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The Bay Area’s ultimate horror movie filming locations map

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Our city’s foggy streets and dramatic Victorians are a natural fit for movies—especially for tales of terror.

But compared to the thrillers and dramas set in Los Angeles, there aren't many horror flicks shot in SF.

Nevertheless, since it’s All Hallow's month, we've rounded up the scariest movies ever shot in the city, chronicling a smattering of psychos, radioactive beasts, and even the occasional vampire that have harrowed everywhere from the zoo in the Sunset District to the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero.

Read on, if you dare.

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‘Shadow of a Doubt’

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Rather than Psycho, Vertigo, or The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock declared 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt his favorite of his own films.

The “small town” Santa Rosa setting was crucial to that appeal, as Hitch relished the idea of introducing a ruthless serial killer into what he imagined to be an idyllic and unassuming Northern California community.

‘Scream’

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This surprise 1996 hit banked over $170 million and resurrected the then-moribund slasher genre.

Director Wes Craven shot all over Sonoma County, and the movie’s shocking opening scene with Drew Barrymore menaced by a voyeuristic killer with a cell phone (a creative touch at the time) took place in a house just southeast of the city.

‘Twixt’

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All-time auteur Francis Ford Coppola shot this 2011 vampire thriller around his own North Bay properties, and cast some local theater talent in supporting roles as well.

The movie was supposed to be an experimental piece in which most scenes would play in a different order every time the movie screened, but this gimmick never really happened, the final film is deeply confused, and Coppola sadly hasn’t directed anything since. At least star Val Kilmer seems to be having fun.

‘Cujo’

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Petaluma‘s filmmaking history includes luminary films like American Graffiti, but this Stephen King thriller in which a killer mad dog menaces ET star Dee Wallace is possibly the town’s most unforgettable cinematic contribution.

‘The Fog’

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By rights any movie called The Fog ought to be obligated to shoot in San Francisco. But John Carpenter couldn’t find a suitably remote and nautically oriented city locale for his 1980 ghost pirate tale, so Bodega Bay netted the honors.

‘Sphere’

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This weird sci-fi thriller based on a Michael Crichton book isolates its cast on an ocean floor lab with an alien presence.

Hollywood came looking for closed naval bases and shot most of the movie at Mare Island in Vallejo, but climbed aboard our own SS Jeremiah O'Brien for a few shots too, since movies set at sea generally demand at least one ship.

‘Predator 2’

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This 1990 sequel about an alien big game hunter loose in the big city is set in Los Angeles and relies heavily on its LA atmosphere. Why the project chose to shoot a subway scene on a BART train is anybody’s guess, but the vehicle is distinctive to any Bay Area commuter.

‘The Chilling’

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This 1989 cold fish featuring Linda Blair and zombies menacing a cryogenics lab on Halloween night (also released as The Thawing) is set in Kansas City but lists several East Bay locales in its credits, including Oakland.

The Town probably could have done without this one in its ouvre, but you don’t get to pick your laurels.

‘The House on Telegraph Hill’

Copy Link

This 1951 murder mystery looked high and higher still for the most dramatic hilltop location in town.

Most of the movie shot on a stage in LA, but there really was a house on Telegraph Hill, and it's still there: the noted Julius Castle restaurant on Montgomery, presently mired in a fight with neighbors over its bid to reopen.

You wouldn't recognize the locale from the movie, though, because filmmakers erected a Victorian facade around the real thing.

‘Stigmata’

Copy Link

Being an exorcism movie of sorts, the 1999 flop Stigmata necessarily includes a trip to Rome. But it's not really Vatican City you're seeing, it's the Palace of Fine Arts, and every monk and nun in the streets was an extra from San Francisco.

‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’

Copy Link

Yeah, not many scares in this 1978 spoof, which lampoons countless truly scary movies, including The Birds.

Though mostly shot in San Diego, filmmakers did fly in for a scene of a tomato monster menacing the Hyde Street cable car.

‘Sudden Fear’

Copy Link

David MIller’s 1952 Sudden Fear, in which Joan Crawford suspects that her husband is plotting to murder her, shows off Pac Heights and Cow Hollow in all of their glory.

Crawford's character even lived in the palatial 2800 Scott Street, right next door to the city's longtime most expensive home for sale.

‘Godzilla’ (2014)

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The Transamerica Pyramid (which was notably not destroyed in the film) provides handy scale for this Americanized king of monsters outing: Godzilla's size has varied with the years, but he was about 350 feet tall this time around.

