This column is very simple. It’s a call to action, of sorts, to local filmmakers. Chattanooga—with its colorful history and economic turnaround—is missing a key component of a major city. That’s right. Where is our horror movie? The "Halloween" franchise was set in sleepy Pasadena, Calif. The Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Ore., was featured in Stephen King’s "The Shining." Hell, even Burkittsville, Md. (population 200), is now secured in the horror movie hall of fame as the origin of the "Blair Witch Project." Despite having claim to the films "42" and a single scene in "Identity Thief," Chattanooga has not a single horror representation. Let’s change that. Here are five ideas for horror movie plots set in our beautiful city. Do you have any of your own?
This movie would have a plot based on history and urban legend. Chattanooga’s mysterious “underground” is actually a series of tunnels left abandoned when the street level was raised throughout the downtown in the early 1900s to avoid flooding. But what happens when the homeless move into these tunnels and start breeding? That’s right, our own strange version of CHUD with a Southern twist. The story could center on the classic theme of missing people and the search for their bodies. This search could lead into the abandoned underground. What happens next is the ultimate battle between Chattanoogans and the forgotten, now cannibalistic and zombie-fied, homeless dwellers.
"The Beast of Mushroom Rock"
I’ve never actually seen a “good” Bigfoot movie in my years of watching horror movies ("Harry and the Hendersons" doesn’t count). With miles of hiking trails and navigable forest, Chattanooga would be the perfect setting for the ULTIMATE Bigfoot film. I envision a plot that starts with a couple of hikers. They should probably run across a large, hairy creature consuming the carcass of a bear. The media grabs onto the story, and a full-on hunt begins. What they don’t expect to find is an entire Sasquatch community living on Signal Mountain near Mushroom Rock. And to make matters worse, apparently they’ve started breeding with the local townsfolk.
A classic haunted hotel plot would work well in Chattanooga’s Sheraton Read House because it’s already famously haunted anyway. Nothing about this plot needs to change because the history is terrifying enough. Strange things start happening to people staying in room 311, especially middle-aged men. The apparition of a female appears to guests and forces an early exodus during the middle of the night. A team of paranormal investigators is called upon to investigate the room. What they find amounts to the first “real” evidence of the existence of the paranormal. Unfortunately, the entire team is killed during the investigation. Who is this ghost? And what can be done to stop her from killing again? This movie would star Jennifer Lawrence and James Belushi (why not?).
On their way to the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, a group of five horny college kids gets lost somewhere near Soddy-Daisy. When all four of their vehicle’s tires inexplicably fall off, the kids are forced to hike their way to the festival. They run across a seemingly abandoned house and take refuge for the night. But something is wrong. It’s too quiet ... far ... too ... quiet. Deciding to ignore the silence, the college kids begin to have sexual intercourse. It’s during this consummation that the “locals” arrive. What follows is a mixture of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Calvaire": The female teens are eaten while the males are conditioned to be the “wives” of lonely farmer men. Can they escape to see Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform at Bonnaroo? Or are they forced to live their lives as sex slaves to burly men?
Can 1,000 people live together on an 18-acre island in the middle of a river? What if it were a matter of life or death, survival or the extinction of mankind? The year is 2070, and a deadly flesh-eating virus has spread throughout the world. The virus, nicknamed “medusa” because of its ability to turn humans into living statues, has managed to destroy life as we know it. Millions are infected via various fast-food chains. Only those who have maintained a strict diet of locally grown produce have survived. The only place left unaffected is a tiny island in Chattanooga. Can one small group of farmers save an entire nation? Or will these gentle folks have to start killing to survive? There can also be a ton of monkeys for some reason—perhaps for comic relief.