We told you what to watch and from what you ought to spare yourself in our Big Seattle Movie Guide, but we’re less prescriptive when it comes to horror movies. Good acting and decent writing aren’t always the big-ticket items in this genre. These films (and one TV show) run the gamut from genuine cinematic achievements to box office bombs, and all have ties to Washington state.
The Changeling (1980)
Yet another film in which Vancouver, BC, appears as a sub-in for Seattle, this Canadian classic tells the story of a grieving composer who relocates from New York City to a baleful old Victorian mansion. With the help of an agent from the historical society, he unravels the sinister tale of family intrigue and supernatural vengeance that plagues the house.
A young professor, Russ, returns to his blustery coastal hometown after the death of his mother and must confront the machinations of his cult leader father. The low-budget indie film debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2008 and is steeped in metaphor; its director, Daniel Gildark (Paper Tigers), says that the film’s Lovecraftian horrors are an allegory for the alienation and terror of a queer person returning to an oppressive childhood home.
Scary Movie (2000)
While the franchise eventually bloated to unsightly proportions, finally juddering to a merciful halt in 2013 with its fifth and most maligned installment, the OG Scary Movie is a self-conscious B movie that takes a rough and raucous hatchet to the cliches of the genre, and is well worth a watch. It is perhaps best appreciated by the horror movie aficionado; as Roger Ebert writes, “To get your money's worth, you need to be familiar with the various teenage horror franchises, and if you are, Scary Movie delivers the goods.” The first four films star Anna Farris, who was raised in Edmonds and attended the University of Washington, in her breakout role.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Characteristic of a David Lynch affair, it’s hard to articulate just what Mulholland Drive is actually about—such pedestrian concerns as “plot” and “coherence” are of little note to the surrealist director, who spent several years of his childhood in Spokane. Deeply unsettling and disturbing in a way that clings to you like a film of grease long after the credits roll, the movie (loosely) follows an amnesiac victim of a car accident and a young actress as they try to piece together something sensical from her splintered memories. Spoiler alert: The result is anything but sensical.
The Ring (2002)
Adapted from a 1998 Japanese film by director Hideo Nakata, this remake is set in Seattle and has a green-lit, waterlogged aesthetic that conjures the damp chill of a PNW winter. The now-archetypal plot traces the bloody progress of a video tape whose viewers all die seven days after watching it. Arguably the most horrifying part of the film is that one of its protagonists, Noah, is wearing flip flops in one of the climactic scenes. In Seattle! During the rainy season! Truly the stuff of nightmares.
Twin Peaks (1990)
Another Lynch-pin (get it?), this cult classic set in a gloomy Washington logging town starts its life as a murder mystery, takes a supernatural turn, and then goes majorly off the rails midway through season two. The series has an almost singularly dedicated contingent of fans, and with Lynch rumored to be working on a new Netflix original series, some are frothing at the mouth with speculation that it could be a Twin Peaks spin-off.
The Vanishing (1993)
Starring Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, and Sandra Bullock, this English-language remake of the original Dutch thriller, Spoorloos, chronicles a Seattle man’s years-long obsession with solving the mystery of his girlfriend’s disappearance. Largely filmed in Seattle, the box office bomb also includes shots from Monroe and Snoqualmie.
The Ward (2010)
The Ward, filmed at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, is a largely unmemorable—but still satisfying—specimen of the insane asylum subgenre. A group of patients attempt to survive a vicious supernatural force bent on their demise, with a genuinely compelling (though not exactly shocking) twist at the end that adds some metaphorical depth to what might otherwise be a trite tale of madness and vengeful spirits.