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10 March 2010

Scariest setting for a horror story: old ramshackle mansion, cabin in the woods, lonely stretch of highway, abandoned hospital, isolated military base, spaceship lost in deep space, mysterious island, long out-of-service subway/mining tunnels, ancient dilapidated church, other?
The set of Romper Room.
posted by Hugh Janus 10 March | 15:04
My problem is that each of those settings brings to mind specific films, so I'm reading the list thinking "Kubrick, Lynch, Rob Zombie..." and can't really think about the settings themselves because they are so entangled with what I've watched.

and as for reading? I can't read scary stories. Only watch them. If I read, my imagination runs away with me and I don't sleep for a week.
posted by gaspode 10 March | 15:15
I'm going to go with adandoned hospital/asylum/death row that is old and in a tragic state of neglect. The death all around.


I see gaspode, I see Atom Eyes, I see Hugh Janus. . .
posted by rainbaby 10 March | 15:21
Viewing a familiar place through a new lens can make it scary. Desolate and abandoned places are cliché, but take some unassuming place and throw in a few subtle cues that something is "off," and then expand on the cues, and go deeper into what's "off" about the place, and you can create some good scary. You could turn an ice cream truck into a horror setting–it's about the pacing, the slowly increasing sense of dread, the increasing jeopardy the characters face.

That said, a ship at sea can still be a pretty great place for a horror story.
posted by Mister_A 10 March | 15:25
Office building at night.
posted by The Whelk 10 March | 15:27
Anything underground: catacombs, obviously, but even subway tunnels or extensive basements. It's dark, especially if the power goes out, there's no hope of escape through windows, and whatever lives down there knows the terrain better than you do.

A friend recently showed me some cellphone photos of a small newspaper building's now-abandoned underground tunnels, and it sparked some grim horror-movie thoughts in my head. We're wondering if there is any chance in hell that the current owner would allow filming there.
posted by Elsa 10 March | 15:33
... though of course, the terror of the setting depends on the nature of the story, of the threat, of the particular characters.

(Can you tell I'm writing horror stories, and thinking waaaaaay too hard about their structure?)
posted by Elsa 10 March | 15:39
I agree with the underground thing. Also good is a submarine.
posted by rainbaby 10 March | 15:41
I'm with Mister_A: home. Or somewhere terribly pedestrian and ordinary. But altered just enough, and randomly, to be unsettling.

The scariest single two seconds of film I have ever seen is that split second in Delores Claiborne when Jennifer Jason Leigh is washing her hands and face in the bathroom on the ferry and she looks up, but it's the back of her head in the mirror. Goosebumps just typing it. It's so unexpected--in the movie, in the setting, out of place and jarring, but in a supernatural way, so very very scary.
posted by crush-onastick 10 March | 15:41
My stepson had to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman for school (I know, pretty cool right?). I liked the way he took a classic horror setting and made it home; sort of the other side of the coin to what I was talking about above.
posted by Mister_A 10 March | 15:48
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson 10 March | 15:50
Ha! I'm new here–how do I favorite Flo's comment?
posted by Mister_A 10 March | 15:51
The horror of it is, you can't Mister_A.

Seriously, it's horrible, but true.
posted by rainbaby 10 March | 16:06
Ach, taters to this!
posted by Mister_A 10 March | 16:11
Myself, I'm partial to the deserted highway, probably because when I was growing up, my family took a lot of road trips. To pass the time, my brother and I would stare out at the passing scenery and imagine all kinds of creepy, horrifying things that might be taking place out there.

There have been some good, scary movies that take place on lonesome stretches of highway—The Hitcher, Wolf Creek, Jeepers Creepers (the first half hour, anyway)—with Spielberg's Duel being the best of the lot. However, I still can't help but feel that, as horror settings go, it hasn't been given the full treatment it deserves.
posted by Atom Eyes 10 March | 16:20
Grade school. Creepy kids are always unsettling.
posted by arse_hat 10 March | 16:35
I'm a sucker for horror movies or locked-box movies set in apartments, cause I'm in them ALL THE TIME and they really restrict the ways you can escape.
posted by The Whelk 10 March | 16:49
Airplane in fog. You've got no idea where you are, you're miles in any direction (in three dimensions!) from even the slightest hint of outside help, and if something happens you literally crash and burn.

posted by Madamina 10 March | 17:28
At home where everything is slightly askew. Lights are dimmer, and might flicker a bit; furniture is placed mirror image from your recollection; your kitchen is somehow slate when before it was brighter; you don't recognize any of the shows on television, even though you recognize the actors and the laugh track; and your spouse thinks you're bonkers. Then you hear a slow knock on the door.
posted by jabberjaw 10 March | 18:00
A hotel in an isolated place that's slightly gone to seed. Perhaps its in a foreign country where you don't speak the language.

Perhaps that's because I read this story in a horror collection when I was a kid. Just look at the pictures from that anthology - how can I NOT be irreperably imprinted with every.single.setting?
posted by muddgirl 10 March | 18:07
The everyday is much much scarier than the unfamiliar. You know, "It's midnight, so let's all go out on this abandoned mental hospital aboard a decrepit ship where a terrible axe murder took place just last Tuesday" is never going to be as frightening as going to work and everything is just. . slightly. . wrong. Your coworkers are looking at you strangely (shut UP. I mean, more than usual.) and their voices are oddly different and when you go home the furniture is not quite in the same place it was when you left - AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIYEEEEEEE - that kind of thing.
posted by mygothlaundry 10 March | 18:31
Is it a sign of emotional trouble that I frame possible horror scenarios all the time in my daily environment?

When I walk down [main street], I look for safety zones from the zombies. In the library stacks and in the library's bland, echoing stairwells, I try to outwit the potential stalker-slasher. The post office --- oh, the post office is just a deathtrap. There's no getting out of there alive...

... unless I vault the counter and make for the back. Maybe there's a back way out, and some makeshift weapons. Huh. There's a thought.
posted by Elsa 10 March | 18:41
I used to do that--well, not exactly that--when I was playing Tony Hawk a lot.
posted by box 10 March | 18:43
Other good joke answers: the DMV, Walmart, Burger King (imagine the dude in the king mask with a big knife; I know you can), Whole Foods, Quizno's (the talking toaster will burn you), the FoxNews studios, MTV Cribs, Cleveland, the 'campus' of a humongous high-tech company (think Googlemonsters, zombie Steve Jobs or Microsoft mascots come to life).

posted by oneswellfoop 10 March | 20:50
Dick Cheney's Man Sized White House Vault
posted by rollick 10 March | 21:41
posted by warbaby 10 March | 21:46
mirror maze
posted by Kronos_to_Earth 10 March | 23:04
An amusement park. No, not an abandoned one. There's nothing scary about abandoned anything. It's peaceful!

I'm so in the minority; and nothing shows it like horror films. I have no big issue with death, so the Saw films have no allure for me. And while most people find being alone terrifying (poor extroverts), I find it liberating. Darkness is relaxing and cool. What's terrifying to me? Bright lights, crowds, tedium...

Can I change my answer to "the DMV"?
posted by Eideteker 11 March | 14:22
Ask Mecha: Belt || Albertson, James... 206-555-1212; Albertson, John... 206-555-1213