In honor of our Ghost issue, Jon Roth curates a hand-picked list of horror films tinged with a taste of Cape May.
Not everyone can stomach scary movies (just like some of us can’t stand romantic comedies). But even if you sleep with a nightlight, the six films below are worth the Netflix rental: they’re classic by any standard, and each offers a salty Cape May flavor. Watch them and not only will you be conversant with your film buff friends, but you’ll know what to do when a deadly fog rolls in toward the lighthouse.
Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg filmed the ultimate shark thriller in Martha’s Vineyard, but the resort town of Amity Island is eerily close to Cape May (the mayor drools over tourists’ “summer dollars” every time he appears). Starring Roy Scheider as the town police chief with a heavy conscience and Robert Shaw as the shark-slayer so salty he’s only missing a peg-leg, Jaws will keep you on dry land for a while.
The Shining (1980) Jack Nicholson dominates with twitchy, neurotic gestures and sinister smiles. He takes a job as winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, and brings along his wife and son. What follows is a story of cabin fever compounded by alcoholism, writer’s block, and psychic visions as the family gets acquainted with their new home. Kubrick’s haunted hotel makes you wonder what went down in the Chalfonte Hotel during the Great Blizzard of 2010.
Last House on the Left (1972) Director Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes, Nightmare on Elm Street) debuted with a tale of two teenage girls who they leave their rural homes to visit the big city. Both girls are abducted by escaped convicts and driven to the country – back to their neighborhood. The twist in the second half is worth the wait. Will make you think twice before sending your daughters out of West Cape May and into Philly.
The Fog (1980) The seaside town of Antonio Bay prepares for its centennial when a silvery fog rolls in off the coast. Not coincidentally, townspeople start to die. Turns out Antonio Bay has a dark secret involving a burning ship of lepers, and now the lepers are back to exact their revenge. The film culminates with a damsel in distress batting away baddies at the top of a lighthouse. Cape May celebrated its quadricentennial last year – let’s hope we don’t get four times the carnage.
The Birds (1963) In this Hitchcock classic a city girl visits Bodega Bay, near San Francisco, where the birds grow wilder daily. First she’s molested by an offending sea gull (something we’ve all experienced on the beach), but the attacks escalate rapidly, including a harrowing scene of schoolchildren fleeing hordes of crows. The film gives you new respect for the folks at the Cape May Bird Observatory – thank god someone’s watching the skies.
The Ring (2002) Things turn really grim in this psychological thriller when Naomi Watts visits Moesko Island, Washington. On her ferry trip, Watts approaches a horse restrained inside a metal trailer. Within seconds the animal become hysterical, breaks its bonds, gallops across the ferry deck and hurls itself overboard, only to reappear in a bloody cloud by the ferry propellers. Lucky the Cape May-Lewes Ferry doesn’t traffic in livestock.