Filmmakers Are Drawn to ‘Terrifying Texas’

The Hewitt House
The Hewitt House in Granger Texas, where the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed | Image by Mike Brake/Shutterstock

Filmmakers looking to bring our most terrifying nightmares to the silver screen have frequently turned to Texas as a filming location.

From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Friday the 13th, Texas has served as the eerie backdrop to several spine-tingling classics. In fact, one study found that the state was eclipsed only by California for having the most horror movies filmed in it, logging over 1,000 and almost 2,500, respectively.

So what exactly draws titans of terror, such as the directors behind Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino), to Texas in the first place? James Kendrick, an associate professor of film and digital media at Baylor University, recently provided some insight.

“One thing that’s really important for a certain subset of horror films is rural spaces,” Kendrick told The Texas Tribune. “Texas offers rural, southern, and backwoods horror. They’re all good fodder for horror because they create isolation.”

The varying landscapes of Texas, from the expansive deserts and sunsets in the West to the dense, shady pines in the East, certainly conjure images of majestic beauty or overwhelming terror, depending on the circumstances.

The vast highways stretching across empty landscapes in the Lone Star State also provide the perfect fodder for injecting terror into mundane activities, such as stopping for gas at a pump located in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s getting away from everything society puts in place to keep us safe,” Kendrick said. “Then, you’re in horror territory.”

While Texas’ most iconic villains, such as Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, are fictional characters, the state has its fair share of local ghost stories and haunted locales.

As recently reported by The Dallas Express, one recent study named Texas the most haunted state in the country. The designation came from it having the second-highest number of cemeteries (13,710), as well as the highest numbers of haunted locations and ghost sightings by population, logging 925 and 7,517 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively.

There are also plenty of practical reasons Texas is so favorable to filmmakers more generally. First of all, a number of notables in the industry hail from the state.

“Not a lot of communities can boast about having Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Margaret Brown, and more of these kinds of names,” explained Holly Herrick, head of film and creative media for the Austin Film Society, according to The Texas Tribune. “Texas really does have a robust artist community in addition to having crews in the state.”

Attracting filmmakers to Texas are also the enticing tax breaks and grants for film projects.

Just this year, the Texas Motion Image Industry Incentive Program got a huge boost from state lawmakers, who raised its budget from $45 million to $200 million to promote Texas’ competitive stance in the film industry.

Perhaps Texas will feature in even more horror flicks in the years to come.

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