Nothing brings us more joy here in Manchester than when we spot a film crew out and about, or decipher a northern landmark in our favourite films. Since it’s spooky season, we’ve delved into the horrific, identifying horror films and television series that were either set or filmed in or around Greater Manchester – understandably, it’s pretty niche, so we’ve been generous with our definition of ‘near’ Manchester, but all locations are within a day-trip travelling distance… if you dare to visit.
Horror films set in Greater Manchester
1. 28 Days Later (2002)
Strong out of the blocks is the iconic gritty zombie/apocalypse flick inspired by cultural anxieties of the time, 28 Days Later from 2002. Although the beginning of the film is very much cemented in Central London, with famous landmarks littering the desolate grey landscape, the film soon sees Jim (Cillian Murphy) and co zooming along the deserted roads of Britain, stopping off in Manchester, not far from director Danny Boyle’s birthplace of Radcliffe.
The group can be seen bolting down the empty M602, a rarity as many commuters will know, with the city of Manchester engulfed in fire in the distance. They later arrive at an eerie mansion where the friends-turned-foes military group led by a menacing Christopher Eccleston have set up shop, called the Forty-Second Blockade. This is a fictional part of Manchester, and was actually filmed near Salisbury, but after things turn sour at the mansion, the group heads for the Lake District where they live happily as a family in a farmhouse in the Ennerdale Water area. Why not take a trip and have a look for yourself?
2. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie AKA The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)
A Spanish-Italian science fiction zombie horror film might seem an odd production to use Manchester as a starting point, but Let Sleeping Corpses Lie has become a true cult favourite in horror fandom, released under the name The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue in the UK. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jorge Grau, the film focuses on two protagonists who are harassed by a local police investigator in the English countryside and are implicated in murders committed by zombies who have been brought to life by a farming tool designed to kill insects via ultra-sonic radiation.
The opening montage was filmed in Manchester city centre, featuring shots from inside an antiques shop, where protagonist George (Ray Lovelock) sets off on his motorbike towards Manchester Cathedral. As George makes the journey from Manchester to the Lake District, a series of strange goings-on means he gets stuck in the mysterious village of Southgate, where Barnes Hospital in Cheadle is used for exterior shots, and other locations include Castleton and Windermere, alongside Italian stand-ins for North West England – who’d have thought?
3. Red Rose (2022)
Created by Bolton-born twins Michael and Paul Clarkson better known as the Clarkson Twins, who’s writing credits include Wheel of Time and The Haunting of Bly Manor, Red Rose is set and filmed in Bolton and shows off the town’s scenic landscapes and Northern Pride.
With smartphones, apps and the online world available at everyone’s fingertips, BBC Three’s horror series Red Rose explores how they can affect people’s lives in the most terrifying way. Some key inspirations for the pair include the horror writer Stephen King, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, HAL 9000 from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and the comedy and localised vernacular of the TV show Derry Girls.
Horror films set just a train ride away from Manchester
4. The Haunting of Pendle Hill (2022)
A much more modern offering, The Haunting of Pendle Hill does what it says on the tin, recounting the story of the reportedly haunted location of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England, a location which was at the heart of a series of notorious and bloody witch hunts in the year 1612. In the film, a young woman makes a terrifying discovery while investigating the disappearance of her historian father.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly a global hit, and with only one review on Rotten Tomatoes (actually a strong 4/5), it isn’t even validated with a score on the Tomatometer. We can imagine it’s a pretty entertaining watch, and who knows if it’s even filmed in the Pendle area, but it’s high time we had a good scare fest horror film set in this suitably haunted location, not far from Manchester.
5. Red Shift (1978)
Red Shift sees Alan Garner’s novel about the time-shifting Cheshire landscape brought to vivid (if occasionally brutal) life by John Mackenzie. Garner’s folk horror-infused fiction has always derived its magic from the Cheshire landscape, specifically of the Arthurian rumblings under his native Alderley Edge and the beautiful plains around.
Red Shift moves this slightly further afield some way down the A34 to Mow Cop as it follows three troubled young men from three different periods in history, all connected by their various emotional traumas and a strange stone said to have fallen from the stars.
6. Ghost Stories (2017)
OK, we’re starting to cheat now since Ghost Stories was set on the Yorkshire coast, but trust us when we say, it really is worth the train ride. Starring famous faces like Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther, Ghost Stories follows skeptic of the supernatural Professor Philip Goodman (Freeman) as he receives an unexpected package containing an audiocassette. After uncovering details of three unexplained cases of apparitions, Phillip embarks on a terrifying trip to find and explanation for each, using the dramatic East Yorkshire coast as a backdrop.
The cases include a former night watchman of an asylum who encountered a ghoulish girl in a yellow dress who hugged him and called him “dada”, resembling his hospitalised daughter; a teenager who was grabbed by a tree creature in the forest after having paranormal experiences at home; and a man whose wife died during childbirth when their beastly baby split her in two, resulting in a poltergeist in the house and horrific happenings in his mind. The stories intertwine and are exacerbated by the brutal East Yorkshire backdrop, worth a visit for the strong-hearted.
7. Saint Maud (2019)
Again, maybe cheating, but northerners will no doubt remember holidays as children to the wonderful seaside town of Scarborough, just a few hours from Manchester, which is where one of the most critically famed modern horror films Saint Maud was filmed and set. With an incredible performance by Morfydd Clark, the reclusive young nurse whose impressionable demeanor causes her to pursue a pious path of Christian devotion after an obscure trauma, is now charged with the hospice care of Amanda, a retired dancer ravaged by cancer.
Maud’s fervent faith quickly inspires an obsessive conviction that she must save her ward’s soul from eternal damnation – whatever the cost. Making her feature-film debut, writer/director Rose Glass lures the audience into this disturbed psyche, steadily setting up her veritable diary of a country nurse for an unnerving and ultimately shocking trajectory, with the seafront of Scarborough providing a harsh aesthetic for much of the film.