The brutal heat here in Phoenix has made me kind of homesick for Las Vegas, where I lived before for almost my entire life. Strange, I know, considering the cities are so similar weather-wise, but Vegas has a vibe all its own. An untamed energy, an electric atmosphere, and a strange nightlife that isn't found anywhere else in the world.
And it’s actually always been kind of horror-friendly too! Eli Roth chose Vegas as the testing grounds for his bar/year-round haunted house, Goretorium, and there’s been several zombie apocalypse themed businesses in the valley, including a survival outlet, a shooting range experience, and The End, a bar that was featured on the hit show Bar Rescue (but has since closed). There’s even been two horror hosts in the city’s history; Count Cool Rider and the Sinister Minister!
You'd think such a unique, iconic city would make an interesting setting for a horror movie, but there’s really only a few out there. And of those few, only a couple I think have succeeded in portraying the city in the wild, vibrant, proudly trashy but still luxurious way it truly is. So take a trip with me back home, or as close as I can currently get, as I rundown the most notable Las Vegas set horror flicks!
Darkness Falls, the craptacular tooth fairy monster flick, came out with a movie tie-in novel before it was released. Curious and young, I read it and was surprised that the main character Kyle, who was attacked by the Tooth Fairy as a child and is now terrified of darkness, had moved to Las Vegas, a city basically illuminated 24 hours a day. Sadly, in the film, this aspect of the story is reduced to a quick stock-footage shot of The Strip and nothing more. Similarly, Hostel 3, which supposedly takes place entirely in Las Vegas, really fails to portray the city. How? Well, aside from exterior shots of The Strip, the casino location was actually in Detroit.
A final mention of films that barely touch upon their Vegas setting is the surprisingly decent flick, Come Back to Me, based on the novel The Resurrectionist. In it, a woman discovers that her creepy neighbor has the ability to bring back the dead… and that he’s been killing her and reviving her on the daily just to do it again and again. However, aside from the main gal’s card dealing hubby and a night out for the two of them, the city is barely represented and even the suburban setting looks more LA than LV.
In Resident Evil: Extinction, Las Vegas is shown as an empty, apocalyptic ruin that has been reclaimed by the desert sands around it. Sure, the iconic casinos are represented, but it’s all computer effects and miniature models. Still, I have never minded a Vegas wasteland scene.
Destruction Las Vegas, a SyFy-grade disaster flick is a guilty pleasure of mine, and gives us exactly what the title suggests. And of 2012, the disastrous mess of a disaster movie, a crumbling Strip is the only part I can recall from the whole film.
You might be surprised at the two films I’ll mention here, but when it comes down to it, they both actually did a decent job of portraying my home city as accurately as their plots allowed. The first is Leprechaun 3, which is my favorite sequel of the little green guy’s franchise. It’s got bright lights, redneck glamour, and a great cast of cliché Vegas characters; A magician and his sexy assistant, a busty Vegas cougar, pawn shop owners, and of course an in-over-his-head new boy in town. Better yet is that it was actually filmed in Las Vegas!
At the top though sits the remake of Fright Night. Say what you will, but as far as horror remakes go, this is no where near the worst. It had a fun cast, appropriate humor, and a new setting in Las Vegas which aided in Peter Vincent’s character switch from horror host to goth-glam, occult-orientated, Stripside stage magician! Real Vegas shots plus real casino shots made me a happy camper, but it was actually the Vegas suburbia setting that struck a chord with me.
Fright Night was the first horror I can recall that showed Vegas as it was beyond The Strip, and while I’m pretty sure most of those scenes were actually filmed in New Mexico, I thought the filmmakers did a great job showing how Vegas’ suburban sprawl is spreading further out into the desert where the lights of the city are no longer bright enough to illuminate the darkness, and the creatures within it.
Any other Vegas horror flicks you know about? Drop me a line because I’m always up to watch some blood being spilled in the place my nostalgic heart calls home! You can contact me here, or at the blog: https://midnightmoviegay.wordpress.com!