Viewed through the canon of classic horror cinema, it’s clear that London has horror in its blood, and blood on its streets, and on its walls, and even splashed around the tiled floors of the Underground. The British capital has been the setting for more horror films than you could shake a hastily assembled crucifix at, and London’s horror legacy is as hard to keep at bay as Christopher Lee’s Dracula.
Fans of the genre can drop by a veritable film festival of horror movie locations in London, though many landmark buildings from horror classics have been turned into luxury flats or franchise coffee shops – less spooky, but in some ways just as insidious.
If you’ve ever wanted to tread in the paw prints of An American Werewolf in London, or wander the zombie-infested suburbs from Shaun of the Dead, or stalk the same estates as the luminous-fanged aliens in Attack the Block, now could be the time.
Here’s my pick of London’s top horror movie locations.
28 days of London landmarks
Serving up a truly nightmarish vision of London, Danny Boyle’s plague-virus infested 28 Days Later offers a rich feast for fans of the genre. Boyle set his infected loose in a string of landmark London locations – the only challenge for fans is experiencing London in the same state of eerie emptiness as in the movie.
To recreate Cillian Murphy’s unnerving walk through the abandoned city streets, start off at first light, before the commuters hit the pavements. Time it right and you’ll have a reasonable approximation of the capital as it might appear after an apocalyptic outbreak; just be ready for whatever happens next…
Stumble bleary-eyed onto Lambeth Palace Road by St Thomas’ Hospital, and cross Westminster Bridge to Horse Guards Parade and the Mall, then cross the city to the Royal Exchange (there’ll be a few abandoned copies of Metro and the Evening Standard to set the scene). Wind up at St Anne’s Church on Three Colt Street, near Limehouse Station, where Cillian Murphy fights off a Rage-virus infected priest.
The London Underground has cropped up in a string of horror classics, from the famous to the obscure. And let’s face it, there is something undeniably creepy about the idea of being alone in the Tube tunnels, fleeing an unknown assailant but blocked by barriers at every escape route.
Donald Pleasance vehicle Death Line (1972) combined the stalker trope with prototype ideas about inbred, cannibal troglodytes, later fully realised in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977). In Death Line, Russell Square Tube station was where the first victim of the cannibal ticket guard was discovered, but the interior shots were actually filmed inside the abandoned Strand Tube Station at Aldwych.
Featuring many of the same locations, slasher-movie-by-numbers Creep (2004) is probably best forgotten, but few would deny the power of the subterranean pursuit in An Werewolf in London, filmed from both the victim’s and the monster’s perspective at Tottenham Court Road Tube station. If you’re on an American Werewolf kick, you could also drop by London Zoo, Piccadilly Circus, and 64 Coleherne Road in Earl’s Court, where David Naughton undergoes his first, chilling transformation.
Bad omens in Fulham
In the company of gore-fests such as the original Suspiria (1977) and other gruesome classics released in the late 1970s, Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976) featured surprisingly little of the red stuff, though most of its protagonists still came to a sticky end. What it did have was atmosphere, and a sense of brooding menace that injected horror into ordinary London locations.
Early in the movie, the young spawn of Satan takes a family trip to Parliament Hill, and his American ambassador father is accosted by Patrick Troughton’s Revelations-obsessed priest at the former American embassy on Grosvenor Square (now replaced by a gleaming new embassy building in Vauxhall). Eventually, of course, Troughton pays the ultimate price near Bishops Park in Fulham, impaled by a falling lightning conductor at All Saints Church at the north end of Putney Bridge.
Abominable goings-on in Highgate
Few London locations have such a distinguished horror pedigree as Highgate Cemetery. Such iconic structures as the Gothic gateway to the West Cemetery and the Egyptian Avenue have made their way into a string of classic British horrors, most famously The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971), with Vincent Price doing a bravura turn as the revenge-obsessed doctor enacting punishments from the Old Testament on the medical team who failed to save his wife.
The cemetery also had cameo roles in a string of shlock horror B-movies from the 1970s – films such as Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Frankenstein & the Monster from Hell (1974) and From Beyond the Grave (1974) – as well as more recent outings in Dorian Gray (2009) and, less horribly, The Crimes of Grindelwalk (2018).
Appropriately, Highgate Cemetery was the centre of a real-life supernatural mystery – a moral panic involving grave-robbing, wandering ghosts, occult rituals and two self-styled ‘magicians’ that gripped the Britain’s tabloid newspapers in the 1960s and 70s. Graves were undeniably desecrated by persons unknown, but sightings of the ‘Highgate Vampire’ ceased as abruptly as they had started.
Raising hell in Dollis Hill
When Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) was first screened at London’s Prince Charles Cinema, it marked a triumphant return of the capital to horror screens, after long being overlooked by the big studios. Much of the opening-a-portal-to-hell action takes place at an unassuming address in NW2 – 187 Dollis Hill Lane, near Gladstone Park – where Barker filmed most of the interior and exterior shots.
From 2012 to 2014, London had its own personal Hellraiser mystery, as VHS cassettes of the movie started appearing unexpectedly on the roofs of bus shelters around the capital, including on Old Kent Road and at Newington Green. Despite an anonymous call to a TV claiming responsibility, the identity of the person leaving the tapes was never uncovered, but as the film warns, there’s a price to pay for solving puzzles…
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