Wherever you may end up in the United States, the culture of each region you pass through leaves its own impact on your unique journey. What happens when things quite literally go South? This section that includes several states spans from Texas through the DelMarVa area and further inland as well, creating an established atmosphere that becomes more varied and refined from place to place. The South’s problematic historical background and haunted undertones work together alongside its charismatic air in some frightening films. These are the best horror movies based in the South, ranked.
10 Venom (2005)
The first film on this list to take place in Louisiana, Venom unfolds in an evident horror hotspot with the addition of voodoo. After dark spirits break free, they come home to roost when a local man gets possessed and sets out against several teenagers. Bloody Disgusting reports that “Only a few weeks before Venom — formerly The Reaper after shooting under Backwater — was released in the U.S. in 2005, the Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Katrina,” potentially contributing to its low performance.
9 The Beyond (1981)
The Beyond, originally French, is directed by Lucio Fulci. Liza comes into possession of an ancient Louisiana hotel, the surface of which hides more than meets the eye. People around her start to fall victim to the shadowy powers of the building, and Liza begins to fully realize the impact of its location – it is situated on top of a portal that delves into Hell itself. The beautiful setting offers a stunning yet stick-in-your-brain appearance, creating a unique viewing experience.
8 Sister, Sister (1987)
In another story set in Louisiana, sisters Lucy and Charlotte revamp their family home in Sister, Sister. An encounter with Matt, who comes to stay with them for a while in their bed and breakfast, clues them into his professional world thanks to his proximity to Congress. Of course, spooky occurrences earn this film a general description on IMDB and beyond as a legitimate Southern gothic piece, along with the visual aura created through the making of many ’80s films.
7 Pumpkinhead (1988)
Pumpkinhead ultimately transcended its bad box office reputation to become a cult film, and its central antagonist has contributed to the list of creepy villains in the horror genre. When tragedy strikes a father, he ends up crossing paths with the creature that the film was named for, who fights the man’s battles for him and targets a wanted group of teens. The movie was filmed in California, but it’s said that the film takes place “in the heart of Appalachia.”
6 The Skeleton Key (2005)
The vibe that the The Skeleton Key develops makes use again of Louisiana’s mystical atmosphere, while including body horror and elements of the supernatural and religious practice. Kate Hudson takes the lead role in this story of nurse Caroline’s encounters with an older couple and the hidden backstories of their plantation. The film is distinctly dark and reminiscent of the gritty 2000s era of horror.
5 The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)
The Town that Dreaded Sundown is one of those many movies that creates an uneasy perception within the viewer just through its title. The film does feature a villain in a hood, but it instead examines the chaos that he brought to Texarkana, Arkansas (which seeped into Texas, too) in 1946. Its IMDB page and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas solidify its basis in the real-world Texarkana Moonlight Murders, which resulted in five deaths and no resolution.
4 The Haunted Mansion (2003)
The Haunted Mansion can be considered one of Disney’s funniest live-action movies, which also has a reboot scheduled to release. Eddie Murphy stars as busy father Jim Evers, who ends up at the spooky Gracey Manor one evening with his family. Bad weather forces the group to spend the night there, leading to a creepy chain of events that includes characters you may recognize if you’ve ever ridden the ride found at Disney parks. The film is set and filmed in Louisiana.
3 Day of the Dead (1985)
Day of the Dead is a George A. Romero film that follows Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, bringing some fresh hell to the series. The story takes place in Florida, which zooms in on a populated underground bunker that serves as a stronghold against the zombie invasion. Inside, scientists and members of the military try to conclude the most effective course of action, eventually becoming a bloodbath with some anticipated Romero film flavor.
2 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
As the first installment of 10 (so far) in this decades-spanning franchise, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is truly unforgettable horror. Leatherface is of course one of the most grotesque antagonists in the genre, and this film most likely made chain saws such a staple in scary movies and walkthrough haunted houses alike. The original story trails a friend group during a trip to Texas that devolves into an utter nightmare scenario, resulting in cannibalism and a collection of deaths.
1 Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles captures some of the darkness of the Deep South at a Louisiana plantation, which also details vampire life through Louis de Pointe du Lac’s biography. With Brad Pitt portraying Louis and Tom Cruise acting as Lestat de Lioncourt, the main performances of the film also included a young Kirsten Dunst as Claudia. The story’s gothic roots, originally created by Anne Rice, were translated again into a screen adaptation with the new Interview with the Vampire series aired by AMC.