Do you know why New York is referred to as “the city that never sleeps”? Because its residents have to keep one eye open for danger and death that lurks around every street corner when the sun goes down.
This month sees the release of Scream VI, transplanting the characters and the action from Woodsboro to the borough of Manhattan. Ghostface might be trying to follow in the footsteps of Jason Voorhees in his attempt to “take” Manhattan yet despite the tagline of “New York. New Rules”, Mrs. Voorhees' little boy was not the first and certainly not the last to terrorise the Big Apple to its very core.
Two of the first horror films to be set in New York were Cat People (1942), which features one of cinema's most famous jump scares in Central Park, and The Seventh Victim (1943). Both were produced by RKO and Val Lewton, and linked by the recurring character of psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway).
The Seventh Victim centres around a young woman who stumbles on an underground cult of devil worshippers in Greenwich Village, New York City, while searching for her missing sister.
Is it possible the five boroughs of New York are laid out to form a pentagram because Manhattan has proven a hot spot for satanic activity over the years. From the neighbours taking a very close interest in Rosemary's Baby to the Devil himself in End of Days and The Devil's Advocate.
Like the Devil, the human side of evil has many faces. Whether they appear in the form of a Maniac, a Basket Case, The Driller Killer or an American Psycho.
It could be argued that one of the most terrifying films set in New York City in the last twenty years was The Big Short. A shocking expose of the total lack of a moral compass within the stock market during the financial crash of 2008. However when it comes to the more traditional definition of the horror genre, you should be less worried about the wolves of Wall Street and more about investment bankers who deal not in “mergers and acquisitions” but “murders and executions”.
New York may be home to its fair share of cinematic slashers and serial killers but it remains one of the most visited cities in the world. Yet it is not only tourists that like to pay a visit to the iconic landmarks.
One just has to look up to see King Kong climbing the Empire State Building or Q – The Winged Serpent sitting atop the Chrysler Building. And what of Lady Liberty herself? If she is not stomping her way through lower Manhattan powered by supernatural slime in Ghostbusters II, her head is being tossed through the streets by the creature from Cloverfield.
Think things might be any safer underground? Think again! Take the subway late at night and you might find yourself sitting next to Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones riding The Midnight Meat Train. The sewers do not offer any refuge either as they play host to the giant mutant Judas breed of cockroach from Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic or the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers from 1984's cult classic C.H.U.D.
Yet there is one location more than any other, that just like the horror genre itself, has evolved over time. Times Square.
In one of the opening scenes in I Am Legend, Will Smith walks through an eerily quiet and deserted cross section of 42nd Street and Broadway. A sight a million miles away from the bustling tourist destination that plays host to thousands of people every day.
However it was not always the jewel in the crown of New York City. The one that is descended upon by huge crowds and features on TV screens around the world every New Year's Eve.
One just has to go back some thirty years to find the remnants of a very different version of Times Square. One that was infested with crime and populated by sex shops are porno theatres. It was dangerous to simply walk the streets. Never mind supernatural forces, zombies or vampires. As Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver commented whilst driving through, “All the animals come out at night… Someday a real rain will come and wash the scum from the streets”.
This is the version commonly seen in the horror films of the 70s and 80s. The one taken by Jason in the finale of the 1989 Friday the 13th sequel in which he famously decapitated someone with a single punch.
Will Ghostface be able to leave a similar mark on the Big Apple? It remains to be seen but they should take comfort in the fact that, as the song goes “If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere”. One thing the Scream killer and New York do have in common? As evidence here, they both like their fair share of scary movies.