The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… The Legacy Of “Candyman”

Pripyat today.

When English horror writer Clive Barker wrote the short story “The Forbidden” in the mid-Eighties, he set it in Britain – but when it begat a movie, its location was understandably switched to America.

This actually made it MORE ghastly, since much of it was set in an abandoned public housing block. In Britain, “tower blocks” are merely depressing – but American “projects” are DISTURBING.

Add to that a minimalist score by Philip Glass and you have a movie many called the most frightening of all time.

It certainly scared the shit out of me. If you HAVE seen it – I defy you to go into your bathroom alone afterwards, look into the mirror and say “Candyman” five times.

But when you think about it, what really SOLD the piece was its LOCATION.

Now “Candyman” was made in 1992 – and as is usual with these things, it took Hollywood several years to realise its potential.

In fact it took the 2008 crash to galvanise the location scouts into action.

You see, there are traditionally three places to shoot a movie…

In the studio. In the old days, pretty much ALL movies were shot in studios – with exterior scenes shot by Second Units (using doubles for the actors) and static ten-minute film-loops made for back-projection in the studio.

On the backlot. These were tacked on to the backs of studio lots and featured anonymous, neutral city blocks – which could be decked out with props to look like most anywhere.

And on location.

However, now that money is tight, all three of these places are problematical. Studio time – particularly in the West – does not come cheap. Hence the number of studio-bound movies that are shot in Second-World countries (Eastern Europe, Mexico, etc.)

And while backlots have enjoyed a revival of late – film-fans are no longer fooled by the flat, trackless roads, sharp-edged kerbs, featureless upper windows and obvious “planted” street furniture.

Meanwhile, thanks to bureaucracy, Health & Safety and sheer GREED, filming on location is simply out of the question for all but the biggest-budgeted extravaganzas. And thanks to ever-falling attendances, THEY are becoming as rare as unicorn poop.

Enter the “ghost town”.

The thing is, over the last couple of centuries – particularly the last ONE – natural disasters, man-made disasters, ecological disasters, financial disasters and even NUCLEAR disasters have caused not only towns, but a number of CITIES to be abandoned. These days, there are a whole SLEW of them.

And they contain some of the most bizarre, creepy and unsettling backdrops imaginable.

For instance, the picture at the top of this piece shows Pripyat, Ukraine – abandoned after nearby Chernobyl blew its stack. Only built in 1970, it has been deserted since 1986.

After being flooded with lethal levels of radiation, the population cleared out in two days flat. They even left the Ferris wheel behind (it still stands today).

But with radiation levels now reduced to a safe level (provided your shoot is reasonably short) a number of films have been shot there.

Then there is Hashima Island. Developed in 1887 for coal mining, it was abandoned in the Seventies, when oil began to replace coal.

“Skyfall” was intending to shoot there, but problems arose and in the end, most of the shots used CGI and mock-ups of the place. But then again, the Bond budget could afford it.

However, the original intent was there. The fact is, many people are FASCINATED by these places. There are even tourist companies who specialise in organising trips to them.

And for film-makers who can get unfettered access, the possibilities are extensive – you can even DESTROY some of them.

Of course, those possibilities are not unlimited – you could not shoot “The Sound Of Music” in one. But for a certain kind of movie they are tailor-made.

Then again, like all new Hollywood trends – these locations will have a limited shelf-life. In short order, people will tire of post-apocalyptic movies shot in obviously real, abandoned cities. Then Hollywood will have to think of something else.

But over the next few years, expect to see MORE of these derelict places finding their way into your movie fare.


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