6 Iconic London-based Horror Movies: from Cult Classics to Subversive Scares

by Beanie White

With smog-filled grey skies, interlinking alleyways, gothic architecture and (gulps) a sprawling tube system, the city of London makes for the perfect setting for a spine-tingling horror or two. As a relatively new resident of the ‘Big Smoke’ I’ve compiled a list of iconic London horror with a sprinkling of lesser-known titles for those looking to broaden their horror horizons…

1) An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Let’s start our journey with this John Landis directed classic. Although our protagonists are American, this film is very much a showcase of some of London’s greatest tourist spots. With scenes in Trafalgar Square featuring London’s finest wildlife: a flock of pigeons, a brutal attack sequence in Piccadilly Circus and plenty of London buses, this is a true London-based classic.

Even the dialogue is given the London treatment, with the character of Jack (Griffin Dunne) desperately trying to get arrested by a bewildered policeman in the recognisable MET uniform by uttering anti-royalist profanities: “Queen Elizabeth is a man, Prince Charles is a bigot!” As a quintessential werewolf movie and a love letter to London tourism, this classic certainly stands the test of time.

2) Last Night in Soho (2021)

We’re jumping from 1981 all the way to 2021 (and then back to the 60s) with this recent release (one of my personal favourite movies of last year for sure). The clue is in the title of this Edgar Wright offering as we follow London College of Fashion student, Elouise Turner, through the streets of Soho’s past and present where she becomes embroiled in the murder of a woman lost in time.

Using artful camera tricks and switches, set against the alluring background of a bygone era, Wright explores what lurks beneath the neon lights and the satin slip dresses of 1960s London. With a cast of notable British talent, including the late great Diana Rigg (what a final role), and a soundtrack that includes a cover of Petula Clarke’s “Downtown,” very fitting for the glamour of the London setting, this movie is a must-watch for horror fans that want to see the streets of London in a whole new neon light…

3) The Conjuring 2 (2016)

For this addition we venture outside the known London tourist spots and into the London Borough of Enfield. Although it might not seem an obvious choice for this list, it accurately depicts the life of a London family living below the breadline (well if that family were also being possessed and plagued by a malevolent demon).

By transporting the lovable duo, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) into the familiar setting of London suburbia we get a truly intriguing sequel that introduces the ever-terrifying demon, Valak (also known as The Nun, we won’t talk about that spin-off movie) …

4) Creep (2004)

I mentioned the labyrinthian maze that is the London Underground system in my intro, and I feel like it’s only fair to mention a horror film set within its treacherous tunnels.

Picture this: you’ve been working the late shift, or perhaps you’ve just been swept away from your friends as you navigate London’s heady nightlife. You’re sitting waiting for your train, the Victoria line, Central, Piccadilly, doesn’t matter. You let the sounds of late-night revellers and the scuttling of mice feet wash over you, closing your eyes for just a second. The next time you open them, you’re locked in. Alone, or so you think…

That’s pretty much the same scenario that befalls Kate (Franka Potente) and -you guessed it- she most certainly is not alone, actually the Underground is busier than you’d think at closing time. Stalked by a horrific killer through the tunnels, storerooms and sewers, this movie will ensure that you never quite feel safe on your commute home.

5) Death Line (1972)

Oops, it seems like the London Underground is a popular destination for horror stories, so please forgive me for this next pick. My second tube related horror revolves around an urban legend concerning a group of Victorian railway workers that have supposedly survived a cave-in and still live in the tunnels beneath our feet. Oh, and they were cannibals.

When university students Patricia and Alex (Sharon Gurney, David Ladd) encounter the last of these crazed cannibals, violent chaos ensues. Even more fittingly, the only phrase the cannibal (Hugh Armstrong) can vocalise is the London Underground classic, “mind the doors!”

Yeah, I’m really selling the London Underground lifestyle…

6) In Fabric (2018)

The premise for this one is pretty unique: expensive red dress embarks on a stylish murder spree. Sounds like everyday at Harrods right?

Filmed at an abandoned department store in Croydon this film evokes the classical idea of London luxury, spending hours in a store that you can’t afford, purchasing that garment that makes you feel part of London’s elite. It also draws on the campiness of 70s British horror, giving us a delightfully dark little gem of a film (it’s an A24 movie, need I say more).

Is there a London-based horror we’ve missed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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