Good news, everyone! Trick-or-treating is back. Nature is healing, etc. Still, unless vaccine proof is required at the door, fully uninhibited, spit-swapping indoor raves still aren’t at the top of our personal list this year. We'll look elsewhere for our thrills—to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, haunted houses and vintage shops to find the perfect costume and, when that's all done, we'll settle in with a nice horror movie or five. To help you piece together the perfect fall lineup, here's Portland Monthly classic guide to 13 Halloween flicks—goofy to ridiculous to horrifying—filmed in Oregon, many of which try (with varying degrees of success) to tap into our state’s particular brand of damp dread.
Disclaimers: We did not include The Shining, because it’s already on your list and we wanted to give space to films who did more than take exterior shots here. If you haven’t seen The Shining, you should watch The Shining.
This beloved late-’90s Disney Channel original inexplicably stars Debbie Reynolds as a witchy matriarch whose powers include dragging a bag behind her and turning a Tupperware full of chicken wings into live foul. Filmed in St. Helens and Scappoose (the former celebrates this fact with an annual month-long festival), we get a few loving shots of the Columbia River sprinkled among Party City costuming and world-building that includes gay werewolf hairdressers and walking tomato pincushions. In a tale as old as time, the Halloweentown sequels abandoned Oregon for greener, more Canadian pastures. Streaming on Disney+
This is ultimately my list and I make the rules, but let me at least attempt to explain why these count as a single entry: only the sequel is set in the Beaver State, but both were at least partially shot here (the original’s indelible lighthouse is the Yaquina Bay light in Newport). You probably know the drill: Naomi Watts watches a cursed video tape and is marked for death; the girl who voices Lilo in Lilo & Stitch crawls out of a well. These fall on the milder, moodier side of the supernatural horror spectrum if you’re looking for atmosphere over buckets of blood, but be warned that only the first film makes an ounce of sense. The Ring streaming on Paramount+; The Ring Two available to rent via Apple TV
To put it bluntly: Green Room fuckin’ rules. The gorgeous, grungy slasher follows a punk band touring the PNW who encounter a coastal group of murderous neo-Nazis headed by a deliciously sinister Patrick Stewart. People from both camps get picked off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways, but nothing ever tilts into full-bore silliness: the movie is witty, tense, and confident, and it stands—in this writer’s opinion—as the Oregon horror gold standard. Streaming on Showtime; for rent or purchase via Apple TV, Amazon, and YouTube, among others
Is it true that I grew up in Oregon but only got around to seeing this for the first time with a guy I was sort of dating in college in Boston? Sure. But for most people, this movie is a really big deal! Written by family film juggernaut Chris Columbus (who’d go on to helm the first two Harry Potters) from a story by Steven Spielberg, it’s the sort of quintessential ’80s nostalgia flick that seems to only have ever existed as a staple in every VHS collection in America. It’s good, clean fun, light on scares but heavy on Astoria, and it stars a young Josh Brolin, which always makes me go, “Oh yeah! Huh.” Streaming on HBO Max and available to rent via Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and elsewhere
I recently rewatched the entire Twilight saga with my quarantine bad movie club, and though Catherine Hardwicke’s blue-soaked kickoff isn’t its finest entry (that would be the gratifyingly batshit Breaking Dawn Part 1), it’s certainly the angstiest. The whole thing is drenched with lip-biting fog-laden mood—which the franchise’s later, Canadian-shot entries swap for studio sheen—and a lot of that atmosphere comes courtesy of handheld photography in locations like St. Helens, Vernonia, and the Columbia Gorge. Streaming on Netflix
It’s no secret that Portland is something of a stop-motion mecca, and Coraline is probably its highest-profile feature-length production to date. Henry Selick’s harrowing, psychedelic adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novella—brought to life by the folks at Laika—has become a bona fide classic in the years since its 2009 release, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s scary as hell, stunning to look at, and talks to younger viewers at eye level without alienating their parents. Available to rent via Amazon Prime, YouTube, and elsewhere
Laika's slightly lighter Halloween offering, for the sensitive souls (like me) who can only handle Coraline’s bone-deep jostle every once in a blue moon. The story concerns an 11 year-old medium in Massachusetts who has to save his town from a witch’s curse, and the voice cast includes Elaine Stritch, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, and John Goodman. Paranorman is funny before it’s scary, and even the darkest moments are offset by a sense of restless invention. Streaming on Netflix
This puzzling remake of Eli Roth’s scrappy 2002 horror comedy doesn’t get much right, but it does effectively capture the largely untapped menace of a quiet weekend in rural Oregon (albeit not as well as a few other entries on this list). It’s about a deadly virus derailing an otherwise idyllic vacation, which, all power to you if that’s not Your Vibe Right Now, but if nothing else, it serves as an academic exercise on par with Portlander Gus Van Sant’s 1999 Psycho remake—that was a shot-for-shot recreation of Hitchock’s mastperiece, this uses the same exact script as Roth’s (superior, sadly non-Oregon-shot) original. Streaming on Peacock
Shot primarily among the redwoods of Southern Oregon and Northern California, this sleazy little ’80s number stars Daryl Hannah among a cast of relative unknowns who fall prey to a Deliverance-esque madman while seeking solace in the untamed forest. Mostly notable for being an early entry in the career of director Andrew Davis, who went on to make major populist fare like The Fugitive and Holes. Available to rent or buy via Amazon
This hokey made-for-TV thriller, which aired on the USA network in 1989, was shot in and around the Pittock Mansion, whose grandeur served as a backdrop for the controversial slasher Unhinged seven years earlier. Sarah Hardy is less confrontational—it’s a Yellow Wallpaper-adjacent “mad woman” story, replete with buckets of fog, stiff performances, and lots of skulking around corners in silk lingerie. Available on YouTube
Portland native Joel David Moore—star of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and person-who-was-in Avatar—co-wrote, directed, and headlines this mid-aughts psychological thriller about a disturbed painter. It wears its 2007 credentials proudly: Amber Tamblyn is around, The Number 23 is evoked, and it relies on a big ol’ M. Night Shyamalan twist to stick the landing. Of all the titles on this list, Spiral is probably the most Portland-focused. Stream on DirecTV and AMC+
It’s gay! It’s H.P. Lovecraft! It doesn’t actually feature any footage of Cthulhu! This silly, patient indie, which premiered at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival, is primarily concerned with an NXIVM-esque cult, loosely turning to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth for inspiration and culminating with a passing mention of the titular monster. Still, it utilizes its Oregon locations well, harnessing crashing waves and Douglas Firs for a not-insubstantial hypnotic pull. Rent on Google Play or on YouTube
Aside from holding the honor of being one of the only films ever shot in my hometown of Banks, Oregon, Behind the Mask is something of a mini-cult classic. Produced on an unfathomably small budget of less than $70k, it’s a witty mockumentary that follows a madman-to-be as he highlights his murderous ambitions and discusses how famous figures in horror cinema have influenced him. (Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, stars as a psychiatrist.) A tiny-but-dedicated fanbase emerged after it premiered at South by Southwest in 2006, and there are shelved plans for a sequel. Streaming on AMC+ or rent on Apple TV