With Halloween just weeks away, here's a look at movies set in Texas and Oklahoma that can add a bit of familiarity to your horror movie watching experience.
Putting together a list like this was a little bit of a daunting task. Not because I had to narrow it down to ten, but because I was a little concerned I wouldn't be able to fill the list. Many of the horror movies set in Texas just aren't very good, and Oklahoma horror movies are rather low in number. But thankfully, we were able to fill this list with ten films that are definitely deserving of being part of your Halloween movie marathon.
First, we need to address how 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' will be featured on this list. Originally, I was just going to recognize the whole franchise as a single entry, but that just didn't seem right. We have to acknowledge that of the 8 films in the franchise, more than half of them are downright crap and not worth watching. So instead of sticking to a "one movie per franchise" rule that's customary for Top 10 lists, we'll be featuring more than one 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' movie to make sure to good ones get their due.
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974)
Many horror critics and aficionados consider 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'The Exorcist' as being the introduction to the modern horror movies, switching to a truly horrific and graphic style of storytelling. Instead of being routed in fantasy or science fiction like iconic horror movies before it, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' depicted a believable world that is truly uncomfortable and horrifying to watch and set the tone for future atmospheric horror films.
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' (1986)
Tobe Hooper cemented his legacy as a horror icon with his work on the original Massacre. But knowing that he wouldn't be able to top his previous work 12 years later, Hooper saw the direction film was taking in the 80s and made the switch to a more crazy, and even comedic, approach with 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2'. Originally hated by many fans and critics, it has since become a cult classic and praised for its camp attitude and attempt to make something different rather than trying to copy the original and come up short.
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (2003)
By today's standards, hearing that a horror classic is going to be remade quickly fills us with disappointment and dread. But in the early 2000s, there was optimism with the idea of retelling 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Early shots of the new Leatherface excited fans who felt the iconic character had been misrepresented by the three films since the original. When it was released, the remake pleased audiences by bringing back the dirty and uncomfortable vibe of the original, making it familiar without being a direct copy of what came before. Leatherface was made more intimidating and frightening than ever, abandoning aspects such as cross-dressing in the previous films and explaining his use of a skin mask as a way to hide the effects of a flesh-eating disease on his face.
'House of 1,000 Corpses' (2003)
Coming out the same year as the remake/reboot of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', Rob Zombie's debut as a writer/director and the Massacre remake are often credited for bringing Horror movies back to a gritty and disturbing feel, and away from the sanitized PG-13 Horror films that dominated the 90s. Originally filmed in 2000, the movie wasn't released for three years because of the graphic horror and violence depicted. Paying homage to movies he loved, its clear that Rob Zombie modeled this movie after the original Massacre, creating a family of cannibalistic crazies preying on people traveling through the back roads of Texas. And Zombie did such a good job in creating the Firefly family that they've endured in the hearts of fans for two decades and counting.
'The Devil's Rejects' (2005)
Much like Tobe Hooper switching gears in his sequel to 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', Rob Zombie did the same with his follow-up of the Firefly family, 'The Devil's Rejects'. While 'House of 1,000 Corpses' was more of an atmospheric and dirty horror movie, Zombie made 'The Devil's Rejects' feel more like a 70s Grindhouse film. And while audiences customarily root for the killers like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, Zombie made audiences get behind the Rejects by making them the pursued. Though Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding do kill people in brutal fashion, they are the ones being chased by a crazed killer, the local sheriff who is looking to avenge the death of his brother from the previous film, culminating in the trio actually taking the role of the victims. While this movie ends rather definitively for the Devil's Rejects, their popularity is so strong that a 3rd movie, 'Three From Hell', has just finished filming and will be released in 2019.
How's this for a movie premise?
Elvis didn't die. At the height of his fame, the King wanted to get away from the pressures of his life and switched places with an Elvis impersonator who had a drug habit and an affinity for pie. While the impersonator got fat and died, the real Elvis made a living as an impersonator. Now in the twilight of his life, he spends his days living at a Texas retirement home. With his best-friend Jack, a black man who swears he's really JFK with dyed skin to keep him hidden, Elvis must fight a cowboy zombie who targets old people and sucks their soul out of their butts.
'From Dusk Till Dawn' (1996)
Though 'From Dusk Till Dawn' mainly takes place in Mexico at the greatest named strip club ever, the start of the movie follows the Gecko brothers who are fugitive bank robbers trying to get through Texas down to Mexico, leaving a trail of destruction in their path. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino made a jarring horror film that subverts your expectations and takes a hard left turn. While the opening and lead-up to Mexico feels like a usual crime movie, Salma Hayek's dance marks the definitive switch for the film into a bat-crap crazy vampire flick.
In Bill Paxton's directorial debut, he plays a father who tells his young sons that he has been chosen by God to kill demons who are masquerading as humans. In the present time, Matthew McConaughey is the adult version of one of the sons, telling his family story to a FBI agent in Dallas, concerned that his brother has taken up their father's mantle. The film does a great job of leading audiences through a story that makes you question everything you see and wonder if the father was just crazy, or did actually have a divine touch that others couldn't understand.
Right after wrapping up filming on 'Aliens', Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, & Jenette Goldstein immediately started working on this neo-western take on vampires, helmed by future Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow. Set in part in Oklahoma, 'Near Dark' shows a gang of carefree vampires from the perspective of their newest member, who has just been bitten and is in the process of turning. Along with 'The Lost Boys', 'Near Dark' is praised for bringing vampires back to a serious interpretation after some campy films of the 70s. Though it was a commercial failure, it was a critical success and has become a cult classic.
Ashley Judd plays a waitress at a gay bar, living at a remote hotel in Oklahoma. She begins a relationship with Michael Shannon's character, a discharged soldier who believes he's been tested on by the US Government. Like 'Frailty', 'Bug' makes the audience repeatedly question what they are seeing, even ending on a vague note and leaving you to wonder if the characters were just completely crazy or actually right about their conspiracy theories.