Sin City Horrors – A Nostalgic Review of Terror in Las Vegas

The warm weather in Portland has made me kind of homesick for Las Vegas, where I lived before for almost my entire life. I love the city and always will. I love the heat and the electric atmosphere and the always alive energy of it.

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And it’s actually always been kind of horror-friendly, though some may never have known. Eli Roth chose Vegas as the testing grounds for his bar/year-round haunted house, Goretorium, and there’s several zombie apocalypse themed businesses in the valley, including a survival outlet, a shooting range experience, and The End, a bar that was featured on the hit show Bar Rescue. There’s even been two horror hosts in the city’s history! 

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You think such a unique, iconic city would make it an interesting setting for a horror movie, but there’s really only a few out there. And of those few, only a couple I think have succeeded in portraying the city in the wild, vibrant, proudly trashy but still luxurious way it should be. So take a trip with me back home, or as close as I can currently get, as I rundown the most notable Las Vegas set horror flicks!

Fake Vegas

Darkness Falls, the craptacular tooth fairy monster flick, came out with a movie-tie in novel before it was released. Curious and young, I read it, and was surprised that the main character Kyle, who was attacked by the Tooth Fairy as a child and is now terrified of darkness, had moved to Las Vegas, a city basically illuminated 24 hours a day. Sadly, in the film, this aspect of the story is reduced to a quick stock-footage shot of The Strip and nothing more. Similarly, Hostel 3, which supposedly takes place entirely in Las Vegas, really fails to portray the city. How? Well, aside from exterior shots of The Strip, the casino location was actually in Detroit.

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The last mention in films that barely touch upon their LV setting is the surprisingly decent horror Come Back to Me, based on the novel The Resurrectionist. In it, a woman discovers that her creepy neighbor has the ability to bring back the dead… and that he’s been killing her and reviving her on the daily just to do it again and again. However, aside from the main gal’s card dealing hubby and a night out for the two of them, the city is barely represented and even the suburb setting looks more LA than LV.

Vegas Destroyed

In Resident Evil: Extinction, Las Vegas is shown as an empty, apocalyptic ruin that has been reclaimed by the desert sands around it. Sure, the iconic casinos are represented, but it’s all computer effects and miniature models. Still, I have never minded a Vegas wasteland scene.

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Destruction Las Vegas, a SyFy-grade disaster flick is also a guilty pleasure and a crumbling Strip was the only part I remember from the disastrous mess of the disaster movie 2012.

Vegas Jackpot

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You might be surprised at the two films I’ll mention here, but when it comes down to it, they both actually did a decent job of portraying my home city as accurately as their plots allowed. The first is Leprechaun 3, which is my favorite sequel of the little green guy’s franchise. It’s got bright lights, redneck glamour, and a great cast of cliché Vegas characters; A magician and his sexy assistant, a busty Vegas cougar, pawn shop owners, and of course an in-over-his-head new boy in town. Better yet is that it was actually filmed in Las Vegas!

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Above them all though sits the remake of the horror favorite, Fright Night. Say what you will, but as far as horror remakes go, this is no where near the worst. It had a fun cast, appropriate humor, and a new setting in Las Vegas which aided in Peter Vincent’s character switch from horror host to goth-glam occult-orientated Stripside stage magician! Real Vegas shots plus real casino shots made me a happy camper, but it was actually the Vegas suburbia setting that struck a chord with me.

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Fright Night was the first horror I can recall that showed Vegas as it was beyond The Strip, and while I’m pretty sure most of those scenes were actually filmed in New Mexico, I thought the filmmakers did a great job showing how Vegas’ suburban sprawl is spreading further out into the desert where the lights of the city aren’t bright enough to illuminate the darkness.

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Any other Vegas horror flicks you know about? Drop me a line because I’m always up to watch some blood being spilled in the place my nostalgic heart calls home!

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