If various tourism organizations are to be believed, Wisconsin is filled with natural beauty, endless outdoor and urban activities, and die-hard Packers fans. Water skiing is sometimes involved. If various horror films are to believed, however, the state is filled with unholy carnage, endless ways to be terrorized, and die-hard serial killers. Volkswagens dressed up as giant spiders are sometimes involved. Just in time for the Halloween season, here are 26 horror films set in (but not necessarily shot in) the demonic Badger State, complete with bite-sized synopses. (Check out Krista Culbertson’s American Of London blog for detailed and entertaining reviews of many of these films.)
The Alpha Incident (1978)
A deadly Mars-borne organism is accidentally released on a train. Terror ensues. Directed by Wisconsin B-movie master Bill Rebane. Partially set in Moose Point, Wisconsin.
The Beast Of Bray Road (2005)
A local sheriff investigates multiple deaths caused by a mythic wolf/bear/man/werewolf thing. Based on the “real-life” urban legend from Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
Billy Club (2013)
Directors Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer tell the tale of four former Little League baseball players and the homicidal umpire who loves them/wants them dead. Premiered at the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival.
Black Cadillac (2003)
A group of good-time buddies are pursued by a mysterious black Cadillac, Duel– and/or Maximum Overdrive-style. Featuring a pre(?)-meltdown Randy Quaid!
Blood Harvest (1987)
A young woman returns to her hometown to find her childhood home trashed, her parents missing, and her loved ones murdered. Directed by the incomparable Bill Rebane. Oh, and Tiny Tim stars as a clown named “Marvelous Mervo.” Sweet dreams!
Blood Hook (1986)
A mysterious killer hooks his victims with, well, a giant hook during Hayward, Wisconsin’s annual “Muskie Madness” fishing tournament. Directed with tongue firmly in cheek by future Mystery Science Theater 3000 executive producer Jim Mallon, and key gripped by future MST3K writer/voice of Tom Servo Kevin Murphy.
Blood Junkie (2010)
An ’80s slasher throwback about a group of rad dudes and gals hanging out in the woods, getting drunk, getting high, and getting picked off one by one. Directed by Drew Rosas and distributed by Troma Entertainment.
A bog-dwelling fish mutant preys on the blood of young women. Kind of like Creature From The Black Lagoon meets Dracula, but set in the Wisconsin backwoods. Shot in 1978 but not released until 1983.
The Capture Of Bigfoot (1979)
Self-explanatory, glorious schlock from the one and only Bill Rebane. Shot in Gleason, Wisconsin and released by Troma Entertainment. Lloyd Kaufman, head of Troma, considers it one of the five worst Troma films of all time. Big talk for a guy at least partially responsible for Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid.
Chris Smith’s 1999 documentary classic American Movie followed the hard-luck/hilarious exploits of Mark Borchardt as he attempted to bring his cinematic masterpiece, Northwestern, to life. That film never materialized (we’re still waiting…), so Borchardt decided to finish a previously discarded short film, Coven, instead. Yes, Coven is the film with the unbreakable kitchen cabinet scene, and the one that’s pronounced COH-ven, man.
Croaked: Frog Monster From Hell (a.k.a. Rana: The Legend Of Shadow Lake) (1981)
The timeless tale of an ancient killer frog monster that guards an underwater stash of gold. Set on the fictional Wisconsin island of Rana. Released by Troma and directed by motherfucking Bill Rebane.
Future Avenger Jeremy Renner stars as past Milwaukee monster Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner’s great and he’s awesome as Hawkeye, but fuck Dahmer.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Zack Snyder remakes the 1978 George Romero zombie classic for some reason. Middling results ensue. Set in a shopping mall in the fictional Wisconsin town of Everett. Undead ghouls and abandoned Wisconsin malls? Insert your own Shops of Grand Avenue joke here.
Dead Weight (2012)
It’s the end of the world and a survivor headed to reunite with his girlfriend in Wausau, Wisconsin doesn’t feel fine. An “Oh God, there’s nothing else to watch” Netflix-filler kind of deal that played at the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival.
Deranged (a.k.a. Deranged: Confessions Of A Necrophile) (1974)
Plainfield, Wisconsin psychopath Ed Gein indirectly inspired countless horror classics (Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Silence Of The Lambs); he also directly inspired a few not-so-classics. 1974’s Deranged may change Gein’s name to “Ezra Cobb,” but it’s a fairly accurate retelling of the madman’s notorious life and “career.”
Dismembering Christmas (2015)
Seven high school seniors hanging out in a secluded cabin succumb to the sorts of things that high school seniors hanging out in secluded cabins usually succumb to in these kind of movies. A throwback to the good old days when any and every holiday could be mined for gore and guts.
Ed Gein (a.k.a. In The Light Of The Moon) (2000)
More Ed Gein, this time starring Helter Skelter’s Charles Manson, Steve Railsback. By-the-numbers but accurate.
Ed Gein: The Butcher Of Plainfield (2007)
Gein in name only. Occasional Jason Voorhees Kane Hodder stars as a fanciful version of the real-life serial killer, while The Hills Have Eyes icon Michael Berryman co-stars as an invented sidekick. At least the filmmakers get the name of the town right.
The Game (a.k.a. The Cold) (1984)
Director Bill Rebane (!) riffs on House On Haunted Hill to predictably awful and Bill Rebane-y results. Set in Three Lakes, Wisconsin.
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
A classic B-movie and the ultimate Bill Rebane joint. Giant spiders terrorize Merrill, Wisconsin while the sheriff (Skipper from Gilligan’s Island) does his damnedest to stop them. Memorably featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (“Packers won the Super Bowl! WHOOO!”) and part of the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival. (Looking for more Rebane insanity? Check out his website!)
The Pit (1981)
If you only have time to enjoy one Canadian-produced horror movie shot in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, make it The Pit. Creepy kids tormented by their peers, demonic teddy bears, unhealthy babysitter fixations, and evil creatures called “Tra-la-logs” all figure into this minor schlock classic.
A former reality TV star investigates the murder of twin girls, proving once and for all that life after reality TV isn’t just embarrassing personal appearances and occasional DJ gigs. Shot in Spring Green but set in the fictional town of Leadville, Wisconsin.
Silent Night (2012)
A loose remake of the 1984 killer-Santa classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. Shot in Canada but set in the fictional town of Cryer, Wisconsin. (Fun fact: Concerned/terrified Milwaukee moms kicked off a national protest of the original film back in ’84.)
Winter Of Frozen Dreams (2009)
A University of Wisconsin student working part-time at a massage parlor does double duty as a cold-blooded killer. Happy endings ensue for no one. Starring Thora Birch!
Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)
Black River Falls, Wisconsin was a strange and disturbing place back in the late 19th century, full of murder, malaise, and madness. This haunting film takes the 1973 non-fiction book of the same name and gives it a creepy cinematic makeover. OG Bilbo Baggins himself, Ian Holm, narrates.