Ghostface returns this weekend in Scream VI and his/her/their (who knows!) reign of terror has expanded out from the quiet, sleepy streets of Woodsboro to the hustle and bustle of New York City. We have no idea what our favorite madman has in store for us at the movie theatre this weekend but there’s no doubt the city itself will play a large part.
New York is a unique city, to say the very least, and it’s been the backdrop for tons of horror movies over the years. If you’re looking to get into that empire state of mind before seeing Scream VI or you’re looking for more New York horror to binge afterward, we’ve compiled 10 Horror Movies Set In New York City To Make You Scream.
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Easily the first movie that comes to mind when you think New York City Horror. And for good reason. Jason Voorhees stalks a group of high school graduates on a field trip into the big city…after a lengthy boat ride from New Jersey filled with psychic visons, a death on the dancefloor, and a heavy metal murder set piece.
Jason Takes Manhattan might actually be the perfect movie to watch before Scream VI. Both franchises have spanned decades, with a dedicated fan base and an iconic killer, but both were also very geographically anchored. Jason never left Camp Crystal Lake, and Ghostface was a (mostly) Woodsboro diehard…until they made the trip to the Big Apple. Scream VI promises more than just a few glimpses of the city in an extended finale, but the jury’s still out on whether or not Ghostface will fall victim to that pesky tide of toxic waste that rolls into the city’s sewers each night.
The New York Ripper (1987)
Lucio Fulcio was a filmmaker obsessed with New York City, and Fulci’s New York City is a bleak, depraved, and dangerous place (not unlike the real New York City int he early 1980s). Before the city put concerted efforts into cleaning up its street and rebranded itself with the classic I ❤️ NY campaign, Fulci used it as the setting for his infamous serial killer shocker.
Not for the faint of heart, The New York Ripper is a gritty, grimy (often mean-spirited) slasher story unlike any other. With one foot in the Itallian Giallo cinema of the 1970s and another in a decade defined by American Slasher movies, this sleazy whodunit follows a gruff detective on the hunt for a vicious killer…who talks in a Donald Duck voice.
Curious to see just how dangerous New York City used to be? Take a deep breath and press play on this “orgy of violence“.
One terrifying psycho killer deserves another. William Lustig’s controversial classic Maniac is about as infamous as a New York City horror movie can get. The grim, unrelenting nature of this movie sparked such outrage at the time at Chicago-based film critic Gene Siskel used the film as the centerpiece in one of his many crusades against the depiction of violence in 1980s film. His fellow reviewer Roger Ebert reportedly walked out of the movie after the first 20 minutes! Which is a real shame because the last 20 minutes of Maniac are fan-freakin-tastic.
Not recommended for the squeamish, Maniac follows a deranged serial killer played by a very sweaty Joe Spinell. He collects the scalps of his female victims, mounting them on mannequins, and placing them around his tiny apartment. It also features one of horror’s most iconic exploding heads, courtesy of practical effects master Tom Savini 🤯
American Psycho (2000)
Curious to see how the other half lived during the same time period? Follow the exploits of an utterly mad serial killer thriving under the noses of his fellow yuppy socialites in mid-80s Manhattan. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is beginning to lose his mind after a serious of bizarre and brutal murders has him questioning his very existence in a world where image is everything.
American Psycho also happens to be a hilarious deep-dive into the slicked-back hair styles and tailored-suit fashions of mid-1980s New York. Dying to know what expensive restaurants looked like, or what music mentally unstable murderers were obsessed with in the decade of American decadence? This understated masterpiece is your entry point into the weird and wild world of New York City’s elite class.
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Looking for something a little more light-hearted? How about a Brooklyn-set vampire movie starring Eddie Murphy, directed by Wes Craven!? This relatively forgotten gem of the 1990s’ rental-of-the-week follows a Carribean vampire in search of his eternal love in the 5 Burroughs. Is it the funniest movie Eddie Murphy ever made? Absolutlely not, but it’s one hell of goofy good time.
Vampire in Brooklyn is a send-up of all your favorite vampire tropes and feature one hell of a cast, including Angela Bassett (who’s likely to receive an Academy Award this weekend for her supporting role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Kadeem Hardison (The 6th Man), John Witherspoon (Friday), and Eddie Murphy in multiple roles. This one is best enjoyed with a few friends who like to laugh (and maybe a couple dozen beers too).
