Some of the most iconic films in history have used New York City as its backdrop. Sweeping dramas, gut-busting comedies, and action/adventure movies have swung through the streets dozens of times (sometimes destroying the city in the process). Because horror films often focus on the monster or an evil entity itself, the location (other than your typical haunted house) becomes almost inconsequential. Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, however, have played an important role in dozens of horror films, both popular and rarely available. Today we highlight a few films that have used our neighborhoods as a focus for ghouls, goblins, and more to run rampant!
I Am Legend
I Am Legend (a reimagining of the 1954 novel and remake of Charlton Heston’s 1971 The Omega Man) premiered on December 14, 2007, and concerns a military scientist, played by Will Smith, who accidentally unleashes a virus that turns humans into vampire-like creatures. Manhattan, and the world, is decimated, and Smith, the lone survivor due to his immunity, makes the city his playground, occupying 11 Washington Square North and turning Washington Square Park into a series of traps to ward off the creatures at night. The former Tower Records at 20 East 4th Street serves to stave off boredom as he picks up new movies and chats with mannequins in an attempt to maintain an aspect of socialization.
Ghostbusters is synonymous with New York (Ernie Hudson’s cry of “I love this town!” serves as the hilarious button to the original film), and in the 1989 sequel (released on June 16th), Dan Ackroyd’s character Ray Stantz, after costing the city millions of dollars to destroy the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, opens up an occult book store at 33 St. Mark’s Place.
Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn took a turn at horror in 1967 for Wait Until Dark (released October 26th) as a blind woman who is suddenly given a doll secretly filled with heroin during a flight from Montreal to New York after the original smuggler is spooked by a suspicious man at the airport. The criminals who are owed the drugs eventually come looking for Hepburn who fights them off in her basement apartment at 4 St. Luke’s Place by breaking all of the light bulbs and stranding them in the dark. If the tame jump scares of 1967 are too modest, check out 2016’s Don’t Breathe, a modern twist on the same concept.
The legacy of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore’s romantic horror movie Ghost is rooted in its infamous pottery scene when it was released on July 13th, 1990, but their SoHo loft at 102 Prince Street was the real star (in our minds, at least). Both the interior and exterior of the building were used during filming.
The Fat Black Pussycast
In 1963, the Beatniks were beginning their slow decline (Easy Rider would eventually put the final nail in the coffin), but they were still alien to Hollywood. The Fat Black Pussycat, named after the cafe and theatre of the same name on 105 MacDougal Street, featured a detective who was “frightened” by the artists, musicians, and writers of the generation and must muster up the courage to solve a series of deadly murders in Greenwich Village.
Exterior shots of Greenwich Village were featured in the film, though, due to budget, it used mostly stock footage to transport the characters from one location to another. A precursor of sorts to the more violent exploitative films of the 70s, The Fat Black Pussycat turns the Beat scene into a seedy underbelly, full of intrigue, drugs, sex, and a cat who can telepathically link with the murder victims.
7B Horseshoe Bar at 108 Avenue B has served many fictional characters from Crocodile Dundee to Frank Pantangilli in The Godfather Part II. Mickey Rourke was a patron in Angel Heart (released on March 6th, 1987) a demonic horror film featuring Robert De Niro as Lucifer and The Cosby Show alum Lisa Bonet in a controversial role that shattered the expectations she had made on the family sitcom. Filming also took place at tenements on Eldridge and Broome Streets, giving the city a Hellish feeling that was slowly dragging Rourke down with it.
Our neighborhoods have served as the backdrop for many iconic films, but the bustle of the city is difficult to turn into the stuff of nightmares. These horror films attempt to hide the seedy interior with inconspicuous streets and tree-lined avenues, while our deepest fears roam the insides.