While others were recently celebrating Valentine’s Day, the youngest state in the continental United States was busy celebrating its 106th birthday. That state is Arizona and yes, it is a bit of a wee baby when compared to most other states, but don’t let that baby face fool you. Throughout its relatively brief existence, Arizona has been a major player in the world of film.
Arizona first put its stamp on the western and in 1939 Old Tucson Studios was built by Columbia Pictures for the Wesley Ruggles’ film, Arizona. Old Tucson instantly became a hotbed for westerns with a number of hits like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 3:10 to Yuma, Rio Bravo and more filming on location. But the Grand Canyon State has been home to much more than just outlaws and gunfights.
Throughout the years Arizona has been the stomping grounds for a number of horror films. Some great, some not-so-great and a whole lot that fall somewhere in between. If you’re looking to get familiar with Arizona horror films, and you should be, the following list of ten films should serve as a great starting point.
Oh, and I won’t be including Psycho because we all know Psycho and it’s only the beginning scenes that take place in the state.
Without further adieu, I present to you ten horror films shot in the beautiful but deadly state of Arizona.
Night of the Lepus — 1972 — Dir. William F. Claxton
Night of the Lepus is a movie about giant mutant rabbits that terrorize a small Arizona town and it was really nearly 46 years before Peter Rabbit, which means rabbits being assholes is nothing new. The plot isn’t the only thing that makes this film wonderful. It also stars Janet Leigh and DeForest Kelley. How incredible is that? Marion Crane and Bones fight rabbits! If you don’t believe me it means you haven’t watched the above clip yet.
Kingdom of the Spiders — 1977 — Dir. John Cardos
I hate spiders. They’re awful, hideous creatures that I want no part of and that’s precisely why I love Kingdom of the Spiders. William Shatner stars as a veterinarian in a rural Arizona town. When the town is suddenly overrun by the creepy, crawly spiders, it’s up to Shatner and a professor from Arizona State to get to save the day. This movie should be a little cheesy B-movie, but it’s legitimately great. And it features the best acting performance cow that you will ever see.
Near Dark — 1987 — Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Before Kathryn Bigelow was out winning Oscars she was getting down and dirty in the world of genre cinema. One of her early efforts, and arguably her best film to date outside of Point Break, is a little gem known as Near Dark. This film about a group of traveling vampires is one of the coolest, hippest takes on the bloodsucking genre that there is. It also features one of the best performances from the legendary career of Bill Paxton. The entire movie wasn’t shot in Arizona but enough of it was to claim this one for the desert.
Creepshow 2 — 1987 — Dir. Michael Gornick
A year ago Creepshow 2 turned 30 and in its 30 years, it has been the source of great debate amongst horror fans. Is it a good film and a worthy successor to the original film? I think without question it is and I know many others agree, but I’ve heard some noise from more people than I’d like to admit that don’t like this gem. That’s fine and dandy of course, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but one thing we should all agree on is that “The Raft” is one of the best segments from any anthology ever. This is the one were some kids float out into the middle of a lake on a raft and are eaten by some sort of goopied-goop. It’s absolutely terrifying. And to make matters worse you can actually visit that lake in Arizona. Don’t know why you would, but you can.
White of the Eye — 1987 — Dir. Donald Cammell
A series of brutal murders hit a wealthy desert community leaving rich housewives mutilated beyond recognition. David Keith plays the deranged killer and believes he was chosen to carry out his sadistic rituals. White of the Eye has sort of slipped under the radar of the years but it’s a film rich in atmosphere and worthy of your time. And it has a Score courtesy of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason.
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time — 1991 — Dir. Sylvio Tabet
Marc Singer returns as Dar in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time and this go-around he is out to stop his evil half-brother played by Wings Hauser. The plot of this movie has Dar traveling to modern-day Los Angeles but all the other stuff is shot in various Arizona locales. Don Coscarelli didn’t direct this one and there’s no Rip Torn but it’s still a ton of fun. At one point they pass a movie theater in LA and the marquee shows that Beastmaster 2 is playing. Can’t beat that.
Suture — 1993 — Dir. Scott McGehee & David Siegel
Suture is a stylish, low budget thriller about a man that awaken some from an attempted murder by his brother to discover he’s in a new body. It’s not a perfect film and stumbles at points along the way, but it features gorgeous black and white cinematography and is never uninteresting. And it features a great performance from Dennis Haysbert.
Eight Legged Freaks — 2002 — Dir. Ellory Elkayem
Oh, great more spiders! If there’s anything worse than hordes of spiders it has to be hordes of giant spiders. Eight Legged Freaks succeeds by knowing exactly what it is. With roots firmly planted in B-movie sci-fi fare from the 1950’s and the charm of 80’s classics, this is a movie that is willing to poke fun at itself along the way in exchange a good time. As a bonus, the film has Doug E. Doug.
Sasquatch Mountain — 2006 — Dir. Steven R. Monroe
I have never seen Sasquatch Mountain. In fact, prior to putting together this list, I had never even heard of it. But I did find the above 10-minute video featuring the film’s best scenes and I think it’s self-explanatory.
Piranha 3D — 2010 — Dir. Alex Aja
Joe Dante is one of my favorite filmmakers and it is my belief that his Piranha is nearly perfect. In 2010, director Alex Aja proved you can remake a nearly perfect film by creating a new, nearly perfect film when he released Piranha 3D. This film is an absurd spectacle of boobs and gore and a prime example of when 3D actually works in a movie. If you don’t like this film I can only assume you don’t like fun. Why don’t you like fun?