Hospitals are scary places. They’re where we’re most vulnerable. Either we’re visiting someone who’s sick or, even worse, we are the someone who is sick. There’s always something uncanny about the pure white walls, the strange existence for the people working there and the transient nature of just… being around so many people who are closer to death than they wanted to be.
But what’s always struck me about hospitals in horror is most of them are asylums. And whilst asylums have their own particular type of scary quality, that has always struck me as a bit…narrow. So! May I present: 10 spooky hospitals from horror movies that you do not want to be checked into as a patient.
Hot at the Shop:
Currently streaming on Netflix, Hopsital (2020) is a Taiwanese film about an abandoned hospital haunted by tragedy and grief. Two Taoist priests offer to help grieving customers find their deceased loved ones using difficult rituals, but other more dangerous presences mean that the ritual summoning goes horribly wrong. I’m always a sucker for ‘alternate hell dimension realities’ and ‘ghosts allowing people to go back in time’. There are also some cool ghosts, a really great twist, and it confronts the sometimes fraught relationship between medical professionals and their patients, and how the high emotional stakes can spell tragedy for both.
Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) facing down Michael Myers in a hospital, whilst he uses all manner of medical equipment to off the staff all around her? Yes, please! It’s a surprise more slashers don’t take place in hospitals. There’s a ton of ways to die in one even if you aren’t already ill- including death by oxygen and ether tank, physiotherapy pool, syringe of air, scalpel lift. Not to mention that as a protagonist, you’re potentially even more vulnerable given that you’re already recovering or still sick or, in Laurie’s case, utterly traumatized. It raises the stakes even higher! Speaking of slashers set in hospitals…
Cold Prey 2: Resurrection (2008)
Although Cold Prey (2006) is probably the better movie, Cold Prey 2: Resurrection has a lot of fun with the medical setting. Anneka (Ingrid Borden Bolso, Westworld), having barely survived the first movie, is now faced with the same mountain man who murdered her friends and, it turns out- he cannot die. He’s risen again, in the morgue below a small hospital on the verge of closure. Now she’s trapped with him along with a rag tag group of patients and medical staff.
Having seen this again after watching Halloween II (1981), I have a feeling this one’s a little homage to that movie. Like Cold Prey, it’s a love letter to slasher movies whilst being very much its own thing. It’s very fun, great action, great kills and a very satisfying ending.
Infection (Kansen, 2004)
A group of doctors and nurses working in an understaffed, underfunded and undersupplied hospital are faced with a terrifying new disease. Naturally, due to the lack of resources and the thoroughly burnt-out staff, said infection starts to spread the moment patient zero arrives.
Infection leaves a lot for the audience to think about once it’s over. Not just the surprisingly simple but effective body horror, but the uncomfortably accurate depiction of a toxic working environment. The kind that can make otherwise seemingly decent people contemplate the most callous decisions in the name of just getting through the day. It’s an underratedJ-Horror that bridges the gap between the classic chilling, subtle Ringu-era and the splatter era of the late 00s.
The Power (2021)
This one is probably the most chilling on the list, not to mention the most harrowing, though ultimately ends on a hopeful note. It’s set in a London hospital in the very early 70s, when rolling blackouts were used during an energy crisis. The new nurse on staff, Valerie (Rose Williams) is already terrified of the dark, but when she’s forced to take on a late shift she now has to confront something lurking in the shadows.
This one is really beautifully shot- lots of sterile white walls versus the few spots of colour provided by the nurses uniforms and patient’s clothes. Like the other movies on this list, the true horror lays it’s feeling of helplessness as a patient, but also the troubling power that medical professionals hold.
The Void (2016)
Cosmic horror, body horror, and cults! It’s like all my Halloweens came at once. The Void takes place in a small, near empty hospital where a cult has surrounded the building and trapped half a dozen people inside just as the world appears to be ending. And if that’s not enough, unknowable cosmic entities clash with personal tragedy and human hubris as well.
Its hospital setting and the fact most of its characters are doctors and nurses, makes it feel all the more… human. We see birth, death, grief, rage- the kind of thing that happens in hospitals all the time, even as the movie goes full Lovecraft all around it. There’s tentacled monsters, occult rituals and confronting the sheer enormity of the universe. Although a completely original story, it feels like an adaptation of something he wrote, adapted by Stuart Gordon in the 90s. Think From Beyondbut with a healthy dose of In the Mouth of Madness or Event Horizon.
Speaking of Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptations; I feel like recommending Re-animator is like recommending pizza. If you love horror, you probably should see it, or already have. Aside from the inventive gore, it’s also a dark comedy with Jeffrey Combs in his most iconic performance. Gordon does the original short story a real service and it’s probably the most faithful and successful adaptations of Lovecraft ever made (so far). The thing about Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is that he thinks he’s right. He’s got all the power of a medical doctor and all the hubris of a mad scientist. He isn’t trying to cure death itself for the benefit of humankind. He’s doing it because he thinks he can and should. That’s what makes this movie so good. That and the cool blood and guts and stuff.
The Facility (2012)
Okay, this is less a hospital and more a medical facility, but it counts so go with it.
I’d forgotten just how many things made in the UK in the late 00s and the early 2010s were filmed in a kind of shaky cam but the approach works to The Facility‘s advantage. It also has a cold sterile colour palette that provides a great contrast once the gore starts kicking off. The story concerns a group of test subjects who are given a new drug, only to find out the drug has some unfortunate side effects. Like becoming a murderous mass of bubbling flesh. The survivors have to hole up and try to figure out how to escape- before the drug takes hold of them too. I really liked this one and it seems to be quite underrated. I’d not heard about it before doing research for this list, which is a shame. It’s worth checking out!
Horror Hospital (1973)
Whilst aspects of this movie have aged badly (just check Robin Askwith’s other credits because YIKES) most of it is camp, colourful and fun. I love the scenery, the so bright it’s almost orange blood, the fashion, the music, the stagey acting- it’s delightful! Plus, it has Michael Gough (Sleepy Hallow) chewing the scenery like his life depends on it. If you like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Phantom of the Paradise, you’ll probably love this one too. It’s of a similar calibre, like if Benny Hill made Suspiria.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Maybe my taste is questionable, but I’ve got a soft spot for all the Hellraiser sequels and whilst Hellseeker isn’t one of the better ones, it does have an interesting concept that- if it hadn’t have been jammed into a Hellraiser movie- might’ve made for a compelling stand-alone horror movie. Regardless, the main action takes place in and around a hospital with a morgue for its climatic Pinhead appearance.
Thinking you’ve recovered from treatment, but you’re not convinced, and the hospital keeps changing and growing more sinister as your mind unravels… that’s interesting even without Cenobites showing up. I like this movie a lot because I’m clearly a Hellraiser fan and also a masochist, I suppose.