Midnight Meat Train (2008)
New York’s transit system is known the world over, especially for it’s expansive underground subway system. You can go anywhere in New York with the subway…even the den of a subterranean race of humanoid monsters that feed on the flesh of humans like they are cattle. Adapted from a story by Clive Barker, Ryûhei Kitamura’s Midnight Meat Train follows a struggling photographer (played by a young Bradley Cooper) who discovers an underground meat market responsible for countless deaths and disappearances across the city.
Midnight Meat Train is also a hyper-stylized, early 2000s supernatural horror with one hell of a body count and a mute villain played by a hulking Vinnie Jones (Mean Machine). There’s also a fun cameo from indie horror icon Ted Raimi (Evil Dead II) who has his eyeballs pop out of his skull after getting hit in the back of the head with a giant steel mallet. Fun!
Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
Long before everyone hated the police, New Yorkers were already at odds with corruption on the police force. And who better to fight corrupt cops than an undead zombie cop framed and maimed by the real corrupt cops he tried to stop while he was still living. Littered with over-the-top New York accents and gruff cop archetypes, Maniac Cop 2 is as New York as pizza-eating sewer rats.
You won’t find many New York monuments front and center in this larger-than-life sequel but it doesn’t skimp on bodega shootouts, side-street car chases, and Time Square murder scenes. Also shoutout to the fearless stunt actors who engulf themselves in flames for the most intense direct-to-video finale you will ever see. And, no, you do not need to watch Maniac Cop (1988) to enjoy the insanity of Maniac Cop 2 (1990).
For a specific generation of New Yorkers, Time Square was not a tourist attraction. Before the early 90s revamp, Times Square was a scary place filled with drugs, gangs, and peep shows. It’s also where all the cool movies were being played. Movies like Frank Henenlotter’s dark-comedy Frankenhooker which served as both a modern re-telling of the Frankenstein story and a comedic send-up of the sex worker community that was once a staple of a bygone Time Square.
Similar to WIlliam Lustig, Frank Henenlotter was a notorious New York filmmaker who set nearly all of his movies in his beloved city, regardless of whether they were about brain-eating alien creatures (Brain Damage), or evil twin brothers (Basket Case). Take a walk on the wild side and spend an hour or two with Frankenhooker to catch a silly glimpse at a New York that used to be, with this buck wild black comedy from beyond the grave.
Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
King Kong may have been the first monster to climb a Manhattan monument, but Q: The Winged Serpent made it look good. Taking over the Chrysler building as it’s nest, Q is an exploitation-extravaganza filled with stop-motion animation, clever camera tricks, and one hell of a flying creature. You ain’t never seen a monster movie like Q. It’s funny, it’s freaky, and hidden the middle of all that great monster action is a dynamite heist movie starring Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) and David Carradine (Kill Bill).
Moviemaking madman Larry Cohen was a filmmaker that could not be stopped. When he had an idea for a movie (and someone with a large bank account that he could talk into funding his projects), nothing could get in his way. Permits? Who needs permits!? You simply shoot machine guns into the air from the windows of Chrysler building and hire an additional film crew to grab footage of the shocked New Yorkers below as unsuspecting extras in the movie (true story).
If stop-motion animation isn’t your speed, Cloverfield is always the right choice when it comes to modern monster movies. Not only is this found-footage Godzilla-riff set in New York City, it’s central monster tears the Statue of Liberty Apart and tosses her scarred head into the city streets like a piece of trash. Of course, the metropolitan mayhem doesn’t end there. This movie’s 50-foot menace collapses the Woolworth Building, dismantles the Brooklyn Bridge with a swat of her tail, and goes for an early morning jog in Central Park.
At the time of release, Cloverfield conjured memories of massive scale destruction, but it just goes to show that sometimes a crowded city isn’t always the safest place to be. Many of the deaths in Cloverfield are due to the sheer enormity of the city, which will either be a comforting distraction or a terrifying reminder that nowhere is safe after watching Ghostface stalk his victims in the wide open of America’s most densely populated city.
What are you favorite New York City set Horror Movies? Share your picks, and your thoughts on Scream VI (2023) with us over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.