The 2019 sequel didn’t bother to return to town, but that’s probably for the best given how it turned out.

‘Monster In the Closet’

Copy Link

This 1986 creature feature spoof featuring (of all people) a very young Paul Walker concludes with the titular and rather sluggish monstrosity frantically searching the Transamerica Pyramid for a closet to hide in.

Well, some people find it funny.

“Big Trouble In Little China” (1986)

Copy Link

This tongue-in-cheek adventure movie about martial arts and mysticism isn’t even kind of scary. But it was directed by horror master John Carpenter, and it does unleash a few gruesome monsters into the Chinatown Streets.

(The fact that a remake is looming makes it even scarier.)

‘Midnight Lace’

Copy Link

Hitchcock shot at the Fairmont Hotel for "Vertigo," which made it quite an attractive locale for his many imitators.

These included David Miller, who set up shop here in 1960 for "Midnight Lace," about a woman tormented by a stalker who may or may not really exist. Modern Hollywood bigwigs frequently stay at the Fairmont when in town.

‘The Hearse’

Copy Link

This now-obscure 1980 haunter starring Joseph Cotton and featuring Trish Van Devere as a woman who inherits a possibly haunted house shot mostly in LA but feature an EXTENSIVE on-location driving sequence in San Francisco, including a well-timed shot of Van Devere driving past the Hyde Street cable car.

This all has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, but director George Bowers seemed very keen to show off views of the city nevertheless.

‘Criminally Insane’

Copy Link

By modern standards, titling a movie Criminally Insane is a little insensitive, but at least it beats this 1975 exploitation slasher’s alternative title: Crazy Fat Ethel.

The current residents of this Western Addition Victorian are probably better off not knowing that the house featured prominently in this bottom-barrel offering from the director of Dracula In Vegas. But in a way this is still a warped claim to fame, as Criminally Insane maintains a following as one of the best horrible movies ever made.

‘The Birds’

Copy Link

Alfred Hitchcock shot most of The Birds in Bodega Bay, but the crucial pet shop scene in the beginning happens on Maiden Lane.

Although the movie is mostly based on a 1952 book, Hitchcock was also inspired by a real incident in 1961 in which thousands of seabirds around Santa Cruz went nuts in the middle of the night and started dive bombing buildings and humans.

‘Interview with the Vampire’

Copy Link

Chronically depressed vampire Brad Pitt starts out in New Orleans but of course drifts into the City by the Bay sooner or later, narrating his story from a Market Street hotel.

There actually never has been a hotel in this building, but the exterior is still a ringer for the one from the opening of the 1997 film.

‘Raising Cain’

Copy Link

Brian De Palma tried to channel some Hitchcock vibes of his own in this 1992 thriller about murder conspiracies and a doctor fighting his fractured personalities. It was shot mostly on the Peninsula, dubbed the town of "Bay View" in the movie--ha ha. The dream sequence where a statue stabs a woman at the Legion of Honor is really something else.

‘Zodiac’

Copy Link

The Game and The Social Network director David Fincher also popped into town for his 2007 thriller about the Zodiac murders...but just barely.

Other than some shooting at the San Francisco Chronicle building, most of the city locales were stand-ins or digital creations. That's the problem with Hollywood: It's all an illusion.

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)

Copy Link

This remake with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy about emotionless alien doppelgangers slowly infiltrating the city is often reckoned a better film than the 1956 original, and certainly the more horrifying of the two.

The harrowing final scene plays out alongside the sycamore trees in Civic Center Plaza, which themselves look rather alien when bare.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’

Copy Link

It may be the ultimate Halloween movie, and one of the rare films shot 100 percent in San Francisco.

Director Henry Selick did the entire thing at Skellington Studios, an unmarked warehouse on Seventh Street that served as everything from sound stages to creature shop. That means we can say something no other city can: This really is Halloween Town.

‘Vertigo’

Copy Link

Maybe no San Francisco movie so excites film buffs as Vertigo.

The Buena Vista building is supposedly a sanitarium in the film, but actually it's a rather lovely residential building full of very expensive condos for truly devoted fans who want the ultimate piece of Hitchcock memorabilia.

‘All About Evil’

Copy Link

Local drag connoisseur of all things in tastefully bad taste Peaches Christ wrote and directed this 2010 gore satire set mostly at the Victoria and chronicling a descent from moviemaking into madness. It’s not hard to catch the film’s open admiration for fellow SF camp champ John Waters.

