Small Towns You Don’t Want to Be In

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A Top Ten List

Humans are herd animals. We've always lived together – in groups of only a couple of hundred in our prehistoric days right up to tens of millions today. But few places are more fertile for movie lore than the small town. Big enough for webs of human drams, small enough for the character and personality giant cities with their neon anonymity can never offer, small towns are the breeding ground for love, old-world values and family. But there's a dark side to many of them...

1. Barrow, Alaska

30 Days of Night, 2007

There's no better place to hunker down and stay indoors with the fire burning and a huge stash of DVDs. Only this year, you'd better stock up on crucifixes, garlic and the odd axe as well. For a band of roving vampires, a small town cut off from civilisation by impenetrable weather high above the Arctic Circle where the sun descends for a whole month at a time is a smorgasbord.

2. Machine

Dead Man, 1995

Jim Jarmusch's alt western serves up a picture of the brutal frontier we've never seen before. When mild mannered accountant William (Johnny Depp) arrives for a clerical job, he learns his fearsome boss (Robert Mitchum in one of his last roles) has given his job away. Scared, alone and at a loss, William engages a local lady of the night and kills his would-be boss' son in a lover's spat. On the run from reprisal at the hands the most fearsome contract killer and cannibal ever in a western (Lance Henriksen), William falls in with a Native American who takes him on an even freakier trip.

3. Gunnison, Colorado

Alien vs Predator – Requiem, 2007

If only because of the budget, the besieged Predator ship from the end of the original Alien vs Predator might have crashed into the middle of Los Angeles or Tokyo. But if you happen to live in the small Rocky Mountain town (maybe not far from South Park), you're in for it. If the aliens and predators scouring the town hunting each other don't catch you in the crossfire, the military determined to contain the threat will... when they nuke your town off the face of the earth.

4. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo, 1996

Whenever there's a huge stash of money buried in the snow, there's going to be blood, and no matter what your motivations it's going to affect you. It starts with a seemingly harmless swindle when Jerry (William H Macy) tries to have his wife kidnapped so he can engineer a ransom from his wealthy father in law. But from the get go, inept henchmen Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi lay waste to everything they touch, double crossing everyone else and each other as the race for the cash gets bloodier by the minute. Living in Fargo might land you dangerously in debt, shoved through a mulcher or at least heavily pregnant while you try to go about your detective work.

5. Woodsboro

Scream, 1996

Its bad enough that the mother of local girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) was murdered a year before, but on the anniversary of her death a killer strikes again, bumping off kids Sidney knows and then working his way through her friends. Could her mothers' murder be related? Worse still, how do you escape a killer who knows all the rules of slasher film lore and still resist the temptation to say 'I'll be right back?'

6. Haddonfield, Illinois

Halloween , 1978

Unlike Rob Zombie's 2007 redux, we don't see exactly what made Michael Myers snap, but one Halloween night he murdered his entire family, sparing only his baby sister Laurie before clamming up for good and developing a disturbing mask fetish. Michael grows up to be about seven feet tall and virtually indestructible, and when he escapes from the institution where he's spent most of his life, only his doctor – Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) – knows for sure where he's going. As if Laurie doesn't have enough worries with school and boys, now she has a psychotic serial killer brother butchering anyone who stands in the way of his quest to reach her.

7. Akron, Ohio

The Dead Next Door, 1988

One of movie history's many zombie plagues starts in an Akron basement where a scientist accidentally unleashes something terrible. Fast-forward a few years and the country is overrun with the hungry living dead, and a government task force (the Zombie Squad) is sent in, complete with a crappy early 80s sedan with Zombie Squad stickers peeling off the doors that probably belonged to the producers Mum. Worse still, Akron is home to a religious cult that considers the zombies the inevitable fate of humanity, all who oppose them infected with the virus or fed to the hordes they keep caged up.

8. Lumberton

Blue Velvet, 1986

On the surface, Lumberton's a postcard-perfect place, thriving off the timber industry and full of white picket fences and friendly neighbours. But when David Lynch makes a movie about your town, the psychotic, oxygen-addicted drug dealer/killer Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) is only the last stop in a twisted path of bizarre threats to your sexuality, the burgeoning relationship with the police chief's daughter, your sanity and your life.

9. Kingston Falls

Gremlins, 1986

Producer Steven Spielberg and director Joe Dante made no secret of homaging Bedford Falls, the town from It's a Wonderful Life in their rollicking creature feature, even having the film playing on TV in several scenes. But Kingston Falls is also the town out of a dozen 50s B horror movies, where the police don't believe the young hero until it's too late and he has to save the day, get the girl and defeat the army of pint sized monsters.

10. Santa Mira, California

Invasion of the Body Snatchers , 1956

Were director Don Siegel and original author Jack Finney commenting on the effects of modern life to turn people into soulless automatons decades before George A Romero in his definitive Dawn of the Dead ? We might never know, but when mild mannered doctor Miles (Kevin McCarthy) starts hearing strange stories from his friends, patients and neighbours that loved ones just aren't themselves, it's the key to an insidious alien takeover plot to replace people with soulless doubles who'll spread their gestation pods across America. Reds under the bed or not, remember – you're next! You're next!

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