A Suburban Nightmare
By: Chris Darkes - November 10, 2014
Category : Hauntings
It’s hard to believe Halloween came and went so quickly. The candy is half priced. The pumpkin scented items are on clearance. The shelved are cleaned out ready for Christmas. (Do they just skip right over Thanksgiving?) Well, dammit, I’m not done talking about it. It struck me reliving the days leading up to Halloween— growing up in the suburbs of Chicago brought back a lot of fond memories. It made me think of those cantaloupe colored leaves freely falling on the side streets, clogging the gutters. Maples bursting into orange and reds. My parents had this River Birch tree that when the leaves would fall in autumn, the branches would scratch the aluminum siding making it sound like Freddy Krueger was waiting outside. Maybe these elements are what makes horror movies so perfect for an eerie Midwest setting.
Take the very first Halloween movie. This movie set the gold standard for what is now known as the slasher flick. Taking place in the fictional town of Haddonfield, IL the setting perfectly encapsulates what everyone fears. The unknown. In a cramped suburban setting, the plot takes the audience through the tree lined sidestreets and makes you see what lurks in the shadows. There’s some really memorable scenes particularly towards the end that demonstrate the atmosphere of a suburban nightmare. Running through backyards and empty, dark houses. Maybe its what makes it so relateable, too. Do we fear our neighbors?
The next one that stands out isFriday the 13th. The setting is a typical camp community which always made me feel like I passed it on the way to Wisconsin Dells during a family road trip. Woods and murder usually coexist in horror. There seems to be something spooky about a random lake with woods surrounding it. Makes me think of Stephen King’s The Raft. I don’t believe they specify where exactly it takes place (its been years since I’ve seen this movie) its safe for me to assume it could happen in Wisconsin.
Child’s Play setting is also in Chicago. Although this one deviates by having the characters stay within the city limits, it strikes a chord that a little Cabbage Patch-style doll can become possessed and go on a killing spree. I remember seeing clips of that movie when I was little. I used to place my Cabbage Patch doll back in the box at night to make sure he was still in there when i woke up.
Everyone probably has a weird memory of truth or dare. But when you watched Candyman during a ten year old’s sleepover and were dared to say his name in the mirror afterwards it can leave a lasting impression on you. The movie centers on what used to be known as Cabrini-Green in downtown Chicago. The housing projects used to be a war zone before the city realized it was lakefront property and booted all the section eight residents to the surrounding suburbs. Everytime someone mentions UIC, I still think of Candyman.
Children of The Corn is another movie that makes you think twice about getting out to explore a corn field. In Gatlin, Nebraska two people accidently hit someone on a cross country trip. Trying to figure out where to take the body, they soon discover the town has a cult of little creepers running around with farm equipment. Its all the makings of a classic tale that has you second guessing that trip to a rural setting.
So I guess it has a lot to do with a familiar suburban setting. The openness of the landscape, and the cornfields surrounding. Trees turning colors, and becoming stark. The movies that take place in a warmer climate usually involve the desert. (Which can be creepy as well.) It just seems like they don’t resonate with audiences as much as say a rainy night in the suburbs.