What makes a great horror film? The settings for horror movies play a major role in shaping the narrative of a particular film. These settings include isolated cabins as seen in Friday the 13th and dorms in the set of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Interestingly, every horror movie centers around the similar set of settings. From the blockbuster horror tales like The Conjuring and Shutter, to disaster adaptations like Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror and the pathetic IT, here’s six essential locations to shoot a tale of terror.

1. Cabins

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Cabin near lake

From time to time, cabins have been one of the main settings for horror films. This includes small cottages by the lake or isolated homes, away from urban neighborhoods. The sheer remoteness makes this a hot spot for demonic activity. On most occasions, these cabins host families who had just moved into a new area and are unaware of the dark history of their new home. Alternatively, a cabin also serves as an accommodation for college kids on a summer getaway. Unaware of their surroundings, these characters often fall victim to the cabin and its grueling past. Therefore, forming the perfect narrative for a classic horror film.









2. Dorms

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Dorm rooms

Image courtesy of Sheila Johnson@123RF.

This is another addition to the favorite settings for horror movies. Young adults are a classic  prey for the evil, especially when considering their recklessness and the will to try anything that upsets the order. In addition, dorms also gives rise to the feeling of loneliness as students are away from homes. For directors and producers who are looking to amplify the horror, dorms which have previously seen murder or suicide are a must for sinister activity.

3. Amusement Parks

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Old amusement park

Scary clowns anyone? From afar, amusement parks are all fun and laughs. What could go wrong with cotton candy, roller coaster rides and carefree and kids? For one, the ride could malfunction, sending kids plunging to their death and into the scripts of Final Destination. And as for the clowns, imagine walking into a dimly lit tunnel only to find a clown breathing down your neck while grinning from ear to ear and whispering “why so serious?” Yup, let’s just pass on that tunnel then.

4. Forests

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Dark forest

This right here, is an all-time classic. It is one of the best settings for Hollywood horror movies, as there is always something eerie about the woods. It can be used to hide a dead body or even to practice witchcraft away from the eye of the public. Real world harrowing tales of people gone missing in forests only add to the horror element of this setting. Japan’s legendary Suicide Forest which sits on the foot on Mount Fuji is a perfect example of this.

5. Cemeteries

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Cemetery

Along with forests, the cemetery is another important element in a horror film. Sorry to disappoint, but no one is interested in punching through the grave and grabbing your ankle. Although, the abundance of dead bodies and skeletons available only makes this a natural setting for a tale of terror. Films like The Omen have successfully used the creepiness of a cemetery to great effect. Furthermore, the cemetery could also act as the site for unholy practices and rituals. The silent and solemn aura of the place is only amplified when the living arrive to contemplate on the trauma and mysteries of death.   

6. Abandoned / Old buildings6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Abandoned building

Anything abandoned seems like a great place to feature a horror film. An abandoned cabin by the lake, or a run down hospital are perfect for housing dark histories. The deterioration of these buildings is spooky indeed. Whispers on tales of the dead seemingly travels through the air and makes for a terrifying experience. Also, old, underground bunkers is another great horror film location. The sheer remoteness of these spots leads to the “what happens here, stays here” feeling. Netflix’s Arabian folklore monster-inspired Ghoul, brilliantly exploits this sense of terror and isolation.

There you have it, six essential settings for horror movies. From cabins to cemeteries, these spots are perfect for terrifying tales of the undead. However, a horror movie is incomplete without its main antagonist, be it possessed teens, zombies or sinister clowns. Featuring contributors Joe Therasakdi and Andrey Kiselev, here’s a collection of your worst nightmare, that can be used to inspire your movie posters, game covers or in game characters.

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Joe Therasakdi

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Joe Therasakdi

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Andrey Kiselev

6 Essential Settings For Horror Movies 123RF Blog - Andrey Kiselev

For more Halloween inspiration, check out our guide to dark tourism around the world. Also, for design enthusiasts check out our tutorial on a quick and easy skull effect and a sugar skull makeup!