Utah's spooky movie history
Oct 13, 2020 10:46AM
By Katy Whittingham
Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy served as the location for cemetery scenes in the 2018 horror film, “Hereditary.” (Katy Whittingham/City Journals)
By Katy Whittingham | [email protected]
Utah, and Salt Lake City in particular, has seen a growth in film productions in recent years, and television series and films that fall in the horror genre are no exception.
According to a report that came out late last year by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) which includes the Utah Film Commission, film production dollars spent in Utah more than doubled between 2015 and 2019 to about $87 million. The state film commission attributes the growth to a variety of scenery, economic incentives, and available talent. In a press release from this September available on the film commission’s website, it was announced that the GOED board has approved “five new productions for state film incentives, generating an estimated economic impact of $6.5 million and creating over 185 local jobs.”
Utah horror film enthusiasts will find no shortage of locations to visit this Halloween season. A recent production that was filmed around Salt Lake City and has a story set in the state is the critically acclaimed 2018 horror tragedy film, “Hereditary,” starring Gabriel Byrne and Toni Collette and written and directed by Ari Aster. The story follows a family in turmoil as they are haunted by a menacing presence following the death of a secretive maternal grandmother. School scenes were shot at West High School in the Salt Lake City School District and at Utah State Fair Park. The exteriors of the family’s house and tree house were shot in Summit County, and perhaps the most picturesque and hauntingly beautiful scenes at the cemetery were filmed at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy. “Hereditary” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2018 and was a critical and commercial success grossing over $80 million.
Two of the films in the legendary “Halloween” horror franchise were also filmed in Utah, primarily around Salt Lake City and Midvale: “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” released in 1988 and “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” released the following year. Although receiving negative reviews from critics, much like the other films in the franchise, they have maintained a strong cult following. More than 40 years after the first film’s release, you will still find Michael Myers masks, costumes, and decorations in Halloween stores like Spirit Halloween.
Although principal photography for “Halloween 4” was completed in California, filmmakers moved production to Salt Lake City in the spring of 1988 because of rising costs and had to import fall leaves and other fall scenery to make it look like October. The film follows the iconic antagonist, Michael Myers, as he awakens from a 10-year comatose state and escapes transport to a sanitarium in a plight to kill his only living relative, his niece, Jamie Lloyd, daughter of Laurie Strode, a prominent character in the first two and later films in the franchise. The McGillis School in Salt Lake City stands in for Jamie’s school, and her home with her foster family is located in the lower Avenues and was actually up for sale in late 2019. Much of the outside shots and roads for the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, where the story is set, is Midvale on 1-15.
A foreshadowing scene when Jamie’s foster sister, Rachel, takes her to get a Halloween costume where her boyfriend also happens to work was filmed at Vincent Drug in Midvale. A popular soda and shake shop in the ’40s and ’50s, Vincent Drug has served as a filming location for many other film and television shows of the ’80s and ’90s, including Stephen King’s 1994 horror miniseries, “The Stand.”
Filming for “The Stand” began in and around Salt Lake City in the bitter winter of 1993 and stood in for the setting of the novel the miniseries was based on, Boulder, Colorado. The jail sequences of the series were filmed at the Utah State Prison in a wing where the prisoners were temporarily moved during filming. In some confusion, crew members mistook actual prisoners’ belongings as props and moved them between cells not realizing the mistake until after the first day of shooting.
Other upcoming horror films that were or are currently being filmed in Utah include the werewolf, horror-comedy, “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” set for limited release in theaters on Oct. 9, and the feature, “Deadstream,” written and directed by local filmmakers, Vanessa and Joseph Winter, and described as a “love letter to ’80’s horror cinema.” It’s expected to be released in January 2021.
For more information on the Utah Film Commission and past and upcoming projects being filmed in Utah, visit film.utah.gov.