Chicago has spent the last couple weeks preparing for Halloween, and there have been no shortage of horror movies on the city’s repertory schedule, but aside from one or two exceptions, locally shot and produced offerings have been absent. Plenty of great films have been shot and set in Chicago, and horror films are no exception. Personally, I’d like to see a Music Box of Horrors/Terror in the Aisles-esque movie marathon dedicated to locally shot horror movies, of which there are dozens of worthy titles. Below are my five favorite horror films made in Chicago.
5. The Relic (dir. Peter Hyams, 1997) Though otherwise unremarkable, this monster movie features some expressionistic and truly eerie shots of the Field Museum’s interior. Hyams, a respectable B-movie journeyman, served as cinematographer in addition to directing, and he makes effective use of the museum’s long hallways and cavernous ceilings.
4. The Beginning of the End (dir. Bert I. Gordon, 1957) This cult camp item makes inspired use of rear projection and double exposure to bring its horde of mutant locusts to life. The Prudential Building scene is a true hallmark of destructive Chicago city sequences, rivaling even Michael Bay’s treatment in his Transformers film.
3. The Fury (dir. Brian De Palma, 1978) A sort of analogue to Carrie and its metaphysical themes, this supernatural chiller is vintage De Palma, brazenly vulgar and fiendishly self-aware with ample amounts of twisted humor. (I still laugh each time John Cassavetes explodes.) The scenes set in the now defunct Old Chicago are great examples of bygone city folklore.
2. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (dir. John McNaughton, 1985/1989) This infamous slasher film treats Chicago’s streets as an extension of the title killer’s mindset—gritty, menacing, and amplified by McNaughton’s cerebral, documentary-esque style. It’s by no means a flattering depiction of the city, but one that masterfully illustrates how an urban setting shapes a deranged mind and vice versa.
1. Candyman (dir. Bernard Rose, 1992) The movie itself is fine—as Jonathan Rosenbaum correctly explains, an intriguingly mythical premise is gradually drowned in literalism and dull exposition—but the real draw is the anthropological aspect present in the film’s Cabrini-Green setting. This a curio piece in the long story of Chicago racial segregation and housing discrimination, and there’s true horror present here; for a more accurate and artful telling, see Steve Bogira’s famous article.