Haunted History: Detroit's Horror Movies

When you think of Detroit, you might think of cars or sports, but the city is also a generator of horror films!  

This is our list of the top horror movies related to the city of Detroit. How many have you seen*Spoilers Ahead  

 

Evil Dead Franchise  

Royal Oak native Sam Raimi is the mastermind responsible for the Evil Dead franchise of films, video games and merchandise. 

The originally trilogy of films sparked a cult following 

 The first film, "The Evil Dead" was released in 1981, and quickly became a cult classic launching the career of Bruce Campbell - also a Royal Oak native.  

In the first film, Campbell’s character Ash and three friends - all Michigan State University students - accidentally awaken an evil spirit while staying in a remote cabin. While one of the characters proudly sports a Michigan State sweater, the majority of the film was shot in rural Tennessee. The movie premiered at the historic Redford Theater, where it and its sequels remain seasonal favorite 

The sequel, "Evil Dead 2" even had several shots filmed in Detroit! The franchise was popular at the box office and inspired other horror films like "Shaun of the Dead" and "Cabin in the Woods."  

 

Black and white photographic print of the Packard Automotive Plant.

It Follows  

The Redford Theatre, where "The Evil Dead" (1981) debuted, made an onscreen appearance in the 2014 flick, "It Follows."  

The films premise is that a supernatural creature stalks students after a sexual encounter – the creature being passed to one student after another.  

 

The film was directed by Clawson native David Robert Mitchell and set in the Clawson area. It Follows also featured the Packard Plant, Clawson High School and the University of Detroit’s campus on screen.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scream 4 

The fourth installment of the popular franchise, directed by Wes Craven, was released in 2011 and set in the same fictional California town of Woodsboro. The first installment of the series also starred Lansing native Matthew Lillard as Stu Macher – one of the antagonists of the film. 

But, the filming for "Scream 4" took place in Plymouth, Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Livonia. The fictional Woodsboro police department is actually the 16th District Court in Livonia.  

It was the lowest grossing film in the series, and the final film produced by Wes Craven before his death in 2015.  

 

More Detroit Connections  Color photographic print taken of the double corkscrew portion of Boblo Island's roller coaster, the Screamer. The ride's train is inverted in the second corkscrew. Several people watch from the ground in the lower right corner.

Other Detroit connections to horror films include Jeff Daniels in "Arachnophobia" (1990), "Frogs" (1972) starring Lynn Borden, and Pam Dawber, most notably from "Mork & Mindy", also starred in a 1999 TV film, "Don’t Look Behind You." The rollercoaster which propelled the story of "Final Destination 3" (2006) was originally built as Boblo Island’s Corkscrew. After the park’s closure, it was sold to Vancouver’s Playland, where the movie was filmed. 

The region’s horror connections transcend to today’s times! In 2016, Don’t Breathe produced by Sam Rami, was set in Detroit and grossed more than $150 million at the box office, although nearly none of the filming actually took place in Detroit.  

More recently, Brett and Drew Pierce, brothers from Royal Oak, broke into the No. 1 Box Office spot with their film, Wretched (2020), filmed in the Leelanau Peninsula. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black and white photographic print depicting a concession stand in the lobby of the Redford Theatre. The mezzanine is visible overhead. Signs on counter read "Hot Buttercup Popcorn".

Detroit’s movie history extends past the horror scene, but if you’ve seen any of these films let us know on social media. You can explore more Detroit history through our online Encyclopedia of Detroit. And even more spooky stories are available in our Haunted History series here.  

 

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