The American South has a delicious combination of manners and grace, grit and strength, blood, sweat and tears. It feeds America, provides gas and oil, tempts us with endless coastlines, swamps, amazing cuisine, and hospitality. It's seen wars, slavery, segregation, immigrants, alligators, poisonous snakes, yellow fever, yet it stands proud.
The South also lends itself to some of the best horror plots, characters, and locations. It touts some of the creepiest urban legends and haunted locations. The people are a combination of sassy, strong and, as my mom would phrase it, "so sweet, I could eat you with a spoon!"
Let's take a look at what lurks in the South that makes it a horror influence like no other -
Battery Carriage House Inn
Rock and Roll Cemetery, Mississippi
St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans
Bonaventure Cemetery, South Carolina
The Alamo, Texas
Chickamauga Battlefield, Georgia
Chalmette Battlefield, Louisiana
Kennessaw House, Georgia
monsters and madmen
Boggy Creek Monster
The Lake Worth Monster
The Phantom Killer
Lake Lanier, Georgia (drowned town)
Crybaby Bridge, Columbus Georgia (ghost kids)
Brown Mountain, NC (lights)
The Devil's Tramping Ground, NC (cursed)
urban legends in the south
top 5 best southern horror movies
Everyone will have their own take on the ultimate southern-based horror movies, but I have a top five list that I think captures the feel of the south, the locations, and the mood most aptly. I am sharing them with my readers -
Hatchet (2006) When a group of tourists in a New Orleans haunted swamp tour, find themselves stranded in the wilderness, their evening of fun and spooks turns into a horrific nightmare.
The reason I love this one is the urban legend, 80s slasher feel, with people lost in the swamp. It's a classic cult favorite and feels like a real legend.
Cape Fear (1962 and 1991) A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a fourteen-year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.
The reason I chose this one is the suspense thriller set in a slow-paced southern atmosphere with people with lots of secrets and a steamy feel.
The Skeleton Key (2005) A hospice nurse working at a spooky New Orleans plantation home finds herself entangled in a mystery involving the house's dark past.
I chose this one for the magical aspects of the South, southern hospitality versus southern secrets, and the amazing location.
Swamp Thing (1982) After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster.
I chose this movie for the unexpected superhero feel, the swamp location, and elements that feel like a 1950s scifi movie.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) In 1946, a Texas Ranger hunts for a hooded serial killer terrorizing the residents of a small Texas town.
I chose this one to show the dark demented serial killer aspect of horror in the South.
"The Devil's Rejects"
"Dark Night of the Scarecrow"
"Texas Chainsaw Horror"
"Interview With the Vampire"
There are plenty of movies for those who love the South that are not horror movies: I suggest ones like -
"To Kill a Mockingbird" (drama)
"Wild Things" (sexy suspense crime)
"Prince of Tides" (drama)
"Deliverance" (suspense thriller)
"Gone With the Wind" (historic drama)
"Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" (adventure comedy) "The Gift" (drama horror)
"Driving Miss Daisy" (drama)
"Fried Green Tomatoes" (drama)
"The Legend of Boggy Creek" (documentary)
"The Long Hot Summer" (drama)
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" (drama)
"Sounder" (family drama)
Why is it creepier in the South? It's rather exotic by traditional terms of the United States. Folks can be out and about in the bog and coastlines, the planting fields and deltas year `round with good climate. It gives a lot more of the year for things to thrive and grow in such a fertile setting, even dark and spooky things. And, the tales told by the South grow larger on down the line.
There is also something so wrong about a sweet gosh-darned Southern boy turned bad. Just look at the movie, "Savages" with Andy Griffith as a man who would rather hunt people than conventional prey. It's like the boy next door axing the neighbors!
And for your snacking pleasure - Puppy Chow, Monkey Munch, or Muddy Buddies. Whatever you call them, here's the RECIPE for movie-watching fun!
(be sure and serve this with sweet tea)
I can hear the tree frogs on the bayou now -
The South is about contradictions. Time moves slower, folks speak slower, and hospitality reins. But, there are lines in the clay soil and if you cross them you learn real quickly to show some respect.
As a woman born in the South and only lived in the South her whole lifetime, I am not only proud of my region, but I consider it a heritage, a culture, an identity. I'm as sweet as can be, but I can be strong when boundaries are crossed. I always have my brothers' and my sisters' backs. I can cook you a banquet you won't soon forget, but I can also sit you down for a scary tale telling that will leave you in chills.
God saved the best for the South. (Apparently this includes the scariest too!)