Suburbia, sprawling estates and sleep-away camps certainly have scary-movie street cred, but apartment buildings have also held iconic roles in classic horror films. Looking to enjoy the scare season with some horror flicks? Pop some popcorn, check out these scary movies set in apartments, and prepare to sleep with one eye open this Halloween!
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Perhaps one of the most famous apartment-set horror films of all, Mia Farrow, sporting the famed pixie cut in the role that made her a star, portrays newlywed Rosemary Woodhouse, settling into life at the looming, Gothic “Bramford” building. The film was actually shot at New York City’s famed Dakota Apartments at Central Park West. The Dakota’s semi-sinister beauty is an elegant setting for hapless Rosemary to become the unwitting vessel for the spawn of Satan himself and of course, all the neighbors are in on the plot.
To be fair, this isn’t a horror film, but it is most certainly a ghost story. It reveals an Oscar-winning performance by Whoopi Goldberg and another sassy haircut that was launched into trendiness, this time by Demi Moore. No doubt you’ve seen that famous pottery-wheel love scene set to “Unchained Melody.” Indeed, Sam and Molly are very much in love. Tragically, Sam (Patrick Swayze) is murdered by an unscrupulous business partner and, now a wandering spirit, employs a medium to contact Molly and save her from a nefarious plot. Molly and Sam’s beautiful apartment was a location on Prince St. in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood.
Rear Window (1954)
Idle hands – or in this case, legs – are the Devil’s workshop, as a journalist (Jimmy Stewart) with a broken leg whiles away his convalescence by spying on his building’s neighbors with binoculars. When he witnesses what he believes is a murder, he tries to solve it himself – with a little help from his girlfriend and nurse. The suspense in this classic Alfred Hitchcock film only heightens from there. The story takes place in New York’s Greenwich Village, the inspiration for the apartment’s look, but this Hitchcock classic was actually filmed on a set out in Hollywood.
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“Quarantine” is an American remake of the Spanish film “REC” (2007), but both feature apartment buildings as their settings. REC was located in Barcelona and shot on location in an actual apartment complex. This was the intent for “Quarantine’s” downtown Los Angeles version, as well, but proved too difficult to execute. A set was built instead. This tense, found-footage film follows a journalist on a ride-along with L.A. firefighters. They are called to the scene of an apartment where people are behaving suspiciously – and violently – and so the building is quarantined. This one makes excellent use of dark halls and staircases as the protagonists investigate the goings-on.
Child’s Play (1988)
Chicago’s landmark Brewster Apartments serve as the setting for this classic, kitschy horror fest in which a dying murderer’s soul is transferred into a doll that’s bought for a young boy. When “Chucky” murders the babysitter and the boy – whose tales of a murderous doll get him institutionalized – his mother takes up the cause in the hope they can stop Chucky before he’s able to silence little Andy’s accusations. Note the movie poster: the apartments are a highlighted feature!
In the second film of Italian horror icon Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, a poet in New York City finds an ancient book of evil she believes has connections to the apartment building in which she lives. She invites her brother, who had been studying abroad in Rome, to visit, but he doesn’t make it back in time. Her discovery sets in motion a dizzying array of conspirators that seem bent on concealing what lurks within the building – and a dizzying number of fresh corpses will be created before the grieving brother uncovers the truth. This is an underrated Argento film that beautifully utilizes the apartment setting. Though most of the movie was shot on sets in Rome, several scenes were done on location in New York City’s Central Park.
From master of body horror David Cronenberg, this film features a wonderful vehicle for mayhem: the unorthodox scientist who thinks he knows just what humanity needs. But when he develops a new parasite that creates high levels of desire and promiscuity in its hosts, a block of Montreal apartments becomes the petri dish where his experiment plays out, with horrifying results. Indeed, close quarters – like apartment buildings – and lots of neighborly interaction make the spread of a pandemic much easier, don’t they?