It seems when it comes to walking dead, serial killers, strange creatures and evil spirits - Pennsylvania is the place to film. Starting with a giant ball of slime in 1958, all the way up to a serial killer with a split personality in 2017, Pennsylvania is a hotbed of horror movie activity.
The Blob, 1958 -
A creature resembling a rolling pile of Jello® rambles along, eating everything in its path, growing larger with each meal. In addition to the (now) laughable “special” effects, the film is probably best known for its star: a 28-year-old newcomer named Steve McQueen. The scene where the blob attacks theatre-goers was filmed at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, in Chester County. Like The Blob itself, remade in 1988 and a cult classic, the Colonial Theater is alive and well - the only vaudeville-house-turned-theater still in existence in the county.
Night of the Living Dead, 1968 -
Produced on a budget of just $114,000, Night of the Living Dead has become a film icon, inspiring numerous sequels and remakes. Director George A. Romero, a former student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, chose nearby Butler County as the primary filming location for his first film. Today, the movie is preserved in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. It can be watched freely online on the movie’s Wikipedia page.
Creepshow, 1982 -
George A. Romero teams up with Stephen King in this comedy-horror anthology comprised of five tales starring perennial favorites and icons like Leslie Nielson, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, and Ted Danson. Film locations include both the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia suburbs. Romero and King teamed up for a sequel. A third movie was made independently of the original creators, and went straight to video.
The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 -
The movie that made “fava beans” the scariest side dish in history grossed (no pun intended) nearly $273 million. Jody Foster’s portrayal of young FBI trainee Clarice Starling earned her an Academy Award, as did Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of the cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Director Jonathan Demme filmed portions of the movie in Pittsburgh, Homestead, McKeesport and other western Pennsylvania locations.
The Sixth Sense, 1999 -
M. Knight Shyamalan’s breakout hit had audiences gasping in disbelief at the impossibly perfect plot twist. Filmed in Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties (as were many of Shyamalan’s subsequent films) the movie made an astounding $672 million worldwide. Other Shyamalan projects using Pennsylvania locations include Signs, The Village, and Lady in the Water.
The Mothman Prophecies, 2002 -
In 1975, John Keel wrote a book cataloging sightings of a large, winged creature in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The creature was seen frequently in 1966 and 1967 and it was Keel’s belief that “The Mothman,” as the creature came to be known, had some connection to the December 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge. Twenty-seven years after Keel’s book, film makers released The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere. In it, it is proposed that the Mothman appears to warn of impending catastrophe, like the bridge disaster that killed 46 people. Most of the filming occurred in Allegheny and Armstrong Counties, with one scene filmed on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
The Lovely Bones, 2009 -
Although primarily filmed in New Zealand, The Lovely Bones was both set and partially filmed in the counties around Philadelphia. Based on the 2002 best-selling book of the same name, the movie details the rape, murder and dismemberment of Susie Salmon who watches the aftermath from her own, private heaven. The film received mixed reviews, and was not a financial blockbuster.
My Bloody Valentine, 2009 -
The original, 1981 version of My Bloody Valentine was set in Nova Scotia. The 2009 remake was the first R-rated movie projected in “RealD” and widely released as a 3D film. A 2D version was distributed to theaters lacking 3D capability. Primarily filmed in Armstrong County, the film was hardly a critics’ darling but was, nevertheless, a modest financial success.
The Visit, 2015 -
With The Visit, many critics felt that M. Knight Shyamalan returned to the style and storytelling that made The Sixth Sense a mega-hit. What seems like the most benign of premises - two grandkids go to spend a few days with their grandparents - turns into a terrifying, yet bizarrely plausible, fight for their lives. Like most of Shyamalan’s films, this one was filmed in Philadelphia and its suburbs.
The Split, 2017 -
If it seems like M. Knight Shyamalan's personal mission is to keep the Pennsylvania horror movie market alive, well... there's good reason. Filmed in Philadelphia, The Split - Shyamalan's 14th movie - was released in theatres on January 20, 2017. It tells the story of Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy), a ruthless killer with dissociative identity disorder. Although not all reviews were kind, the film was generally well-received by critics. In its first three months, The Split grossed more than $240 million. There is talk of a sequel. 💀