When I moved to L.A. in October 2006, one of the first things I did was drive to Pasadena to hunt down the shooting locations for John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Ever since then, I’ve been discovering the greater Los Angeles area by exploring filming locations. Some of my favorite sites are related to horror movies. With my favorite holiday looming, I thought I’d make a list for fellow genre fans that want to plan a Halloween-themed day trip.
1) SOUTH PASADENA
I confess I had a cheat sheet for the HALLOWEEN shooting locations in Pasadena. Sean Clark’s “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” website offers an obsessively detailed rundown on where to go and what to see.
While you’re in the area: You might also visit the town center of Sierra Madre, which doubled as Santa Mira in the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. (For more INVASION locations, check out Jerry Schneider’s website.) Just down the road is the Los Angeles Arboretum, where portions of Jack Arnold’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and Roger Corman’s ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES were filmed.
No Halloween tour is complete without visiting the Doyle and Strode houses, sitting opposite each other on N. Orange Grove Ave. in Hollywood. A few blocks away, on Genesee Ave., you can also see Nancy and Glen’s houses from the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. (“Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” has also done an extensive episode on ELM STREET, which will take you to Lincoln Heights and Venice Beach and quite a few places in between.) One place you might not think of stopping is the Max Factor Museum at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, but fans of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS really should go – to see the prison corridor set where Clarice Starling first met Hannibal Lector.
While you’re in the area: Visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where Tom McLoughlin made ONE DARK NIGHT. Further south, in the Hancock Park neighborhood, is the home of the Hudson sisters, from WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
3) UNIVERSAL CITY
This is a no-brainer. The Universal backlot is home to “Little Europe,” where many of the classic monster movies were shot, as well as the house from Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO… If you’re a horror fan, you have to go. Take the tram tour, or buy tickets this week for Halloween Horror Nights, and walk the grounds of the Bates Motel among zombies and masked murderers. (The PSYCHO set is part of the SCREAM 4 exhibit.)
4) GRIFFITH PARK
On the south side of the park, you can visit the famous Bronson Canyon – where countless sci-fi and horror flicks have been shot over the years. This is where Dana Wynter became a pod person in the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, just moments after fleeing an alien mob at the nearby corner of Beachwood and Belden. A few blocks away is Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s immortal “Ennis House,” a.k.a. the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. The house isn’t open to the public, but you can get a pretty good look at it from the street.
Inside the park proper is the merry-go-round from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (the movie, not the TV series) and the Old Los Angeles Zoo, which doubled as a Transylvanian crypt in Albert Band’s ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA.
In one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, you’ll find a street full of the Victorian houses that were once so popular here. Just about any house on Carroll Ave. would be perfect for a gothic horror movie, but the one that drew my attention was the zombie house from the end of MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER. On the other side of the 101, on Aliso Street, you can visit the church from John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS.
6) THE COAST
For me, the movie highlights of the Malibu coast are the sea caves at Leo Carillo Beach, where Roger Corman made ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (among others), and the Santa Monica Pier, home of THE LOST BOYS. The vampire cave from THE LOST BOYS is further south, off the coast of Palos Verdes, near the site of the old Marineland amusement park. If you’re going to go that far down the coast, you should also stop in Long Beach and visit the Queen Mary.
7) SIMI VALLEY
You may not think it’s worth it to drive all the way out into Simi Valley to see the house from POLTERGEIST, but there’s something truly compelling about the way this house’s sloped roof makes the place appear forbidding even on the sunniest day in the middle of summer. (Or maybe it's just my impressionable imagination...) I like to drive by the house after a hike at the old Iverson Ranch or Corriganville Park, where countless b-movies were shot between the 30s and the 60s. Very often, you’ll catch glimpses of these two movie ranches while watching studio era b-movies. Just recently, I recognized the Garden of the Gods at Iverson in a sequence from THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG with Boris Karloff.
8) ANTELOPE VALLEY
In my mind, Antelope Valley is Rob Zombie’s playground – mainly due to his use of two popular filming locations: the Four Aces diner/motel in HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and Club Ed in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. Four Aces was also used as the motel in the supernatural thriller IDENTITY. The rockier hills of Antelope Valley doubled as the desert home of the giant ants in THEM!
9) MOJAVE DESERT
For those who are willing to travel a little further from L.A., I recommend a drive along the edge of UFO country, to re-live scenes from films by Jack Arnold and Wes Craven. Start in Victorville, where aliens landed (near the Rainbow Bridge) in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, then continue on to Apple Valley, where the U.S. military confronted a giant spider in TARANTULA. Further east is Lucerne Valley, where Craven shot the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Veer south on 247 toward Pioneertown and Joshua Tree, where much of THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 was filmed. There's also a "Skull Rock" in Joshua Tree shaped like Michael Berryman's head!
While you’re in the area: Continue east to the sleepy town of Amboy, where C. Thomas Howell has some questionable diner food with madman Rutger Hauer in THE HITCHER. (If you really want to go all out, check out Harry Medved's book Hollywood Escapes, which outlines a HITCHER road tour from Death Valley to the Imperial Sand Dunes.)
10) NORTH ON THE I-14
If you really want a change of scenery, you can drive two hours north of L.A. and visit ancient Egypt. Hagen Canyon (on the west side of I-14 in Red Rock Canyon State Park) served as the home Universal’s THE MUMMY. Portions of JURASSIC PARK were also shot in the park, on the opposite side of I-14. For details, see Richard J. Schmidt's field guide to Red Rock. This one is a bit of a drive, but it’s worth it – the landscape is stunning, and you’ll feel like you really have entered another world.
While you’re in the neighborhood: If you take the I-14 from L.A. to Red Rocks, be sure to stop by Vasquez Rocks. This is another location that has been used in hundreds of films and TV shows, including the original Universal DRACULA, where the rocky outcroppings served as the foreground of the Borgo Pass.
You can map out your road trip here.