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The Omen

A Guide to London’s Horror Movie Hot-Spots

11 October 2017 Daniel Pateman

While life in the capital is fraught with numerous mundane terrors, like the District Line at rush hour, the dreaded words “This bus is on diversion”, and the fevered anticipation of an avocado apocalypse, it has also been the site of more sinister happenings. Celluloid has captured the prowling footsteps of sex-mad serial-killers down London’s dank alleyways, shown its subterranean tubes creeping with ghouls, and been the backdrop of a zombie pandemic. So, steel yourself for a spine-chilling guide around London’s horror film hot-spots. But do not unduly fear, dear reader: there are plenty of pubs along the way.

The Southbank

Frenzy (1972) is often seen as Alfred Hitchcock’s love-letter to London…if said letter waxed lyrical about a sex-crazed serial killer whose modus operandi was death by tie. Returning to the capital for the first time since 1950, his penultimate film makes giddy use of its familiar London locations. Beginning on the Southbank outside County Hall after a glorious tracking shot down the Thames, a politician delivers a speech about his promise to clean up the river…just as the body of a woman washes up. “It’s another necktie murder” one man states drily, as if this was as common as a seagull stealing your chips. Hitchcock appears in a bowler hat in a signature cameo.


Frenzy

Westminster

A stone’s throw away and forty years later, Westminster Bridge became synonymous with the walking dead - proper zombies, not just your sleep deprived barrister or somnambulistic sightseer. 28 Days Later (2002) begins with a man waking up in hospital to an abandoned London. Disoriented, he crosses Westminster Bridge into Whitehall looking for signs of humanity, eventually passing through Piccadilly Circus where the gravity of the situation becomes clear. The spectacular feat of making the capital appear genuinely deserted was achieved by filming early each morning for a few days in summer, temporarily staving off traffic and a few exhausted clubbers.


28 Days Later

South Kensington

A few miles away, director Roman Polanski decided that affluent South Kensington was the ideal setting for surreal thriller Repulsion (1965), the tale of one woman’s slow decent into madness (well, you would wouldn’t you, paying that much for a croissant). The area is peppered with locations from the movie. Carole (Catherine Deneuve) passes by the tube station numerous times being leered at by grubby workmen. Just around the corner is Muriel’s Kitchen (previously Dino’s), in which an infatuated suitor tries to get cosy, while a few minutes’ walk away is The Hoop and Toy pub, where Colin (John Fraser) endures his associates’ laddish banter. You can spot the Victoria & Albert Museum in the background as Colin walks Carole to work at ‘Madame Denise’s Beauty Salon’ (now Thurloes). But for cuticles’ sake - check she’s off-rota first before scheduling your morning manicure.


Repulsion

Earl’s Court

Proof that the area must be situated over an ancient hell-mouth, it has housed a psychotic blonde, one Master of Suspense, and a very hairy manimal. While Catherine Deneuve was seen going seriously stir-crazy at Kensington Mansions in Repulsion, horror-maestro Alfred Hitchcock plotted at 153 Cromwell Road from 1926-1939. In An American Werewolf in London (1981), one of horror’s most iconic scenes took place at 64 Coleherne Road, where David painfully transforms into a blood-thirsty beast. Home is clearly where the heart is…usually fresh from the chest and still beating! For extra chills, visit the nearby Brompton Cemetery, one of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries in London.


An American Werewolf in London
 
Fulham

You’ll surely feel the dark eddies of the supernatural here, childhood home of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe and the location of a dramatic death in The Omen (1976). Selfie sticks on standby at All Saints Church, on the border of Bishops Park, where Father Brennan is turned into a human kebab by a falling metal rod. The park, overlooking the Thames, is also the backdrop for the preceding altercation in which Brennan tries to convince Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) of his son’s satanic affiliations. Bishops Park isn’t just the setting for a face-off between good and evil however. It has an urban beach, Spanish War Memorial and café too!


The Omen

Fitzrovia

This central London area provided locations for a film so controversial one critic said it should be shovelled up and flushed down the nearest sewer; even then, “the stench would remain”. Peeping Tom’s (1960) influential opening scene was shot around Newman Street, where Mark (Carl Boehm) picks up a prostitute and secretly films her. They enter Newman Passage before going up into a room apparently above the Newman Arms pub (currently closed for refurbishment). To her surprise, he then whips out his tripod and impales her with the pointy end. Down the road at 29 Rathbone Place you’ll find the newsagents where naughty pictures are sold to English gents (currently To Let), and the studio upstairs where Mark photographs modestly undressed women.


Peeping Tom

Bloomsbury

With its leafy green parks, institutions of higher education and literary affiliations, who’d believe Virginia Woolf’s old stomping ground could be home to tube-dwelling cannibals and demon-worshippers too. The British Museum features in Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957), where Parapsychologist John Holden visits their reading room to research the occult. It is here that Dr Karswell hands him the runes that will seal his monster-shaped fate. The reading room function was transferred to the British Library in 1997, with plans for its future use now under discussion.
 
A brisk stroll from here to Russell Square station, the innocuous façade belies the presence of a ravenous cannibal in Gary Sherman’s Deathline (1972). While the interior scenes were actually filmed in disused Aldwych station, the station’s exterior is captured in the seedy opening sequence, with Alex’s apartment located at nearby Grafton Mansions on Duke’s Road. The film is also notable for starring two stalwarts of horror - Halloween’s own Donald Pleasance and Christopher Lee, in a small cameo role.


Night of the Demon

Well…we’ve reached the end of the (death)line. London’s ghastly mask has been torn off to reveal its undead, sex-crazed, excessively hairy denizens. The sun is dying in the sky and blood-red leaves run down the street. You head for home. But something lurks in the shadow of a Veggie Pret a Manger. Your limbs stiffen and your heart stops beating, as a charity mugger approaches with a cheery greeting.
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