Many dub New Orleans as one of the spookiest cities in America, and it’s not hard to see why. With it’s gothic-looking European architecture, above-ground cemeteries, and numerous well-known ghost stories, it’s no wonder that quite a few horror-based media tend to use New Orleans as a setting for their stories. In time for Halloween this year, I’m compiling a list of horror media that were set prominently in New Orleans. Unfortunately, those stories set in Louisiana, but outside of New Orleans, will not appear in this list (like The Skeleton Key, The Haunted Mansion, and Son of Dracula).
Courtesy of FX Networks
The third season of the popular horror anthology series American Horror Story: Coven follows a coven of witches (played by actresses Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and others) in New Orleans as they try to survive throughout the decades. Coven is also notable for bringing in a number of historical figures who are all well-known in the city’s spiritual/dark history, such as Marie Laveau (played by Angela Bassett), Delphine LaLaurie (played by Kathy Bates), and the Axeman of New Orleans (played by Danny Huston). The series was popular enough to receive two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe nomination.
An interesting movie that mixes elements from both neo-noir and horror, Angel Heart follows a private investigator named Harry Angel (played by Mickey Rourke), who travels from New York City to New Orleans to look into the disappearance of a popular singer. His investigations eventually lead him to be involved with a series of violent, occult-style murders that are plaguing the city. With additional roles by Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet (as well as a special cameo appearance by New Orleans’s own Deacon John Moore), Angel Heart has slowly developed a cult following since its release, with some even saying it’s one of the best horror films ever made.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, the first sequel to the popular Clive Barker horror film Candyman, moves its setting from Chicago to New Orleans. The film stars Kelly Rowan as Annie Tarrant, a New Orleans schoolteacher who inadvertently summons the Candyman (played by Tony Todd), who in turn goes on a killing spree throughout the city. Just like with the first film, Clive Baker himself served as the main storywriter for the film. Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh has been more negatively reviewed than the first film, but it is still essential viewing if you enjoy Tony Todd’s portrayal of the titular Candyman.
A remake of the original Cat People from 1942, this version follows a woman named Irene Gallier (played by Nastassja Kinski) who travels from Canada to New Orleans to reconnect with her brother (played by Malcom McDowell) and find the love of her life. However, Irene’s life becomes more complicated when people start dying around her, which ultimately leads to her discovering her true nature. (Interesting note: The movie features music from both Giorgio Moroder and David Bowie.) While not as highly rated as the original classic, this version of Cat People stays true to the original story, while incorporating more gore and sex appeal.
Dracula has survived many interpretations and has remained one of the most famous fictional monsters of all time. This version of the count (played by Gerard Butler) finds himself in New Orleans (circa 2000) with the purpose of hunting down a woman named Mary Heller (played by Justine Waddell), who turns out to be a descendant of his sworn enemy Abraham Van Helsing (played by Christopher Plummer). The movie doesn’t really bring anything unique to the vampire genre, but if the idea of Dracula terrorizing modern-day New Orleans sounds interesting to you, then give it a watch.
Serving as a love letter to old-school slasher films, Hatchet follows a group of tourists who go on a swamp tour and find themselves stalked by a monstrous killer. What makes this film special is its cast, which includes several actors who played famous slasher monsters back in the day, like Tony Todd from the Candyman series, Kane Hodder from the Friday the 13th series, and Robert Englund from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Despite mixed reviews, Hatchet was successful enough to spawn a franchise that includes three sequels and a comic book series.
Probably the most famous entry on this list, Interview with the Vampire is based on the popular novel of the same name from New Orleans writer Anne Rice. The story focuses on a man named Louis (played by Brad Pitt) who, in 1791 in New Orleans, gets turned into a vampire by another vampire named Lestat (played by Tom Cruise) and must deal with his newfound life as a creature of the night. Featuring a star-studded cast (including Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, and Christian Slater), Interview with the Vampire received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and is considered to be one of the most famous vampire movies ever made.
One of the very few blaxploitation horror movies that exist, J.D.’s Revenge stars Glynn Turman as Isaac Turman, a young man who works as a cab driver in New Orleans. While having a night out with his group of friends, he finds himself becoming a host to a spirit named J.D. Walker, who was a hustler killed during the 1940s. When the spirit possesses Isaac’s body, J.D. wreaks havoc all over the city while seeking revenge on the man who killed his sister. Watch J.D.’s Revenge if you’re in the mood for something obscure.
Considered to be a spiritual successor to the 1963 movie Blood Fest, the later Mardi Gras Massacre follows a serial killer named John as he goes around New Orleans and kills a number of women in a sacrificial manner to appease a Peruvian god. The film is noteworthy for receiving an X-rating in America and being banned in the United Kingdom, where it is lumped together with many other violent films as a “video nasty.” Fans of splatter house or other more hardcore genres will surely find something to enjoy with Mardi Gras Massacre.
A sequel to the found-footage film The Last Exorcism, this sequel sees Nell Sweetzer (played by Ashley Bell) trying to recover from her demonic ordeal after the events of the first film. While trying to start over and live a normal life in New Orleans, the demon that possessed her in the first movie is back to take her over again. This movie abandons the found-footage format of the previous film, going more for a straightforward horror approach. Despite getting largely negative reviews when it came out, The Last Exorcism Part II nonetheless was successful enough to make back three times its budget.