‘Pacific Heights’

Copy Link

Roger Ebert declared this 1990 thriller a “horror movie for yuppies,” in which an unhinged Michael Keaton menaces a well-to-do couple. Despite the film’s title, the centerpiece home used for shooting was actually located in Potrero Hill.

‘Phantasm’

Copy Link

This surreal 1979 nightmare about a sinister undertaker raising the dead is one of the strangest cult films ever made, noted for its dreamlike cinematography and shocking (but bizarre) but violence.

The beautiful, historic Dunsmuir House in Oakland served for the movie’s creepy funeral home.

‘Burnt Offerings’

Copy Link

And that was not the Dunsmuir Estate’s only contribution to horror history; three years earlier the house made its film debut in Burnt Offerings, about a dream home that drives its occupants to murder.

‘The Game’

Copy Link

A psychological thriller in which one percenter Michael Douglas signs up for a mysterious, flash mob-like game, only to start suspecting it's a plot against him. The use of the zoo as the setting for one late scene calls into question whether Douglas has turned the tables on his tormentors or is himself still trapped.

‘It Came From Beneath the Sea’

Copy Link

A giant, radioactive octopus menacing the waterfront, the Ferry Building, and the Golden Gate Bridge sounds like it would be one of the greatest movies ever made. In truth, this 1955 creature feature is pretty dull, but at least legendary chime monster maker Ray Harryhausen's octopus looks cool.

‘Experiment in Terror’

Copy Link

The 1962 thriller about a woman blackmailed into a daring robbery by a creepy, mysterious man identified only by his heavy breathing features a tense standoff at then-new Candlestick Park, and even a shootout on the pitcher's mound. The ballpark appeared little different than it did in its last days before demolition.

‘The Dead Pit’

Copy Link

This straight-to-VHS schlockfest by the director of Virtuosity and The Lawnmower Man about a demonic brain surgeon turning patients into zombies shot almost entirely at the site of Agnews Developmental Center in Santa Clara, a real circa 1885 mental hospital that’s since been demolished.

‘Winchester’

Copy Link

It’s surprising that it took so long for someone to shoot a horror movie on location in the Bay Area’s most famous allegedly haunted house.

This 2018 haunter from Australian fillmmakers the Spierig brothers starred Oscar winner Helen Mirren as the widow Wichester in a house full of ghosts. Despite the pedigree, the movie mostly shot blanks, but it did scare up quite a box office profit nevertheless.

‘The Lost Boys’

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Possibly no major Hollywood director’s movies age as poorly as Joel Schumacher, but this 1987 camp vampire fest is the big exception, getting only more delicious every year.

Set in the fictional city of Santa Carla (with all its damn vampires), Schumacher actually shot in Santa Cruz, including gauzy carnival scenes at the Boardwalk, which often hosts screenings of the film.

‘Us’

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Jordan Peele won an Oscar for his groundbreaking horror-drama Get Out in 2018, then followed it up almost immediately with this shocking Santa Cruz scarefest about homicidal doppelgangers.

The beach funhouse where the most critical scenes play out isn’t real, but if someone doesn’t open a facsimile on location it’ll be a real missed opportunity.

‘Shadow of a Doubt’

Rather than Psycho, Vertigo, or The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock declared 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt his favorite of his own films.

The “small town” Santa Rosa setting was crucial to that appeal, as Hitch relished the idea of introducing a ruthless serial killer into what he imagined to be an idyllic and unassuming Northern California community.

‘Scream’

This surprise 1996 hit banked over $170 million and resurrected the then-moribund slasher genre.

Director Wes Craven shot all over Sonoma County, and the movie’s shocking opening scene with Drew Barrymore menaced by a voyeuristic killer with a cell phone (a creative touch at the time) took place in a house just southeast of the city.

‘Twixt’

All-time auteur Francis Ford Coppola shot this 2011 vampire thriller around his own North Bay properties, and cast some local theater talent in supporting roles as well.

The movie was supposed to be an experimental piece in which most scenes would play in a different order every time the movie screened, but this gimmick never really happened, the final film is deeply confused, and Coppola sadly hasn’t directed anything since. At least star Val Kilmer seems to be having fun.

‘Cujo’

Petaluma‘s filmmaking history includes luminary films like American Graffiti, but this Stephen King thriller in which a killer mad dog menaces ET star Dee Wallace is possibly the town’s most unforgettable cinematic contribution.

‘The Fog’

By rights any movie called The Fog ought to be obligated to shoot in San Francisco. But John Carpenter couldn’t find a suitably remote and nautically oriented city locale for his 1980 ghost pirate tale, so Bodega Bay netted the honors.

