I love visiting horror movie locations, guys.
There’s just something about walking in the footsteps of Dario Argento, Jess Franco etc that I get a real kick out of.
It all started innocently enough. My now-fianceé Heather and I were going on our first holiday together and had decided on Spain for a few days. We wanted somewhere nice and quiet to relax, and so chose a delightful little coastal town called Calpe, located just far enough away from Benidorm.
And that was where it all started.
The Peñon de Ifach, a giant slab of limestone rising out of the sea. It’s the main tourist attraction of Calpe (and also the most dangerous – I tripped and nearly plummeted to my death), but I knew it from somewhere different.
Jess Franco’s Bloody Moon.
The Peñon de Ifach actually crops up in several Franco films, including Attack of the Robots (1966) and Eugenie (1980).
But that wasn’t even the best. Because after a bit more research, we discovered Calpe was the home to the architecture of Ricardo Bofill.
Yeah, if you’ve ever seen Franco’s She Killed In Ecstasy, this building will be instantly recognisable.
40 years later and nothing has really changed, apart from a fence put up for health and safety.
Right opposite is another iconic building featured in several Franco flicks.
It was quite a feeling to imagine I was standing in the exact place that Uncle Jess must have stood with his camera. And it wasn’t over yet!
On our last day, we had to fly back home from Alicante, home to the Castle of Santa Barbara, where Franco shot several of his more gothic films, such as Count Dracula and Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein!
The next year, we decided to go on a short break in February down to the English Peak District. We booked a lovely wee cottage in a village called Castleton. I remembered that one of my favourite zombie films, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, had been shot around the Peak District (not the Lake District, as the film seems to imply.)
I did not expect to discover that Castleton was where much of the film was actually shot!
A 15 minute drive away was Hathersage, where the film’s first major zombie action was shot outside the church.
The sign outside was a dead giveaway that we had arrived.
The sign is a bit splintered at the bottom, but otherwise intact after 40 years.
We looked for the big cross tombstone to get our bearings.
And there it was. Sadly, the entrance to the cellar was padlocked, so we never got to meet Guthrie and his friends.
Not far from here was also Thor’s Cave, a magnificent cavern that you may remember from Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm.
In 2015, Heather and I headed on a mini tour around Europe, taking in Munich, Lucerne, Venice and Rome, on the trail of Dario Argento.
First up was Munich, where we quickly tracked down the location of the extraordinary opening double murder of Suspiria.
We tried to get to the plaza where the blind man has his throat ripped out, but it was being refurbished or something.
Regardless, we moved on to Switzerland, where we didn’t find any locations, but we did get engaged, and then on to Venice, where naturally we recreated the famous ending of Don’t Look Now.
Yes, we brought the red raincoat specifically for this photo.
Lastly, Rome. The main one here is the Piazza Mincio, where some of the action in Inferno took place.
This is a good time to mention that my poor fianceé Heather doesn’t actually like horror movies! Though I did persuade her to sit through Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Bloody Moon, she had never seen any Dario Argento films…until that evening in Rome, when we got back to the hotel, switched on the telly and there it was…
Dario’s Deep Red, in unsubtitled Italian. The perfect end to a holiday!