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Eight films with immersive abandoned settings

If you’ve been following me on any social media or have read some of my work, you know I have a thing for all things abandoned. On a recent Dark Discussions episode, we reviewed the 2001 film Session 9—it has some small issues, for sure, but you can’t beat the atmosphere; it was shot in the real former Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, which today is home to luxury apartments (yes, really).

I decided it might be fun to pull together a list of my favorite movies that are set in abandoned locations. I didn’t include films that have one or two stunning scenes in such places—believe it or not, the animated love fest Happy Feet would rank high on that list, with its most disturbing scene playing out in an abandoned Antarctic whaling station—only films that are almost entirely set in them.

Please note: The only thing these films have been judged on is the quality of the abandoned setting. Check out your favorite review venue if you want more detail on the film’s other aspects before watching.

8 Abandoned Session9

David Caruso stands amidst the ruins in SESSION 9.

Session 9 (2001)

An asbestos cleaning crew takes on a big contract at a crumbling, abandoned asylum, not realizing that they’re going to get a lot more than they bargained for when they find cassettes of a patient’s hypnotherapy sessions. Many people consider this one of the most terrifying movies of all time, but I maintain it’s because of the claustrophobic setting. Shot at Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts (before it was gutted and became Bradlee Danvers Luxury Apartments—check it out here), this is a fine example of how setting is sometimes the biggest player in what makes a movie scary. Watch Session 9

8 Abandoned Ghost Ship

An abandoned state room in GHOST SHIP.

Ghost Ship (2002)

A salvage crew thinks they’ve hit the jackpot when they find a passenger liner that went missing forty years ago—one that had long been rumored to harbor massive treasure. But it also harbors something else: ghosts for sure, but I’m thinking more along the lines of splendid furnishings corroded by four decades worth of exposure to the salt air. For most of us, this is as close as we’ll ever get to exploring a derelict liner. The set is so ably rendered it’s easy to envision the grandeur that must’ve been. Watch Ghost Ship

8 Abandoned Reincarnation

Something’s amiss in the surprisingly bright abandoned resort in REINCARNATION.

Reincarnation (2005)

A filmmaker and his crew go to an abandoned hotel twenty years after Read the rest of this entry

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Opening Chernobyl Diaries

The ghostly, abandoned city of Pripyat is the setting for the new Oren Peli film Chernobyl Diaries.

The ghostly, abandoned city of Pripyat is the setting for the new Oren Peli film Chernobyl Diaries.

For those of us who were alive at the time, the word Chernobyl—which at its essence means wormwood, fitting for a place which poisoned itself for centuries to come—is scary all on its own. I was fifteen at the time of the accident, and stories of what happened to you when you were exposed to too much radiation were rendered in gory detail around the school cafeteria. After all, images from ABC’s graphic The Day After, which had aired only two and half years before, had branded our minds.

An essay on the just-released Chernobyl Diaries, “Opening Chernobyl Diaries: the truth is scarier than the film,” is now over at the Dark Discussions Podcast Article Library at http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/article_007.html.

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