into the franchise is easily the best of the bunch.
Slither (2006) as South Carolina
Imprint (2007) as South Dakota
Evil Dead (1981) as Tennessee
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1970) as Texas
Well, what else?
Don't Go Into the Woods (1981) as Utah
Wolf (1994) as Vermont
Even though Vermont's past history with witchcraft can still be found in the state's unusual superstitions reflected in some of its older architecture, our movie pick for this state features the other horror favourite beginning with 'W': Werewolves. Combine werewolves with Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and everyone’s favourite hot weirdo, James Spader, and we’re definitely onto a winner.
Cherry Falls (2000) as Virginia
Antichrist (2009) as Washington
Depression and anxiety through the mind and eyes of Lars von Trier. Chaos reigns.
Silent Hill (2006) as West Virginia
Dahmer (2002) as Wisconsin
Before Jeremy Renner hit the big time playing Hawkeye in the MCU franchise, he appeared in a number of indie flicks, including this low-key dramatization of America’s most notorious serial killer. It may not be as gruesome as you might expect, but it’s still chillingly effective, and Renner delivers an astonishing performance as Jeffrey Dahmer.
Joy Ride (2001) as Wyoming
Well, we needed at least one B-movie in here!