‘Sphere’

This weird sci-fi thriller based on a Michael Crichton book isolates its cast on an ocean floor lab with an alien presence.

Hollywood came looking for closed naval bases and shot most of the movie at Mare Island in Vallejo, but climbed aboard our own SS Jeremiah O'Brien for a few shots too, since movies set at sea generally demand at least one ship.

‘Predator 2’

This 1990 sequel about an alien big game hunter loose in the big city is set in Los Angeles and relies heavily on its LA atmosphere. Why the project chose to shoot a subway scene on a BART train is anybody’s guess, but the vehicle is distinctive to any Bay Area commuter.

‘The Chilling’

This 1989 cold fish featuring Linda Blair and zombies menacing a cryogenics lab on Halloween night (also released as The Thawing) is set in Kansas City but lists several East Bay locales in its credits, including Oakland.

The Town probably could have done without this one in its ouvre, but you don’t get to pick your laurels.

‘The House on Telegraph Hill’

This 1951 murder mystery looked high and higher still for the most dramatic hilltop location in town.

Most of the movie shot on a stage in LA, but there really was a house on Telegraph Hill, and it's still there: the noted Julius Castle restaurant on Montgomery, presently mired in a fight with neighbors over its bid to reopen.

You wouldn't recognize the locale from the movie, though, because filmmakers erected a Victorian facade around the real thing.

‘Stigmata’

Being an exorcism movie of sorts, the 1999 flop Stigmata necessarily includes a trip to Rome. But it's not really Vatican City you're seeing, it's the Palace of Fine Arts, and every monk and nun in the streets was an extra from San Francisco.

‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’

Yeah, not many scares in this 1978 spoof, which lampoons countless truly scary movies, including The Birds.

Though mostly shot in San Diego, filmmakers did fly in for a scene of a tomato monster menacing the Hyde Street cable car.

‘Sudden Fear’

David MIller’s 1952 Sudden Fear, in which Joan Crawford suspects that her husband is plotting to murder her, shows off Pac Heights and Cow Hollow in all of their glory.

Crawford's character even lived in the palatial 2800 Scott Street, right next door to the city's longtime most expensive home for sale.

‘Godzilla’ (2014)

The Transamerica Pyramid (which was notably not destroyed in the film) provides handy scale for this Americanized king of monsters outing: Godzilla's size has varied with the years, but he was about 350 feet tall this time around.

The 2019 sequel didn’t bother to return to town, but that’s probably for the best given how it turned out.

‘Monster In the Closet’

This 1986 creature feature spoof featuring (of all people) a very young Paul Walker concludes with the titular and rather sluggish monstrosity frantically searching the Transamerica Pyramid for a closet to hide in.

Well, some people find it funny.

“Big Trouble In Little China” (1986)

This tongue-in-cheek adventure movie about martial arts and mysticism isn’t even kind of scary. But it was directed by horror master John Carpenter, and it does unleash a few gruesome monsters into the Chinatown Streets.

(The fact that a remake is looming makes it even scarier.)

‘Midnight Lace’

Hitchcock shot at the Fairmont Hotel for "Vertigo," which made it quite an attractive locale for his many imitators.

These included David Miller, who set up shop here in 1960 for "Midnight Lace," about a woman tormented by a stalker who may or may not really exist. Modern Hollywood bigwigs frequently stay at the Fairmont when in town.

‘The Hearse’

This now-obscure 1980 haunter starring Joseph Cotton and featuring Trish Van Devere as a woman who inherits a possibly haunted house shot mostly in LA but feature an EXTENSIVE on-location driving sequence in San Francisco, including a well-timed shot of Van Devere driving past the Hyde Street cable car.

This all has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, but director George Bowers seemed very keen to show off views of the city nevertheless.

‘Criminally Insane’

By modern standards, titling a movie Criminally Insane is a little insensitive, but at least it beats this 1975 exploitation slasher’s alternative title: Crazy Fat Ethel.

The current residents of this Western Addition Victorian are probably better off not knowing that the house featured prominently in this bottom-barrel offering from the director of Dracula In Vegas. But in a way this is still a warped claim to fame, as Criminally Insane maintains a following as one of the best horrible movies ever made.

‘The Birds’

Alfred Hitchcock shot most of The Birds in Bodega Bay, but the crucial pet shop scene in the beginning happens on Maiden Lane.

