How scary is Chicago?


After ranking the best horror movies set in New York and LA, a Chicago list was kind of inevitable. I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking forward to doing this one. Chicago is a little less default a setting than New York and LA, so I’ve been curious to see what films make use of it and why.

Here’s what I’ve found:

The Relic

The Relic was a blockbuster in 1997, opening at #1 in the box office. It’s basically a monster movie set in Chicago’s Natural History Museum. Reviews were mixed, and it has a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes (although Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars, praising its craft and effects). It gets horror points, though, for being a straight, unironic monster movie, and Chicago points for subtextually criticizing the city’s mayor and the museum administration (because they decide to proceed with a gala even though the detective on the case is convinced the monster is still in the museum).

The Fury

the fury

Brian de Palma’s movie The Fury comes off a lot like David Cronenberg’s Scanners. Both involve secret organizations gathering and abusing people with psychic powers who can make people explode. (That part is important.) The final act takes place in Chicago (check), but it’s a little messy and underwritten at times. Still, it is a de Palma movie, so there’s a lot to enjoy about it, too.

Child’s Play

childs play

Child’s Play is of course the name of the franchise that features Chucky, the killer doll, so it gets plenty of horror points for that. The Lakeshore Strangler, whose soul inhabits the doll, was a Chicago-based serial killer, and Andy, the kid whom Chucky can’t seem to stop tormenting, lives in Chicago.

Basically, if you’re paranoid about creepy killer dolls, I hope you live anywhere else.



Clive Barker’s Candyman hardly needs justification to be on this list. It’s set in Cabrini-Green, a Chicago project, and is one of the best Clive Barker films ever. It’s also unusual in that it’s much more socially aware than your typical horror movie, and it’s much more layered than your average slasher.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

henry serial killer

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a damn fine movie. It doesn’t glamorize or romanticize its killer, Henry; instead it goes on a hyperrealistic route, which ends up being much scarier. Of course, the Henry of the film is based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Real-life Henry was active in Texas, but in the movie he operates in Chicago. The filmmakers chose to move the story to Chicago!

Why is that? Is something about Chicago particularly murder-y!?




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I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.