It’s Halloween time, and that means it’s horror time and Louisville has had a few more contributions to the genre than you might think. They might blow up Louisville at the end of The Return of The Living Dead (which was not filmed here), but there are closer connections than that. To enhance your Halloween horror movie experience, I’ve put together a short list of 5 fright flicks with connections to the Derby City. Check ’em out below, listed from oldest to newest.
The first talking Universal Monster film was directed by Tod Browning who is from Louisville. Browning used to put on plays in his backyard while growing up here before running away with the circus when he was 16 years old. He would go on to work on several silent films with Lon Chaney Sr. (before Chaney’s death in 1930). He also directed another pre-code horror classic, “Freaks” (1932) which was considered too shocking to be released,resulting in several scenes being cut out. The original version, which ran 30 minutes longer, unfortunately no longer exists.
Werewolf of London (1935)
Werewolf of London is the first Hollywood movie to feature a werewolf (six years before Lon Chaney Jr.’s “The Wolf Man”), and stars Henry Hull in the lead role who is from Louisville. Henry also shares the distinction of being Jack Pierce’s first Werewolf subject, even though his makeup was much more simple than Chaney’s in “The Wolf Man”. Hull also costarred in Alfred Hitchcock’s underrated “Lifeboat”.
Of course no conversation about Louisville connected horror can take place without the mention of filmmaker William Girdler. Girdler started his own production company here in Louisville when he was in his early twenties and filmed his first few movies here. “Abby” was his big breakthrough, a blaxploitation horror film about a woman who is possessed by an African sex spirit. The film was a financial success and grossed $4 million in it’s first month before it was pulled from theaters because of a lawsuit from Warner Bros. claiming it was a clone of the Exorcist (which it was). Girdler even went out in tragic Hollywood fashion, killed in a helicopter crash when he was 30 while scouting locations in the Philippines.
SEE ALSO: Asylum of Satan, Three on a Meathook, Sheba Baby, Grizzly, Day of the Animals, and The Manitou.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This is the story of Billy Chapman who watched his parents get murdered on Christmas eve and was subsequently brought up in an abusive Catholic orphanage. In his adult life, Billy suffers from post-traumatic stress over the holidays that leads him to don a Santa suit and go on a killing spree. This film had a successful release and made $2.5 million in its first week before being pulled from theaters over its controversial content. It is now considered a cult classic. Anyway, Gilmer McCormick who plays Sister Margaret (the only good nun in the orphanage) is from Louisville.
Dead Moon Rising (2007)
Zombies have taken over Louisville and a group of survivors try to make their way out of the city. They rally a biker army along the way to fight the zombies in downtown Louisville which holds the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest zombie scene ever filmed. Sounds amazing, but it’s really not and this movie kind of sucks. Still fun to watch though if you are a Louisville resident and it holds the honor of being selected as Fangoria’s top video rental for May 2008. Have fun kids!