Although the movie is mostly based on a 1952 book, Hitchcock was also inspired by a real incident in 1961 in which thousands of seabirds around Santa Cruz went nuts in the middle of the night and started dive bombing buildings and humans.

‘Interview with the Vampire’

Chronically depressed vampire Brad Pitt starts out in New Orleans but of course drifts into the City by the Bay sooner or later, narrating his story from a Market Street hotel.

There actually never has been a hotel in this building, but the exterior is still a ringer for the one from the opening of the 1997 film.

‘Raising Cain’

Brian De Palma tried to channel some Hitchcock vibes of his own in this 1992 thriller about murder conspiracies and a doctor fighting his fractured personalities. It was shot mostly on the Peninsula, dubbed the town of "Bay View" in the movie--ha ha. The dream sequence where a statue stabs a woman at the Legion of Honor is really something else.

‘Zodiac’

The Game and The Social Network director David Fincher also popped into town for his 2007 thriller about the Zodiac murders...but just barely.

Other than some shooting at the San Francisco Chronicle building, most of the city locales were stand-ins or digital creations. That's the problem with Hollywood: It's all an illusion.

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)

This remake with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy about emotionless alien doppelgangers slowly infiltrating the city is often reckoned a better film than the 1956 original, and certainly the more horrifying of the two.

The harrowing final scene plays out alongside the sycamore trees in Civic Center Plaza, which themselves look rather alien when bare.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’

It may be the ultimate Halloween movie, and one of the rare films shot 100 percent in San Francisco.

Director Henry Selick did the entire thing at Skellington Studios, an unmarked warehouse on Seventh Street that served as everything from sound stages to creature shop. That means we can say something no other city can: This really is Halloween Town.

‘Vertigo’

Maybe no San Francisco movie so excites film buffs as Vertigo.

The Buena Vista building is supposedly a sanitarium in the film, but actually it's a rather lovely residential building full of very expensive condos for truly devoted fans who want the ultimate piece of Hitchcock memorabilia.

‘All About Evil’

Local drag connoisseur of all things in tastefully bad taste Peaches Christ wrote and directed this 2010 gore satire set mostly at the Victoria and chronicling a descent from moviemaking into madness. It’s not hard to catch the film’s open admiration for fellow SF camp champ John Waters.

‘Pacific Heights’

Roger Ebert declared this 1990 thriller a “horror movie for yuppies,” in which an unhinged Michael Keaton menaces a well-to-do couple. Despite the film’s title, the centerpiece home used for shooting was actually located in Potrero Hill.

‘Phantasm’

This surreal 1979 nightmare about a sinister undertaker raising the dead is one of the strangest cult films ever made, noted for its dreamlike cinematography and shocking (but bizarre) but violence.

The beautiful, historic Dunsmuir House in Oakland served for the movie’s creepy funeral home.

‘Burnt Offerings’

And that was not the Dunsmuir Estate’s only contribution to horror history; three years earlier the house made its film debut in Burnt Offerings, about a dream home that drives its occupants to murder.

‘The Game’

A psychological thriller in which one percenter Michael Douglas signs up for a mysterious, flash mob-like game, only to start suspecting it's a plot against him. The use of the zoo as the setting for one late scene calls into question whether Douglas has turned the tables on his tormentors or is himself still trapped.

‘It Came From Beneath the Sea’

A giant, radioactive octopus menacing the waterfront, the Ferry Building, and the Golden Gate Bridge sounds like it would be one of the greatest movies ever made. In truth, this 1955 creature feature is pretty dull, but at least legendary chime monster maker Ray Harryhausen's octopus looks cool.

‘Experiment in Terror’

The 1962 thriller about a woman blackmailed into a daring robbery by a creepy, mysterious man identified only by his heavy breathing features a tense standoff at then-new Candlestick Park, and even a shootout on the pitcher's mound. The ballpark appeared little different than it did in its last days before demolition.

‘The Dead Pit’

This straight-to-VHS schlockfest by the director of Virtuosity and The Lawnmower Man about a demonic brain surgeon turning patients into zombies shot almost entirely at the site of Agnews Developmental Center in Santa Clara, a real circa 1885 mental hospital that’s since been demolished.

‘Winchester’

It’s surprising that it took so long for someone to shoot a horror movie on location in the Bay Area’s most famous allegedly haunted house.

This 2018 haunter from Australian fillmmakers the Spierig brothers starred Oscar winner Helen Mirren as the widow Wichester in a house full of ghosts. Despite the pedigree, the movie mostly shot blanks, but it did scare up quite a box office profit nevertheless.