In the spirit of Halloween, you may have taken in an extra dose of horror films lately. While setting is important to all film and literature, the backdrop of a horror story is arguably more important than any other genre. This means that architecture, infrastructure and cities are inextricably linked to the scare effect.
In film especially, directors explore dimensions of space, often manipulating it to add to the storyline. Masters of horror have a history of changing the way we interpret the spaces we occupy day-to-day – elevating the mundane to the supernatural. With words, lighting and music and angles, they warp our perception of hotels (The Shining), homes (Paranormal Activity, The Others, The Conjuring), hospitals (The Exorcist), suburbs (Halloween, It Follows), cities (28 Days Later), and trains (Train to Busan) in dark and eerie ways to build anxiety in the audience.
Advancements in building, planning and engineering have changed and vastly improved our quality of life in urban environments, but directors like Hitchcock and Craven exploit worst-case, unimaginable scenarios that would leave us exposed and vulnerable in these very spaces of modern refuge and convenience. By implying that we might not be as safe as we actually are, these spaces often serve as the perfect setting for the ensuing terror on screen or on the page.
The examples are endless, even stretching back well before movies, to the gothic style of Edgar Allan Poe and The Fall of the House of Usher (1839). So do yourself a favour today, dive into horror and develop an appreciation for space and how buildings, infrastructure, suburbs and cities have immediate consequence in the context of survival.