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We’re well into October, which means jack-o-lanterns, Halloween candy and, of course, scary movies. You might know that Illinois is the nation’s top producer of pumpkins. You might even know that we’re a major maker of favorite sweets and chocolates. But did you also know that Illinois has provided the setting for some of the most spine-tingling horror movies of all time? In fact, 2022 was a record-breaking year for movie and TV production in Illinois, with nearly $700 million spent.

While there are a ton of incredible horror movies filmed in Illinois, I’ve done the impossible in narrowing my must-sees down to this top 5 list:

1. Child’s Play

The “toy factory” on Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago. Image from Child’s Play, United Artists/MGM, 1988.

Who doesn’t love a red-headed doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer? Charles Lee Ray, better known as Chucky, is the “Lakeshore Strangler” who murdered a whole bunch of people even before taking form as a child’s plaything. On the verge of death after a shootout with police behind a toy factory on Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago, Chucky uses voodoo to transfer his soul into the closest thing he could get his hands on—a “Good Guys” doll. When the doll is eventually gifted to a 6-year-old boy, Chucky starts seeking revenge on the police detective who shot him, as well as his partner-in-crime who left him to die. “Child’s Play” was my horror film of choice growing up and has continued to be one of my all-time favorites. And that scene where Aunt Maggie goes flying out of her bestie’s window in what is currently Brewster Apartments in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood? Absolute GOLD.

2. Candyman (1992)

On location at Cabrini Green. Image from Candyman, TriStar Pictures, 1992.

Oh, how I love the supernatural! And a supernatural movie filmed in Illinois’ backyard? Yes, please! Summoning a spirit through a mirror by simply calling their name five times is scary in and of itself. But when you know this spirit has a hook for a hand and is covered in buzzing bees? That’s what nightmares are made of. This nightmare becomes Helen Lyle’s reality. Helen is a UIC grad student doing her thesis on how the community at a housing project uses the “urban legend” of Candyman to cope with life. But she realizes quickly that she’s dug her own grave. You see, Candyman doesn’t like that she’s making people disbelieve, so he takes it upon himself to convince them that he’s real. In all my years of watching and re-watching this film, I have never said his name in a mirror once, let alone five times. Let’s try it together: Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candy…

3. Sinister 2

The sequel to the scariest movie of all time–filmed all over Illinois. Image from Sinister 2, Gramercy Pictures/Focus Features, 2015.

Any discussion of how great this movie is must give a shoutout to its prequel. “Sinister” has been scientifically proven to be the scariest movie of all time (at least back when the survey was conducted in 2020). When I saw the original in the theater with my sister, she could barely keep her eyes open or muffle her screams long enough to enjoy the plot. So, there wasn’t any doubt that the sequel was high on my list of movies to see. Even better, from Kankakee, to Forest Park, to St. Anne, to Grant Park, this gem of a movie was filmed all over Illinois. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. The pagan deity Bughuul has an insatiable hunger for children’s souls and uses his black arts to add their families to his toll. Just ask twins Dylan and Zach Collins who form the dark heart of this creepy story, which I consider a mix of “Children of the Corn” and “The Good Son.”

4. Damien: The Omen 2

121 N. La Salle in downtown Chicago. Image from Damien: The Omen 2, 20th Century Fox, 1978.

Did I mention that I love the supernatural? Because I LOVE the supernatural! “The Omen 2” continues the story of Damien Thorn and his ominous plan to rule. Now, the son of a jackal is no longer a child, but a teenager at a military academy with a mind of his own. He’s looked after by his Uncle Richard who owns Thorn Industries, a conglomerate of buildings, businesses and museums. It’s not hard to see where this is going: evil plans are so much easier to implement when you have a rich uncle! Damien’s victims pile up, including poor Aunt Marion, played by the lovely Sylvia Sidney, best known as “Beetlejuice’s” raspy-voiced caseworker for the newly deceased. I always imagine her shaking her head looking down from above saying, “I told you that boy wasn’t right!” The Thorn Industries location at 121 N. LaSalle Street is but an 8-minute walk (or 3-minute car ride) from where the Intersect team works so diligently to bring businesses and jobs to Illinois. Thank goodness we missed Damien’s devilish ways by 45 years!

5. The Amityville Horror (2005)

St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Antioch, Ill. Image from Cragin Spring/Flickr.

To me, there’s nothing creepier than a horror movie based on a true story. In this case, the murder occurred in 1974 and the assailant claimed that the house made him do it. The movie, based on a best-selling book, depicts the haunting of the subsequent owners of the house, the Lutz family. In the scene where Kathy Lutz seeks guidance from a priest about her possessed husband, George, the church she goes to is Illinois’ very own St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Antioch. Creep factors include the Lutz’s daughter rubbing elbows with the ghost of a little girl, voices in the walls, and what can only be described as a pinch of possessed Ryan Reynolds! And remember, if your house talks to you incessantly for 28 days straight, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction!

While these movies deliver audience screams, Illinois has long been the stuff of moviemakers’ dreams.  With the 5th largest GDP in the nation and the 18th largest economy in the world, Illinois offers premier locations for film projects of all types. Outside of the horror genre, the state has featured in iconic films such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Dark Knight” as well as hit TV shows like “The Bear” and “The Chi.” And last year, Gov. JB Pritzker delivered a big treat to moviemakers by extending the Illinois Film Production Tax Credit Act, which offers a 30% tax credit for qualified production spending and labor expenditures, through 2032. These robust incentives, a diverse and talented workforce, a supportive environment, and extensive production services make Illinois the ideal location for all kinds of productions. For more information about the state’s advantages for the film industry, reach out to us here.

Rody Abdelrahman, PCM, CDMP, is Intersect Illinois’ director of digital marketing. Born, raised and educated in Illinois, Rody is an avid horror fan whose own collection spans every horror subgenre from zombies and monsters to slashers and the supernatural.