Being trapped in a town–whether by supernatural forces or physical ones–is a nightmare scenario that horror movies use to their advantage. Maybe it’s bloodthirsty kids in a cornfield who keep you. Maybe it’s some kind of unnatural barrier, and every time you leave, you wind up where you started. Either way, spooky times! Here are our five favorite towns that won’t let you leave!
5. Hilsboro: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)
One of those mid-afternoon TV watches one day home sick from school, this movie scared the shit out of me. Was it the kidnapping and possession of children? The Satanic cult? No–it was the idea that K.T. and Nicky could never leave the town. No matter what direction they drove or how they attempted it, they would never get out of the town.
That idea stuck with me for ages, but in restrospect, the movie has a lot of weird goodness going for it. It seems to have inspired Being John Malcovich to a degree, as well as Cemetery Man. It’s a B-movie, no question, but it is a lot of fun.
4. Camp Arcadia: The Endless (2017)
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead continue themes developed in the remarkable Resolution (which could also be on the list). And though it’s really a camp they need to leave, the dread the filmmakers develop is identical to that of the town that won’t let go.
As brothers return to the cult they’d escaped years earlier for a friendly visit, you spend every minute hoping, goading, yelling, begging them to fucking just leave! Get out! What are you still doing there?!
The tension is palpable and the fraternal familiarity between Justin and Moorhead is painfully, tenderly authentic. This works to ground the science fiction elements as they develop, creating an unnerving and memorable feature.
3. Hobbs End: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
John Carpenter combines King with Lovecraft to create an unforgettable journey into madness. Sam Neill is an insurance investigator out to prove that vanished author Sutter Cane is a phony. He just needs to get to Hobb’s End and prove it.
There’s a scene with a bicyclist on a country road that boasts of Carpenter’s genre magic, as madness and mayhem collude to keep Neill where he is, at least until he can serve a greater purpose.
2. Buffalora: Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore – [of death, of love], 1994)
Inarguably director Michele Soavi’s best work is confined mainly to the cemetery in Buffalora. Released the same year as In the Mouth of Madness, Cemetery Man explores a handful of the same themes. It just does it with more sex.
The film balances humor with horror, sneakily leading to meaner and more chaotic plot turns until there’s no going back.
Rupert Everett is perfection as Dellamorte, the cemetery keeper who has noticed that the dead come back about seven days after they’re interred. Things go from bad to worse to worse still, and finally he loads up his best friend Gnaghi and plans to put Buffalora behind him. Good luck.
1. The Yabba: Wake in Fright (1971)
First time in the Yabba?
Sweaty, drunken, debauched–Ted Kotcheff’s Aussie thriller wrings tension from every scene as John Grant, put-upon school teacher, explores his manliness with the very manliest in town.
A pressure cooker, the film is an absolute education in escalating tension, but it also boasts what may be the greatest performance of Donald Pleasance’s career.
The film is not for the faint of heart, and potential viewers beware: the kangaroo hunt is real.