The gloomy, mundane regions of western Pennsylvania wouldn't exactly be the first place you would think of when considering filming a horror movie. Wait, maybe that's precisely where a horror film should be made.
I've lived in this area my entire life, and while nothing exciting truly happens here, I can say it is home to at least four films in the genre, two of which are fairly exceptional - one of those even a multiple Academy Award winner.
Back in 1968, a few months after the monumental event that was my birth, a movie came out that was so startling, so ground-breaking that it defined an entire sub-genre. Writer/director George Romero was a Pittsburgh local who needed to keep within the restraints of a tight budget for his zombie project, so he ended up filming in nearby Butler county (about 35 miles from me). The Evans City Cemetery was his choice for the main action, and it still looks pretty much the same to this day.
Romero cast friends as 'zombie extras' and used a house that was north of the city and scheduled for demolition as the main location.
Apparently, when the film premiered in Pittsburgh in October of '68, there was no national ratings system in place so anyone and everyone, including small children, were allowed to witness the splendor that was Night of the Living Dead. Shocked is about the only word that could be used after seeing the film. I'm just honored to know that this movie - so dear to my heart - was filmed so close by. It is of note that Romero also filmed The Crazies (1973) in the same general location. In fact, many of Romero's movies are filmed in the greater Pittsburgh region. He used the Monroeville Mall (one of my foremost shopping destinations) for his NOTLD sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978), and shot Martin (also 1978) in nearby Braddock, Pa.
This bizarre psychological thriller was filmed very close by to my small town. In fact, I can vividly recall many friends discussing their various run-ins with Richard Gere and Laura Linney. In fact, one of my co-workers rounded a corner on one of her daily walks and slammed straight into Gere. He was gracious, she was dumb-struck.
The bridge on which Gere stands in this photo collapses in the film, but thanks to some CGI, it is still standing today and in fact isn't silver as the film suggests, it's that ugly shade of green they paint all those old bridges. Standing in for a town in West Virginia that is plagued by sightings of a supernatural winged monster; Kittanning, Pa. is the epitome of a town lost in the past. Though it tries to be modern it just can't escape its poor coal mining roots, and this actually benefits it greatly by putting it in the perfect place for movie locations that need a bit of nostalgic charm.
This movie was filmed about 8 miles from my home, strangely enough in the same small town that was used in The Mothman Prophecies.
The reason this location is popular can only be because it stands in so wonderfully for a depressed mining town. Matter of fact, it kind of is a depressed mining town. The mine that was used during filming is a little farther down the road and is actually used as an educational site (Tour-Ed Mine) where people can tour an authentic coal mine and experience what it is like to work beneath the earth. No, I've never toured it - seeing the film was good enough for me. I think I'd be a little too claustrophobic for that adventure. The bridge in the background here is the same bridge that 'collapsed' in Mothman. My hubby crosses this bridge everyday to go to work. The market in which Harry Warden chases the two girls is one of the local ones nearby. I had to go see this one at the theater (despite my dislike of all things 3D) because I had to check out all the locations. Yep, even though I see them all the time. I'm silly like that.
I remember well the feeling of elation back in 1990 when I heard the news that they were making a thriller right here in my hometown. But when I found out it was The Silence of the Lambs, I was overly psyched. Because that's not just a thriller - that's horror, people! I'd read the book and was familiar with the subject matter. Woot!
Winner of the top five Oscars in 1991 including Best Picture, I'm proud to tell anyone who will listen that all the scenes in the funeral home, Clarice's childhood memories, and various other scenes were filmed right down the street a few blocks from me. Some of my friends were extras, and I can name most of the people in the funeral home scenes. One of the cops in the photo above is a local who ended up having to travel to Pittsburgh with the actors because he was so prominently featured in the scenes that they needed him there as well. The scenes of Lecter caged up were filmed in the 'Burgh, as were the autopsy scenes, the scenes of Lecter's home at the state hospital, among others. Hell, I even knew the barking dog in the back of the pickup from the scene where young Clarice greets her father after work. And you can bet I sat in the theater until the credits rolled so I could see the name of my tiny town. The boastful grin on my face was obnoxious.