Cleveland's own Wes Craven would cement Ohio as the prime location for horror in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The iconic Freddy films are based in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio but Freddy Krueger's roots are based in reality, inspired by an experience Craven had while living in Cleveland as a child. Other films took note and began treating Ohio as the perfect location for trouble in American paradise.
The darkly comedic Heathers and sci-fi monster flick The Faculty use Ohio as a means to dissect the horrors of the American high school experience. “This is a football town, let me remind you,” says the principle to her forlorn colleague at Herrington High (home to the hornets!); “you’re not getting out of Ohio.” A PTSD-inducing line for all the geeks in the audience who managed to escape the anti-intellectual jock culture of the Midwest. And the presumed safety of a fictional university in Ohio during Scream 2 fails to offer any sense of relief for the characters retreating from California. Turns out Ohio ain’t so safe after all.
While most of these films set in Ohio aren't actually shot here, (see previous post) Ohio serves as a more relatable location for someone in a state like Iowa or Oklahoma. To anyone in the Heartland, Indiana appears too rural, Michigan's reputation is plagued with grittiness from places like Detroit and Flint, and given that Illinois is often associated with Chicago (despite the state being predominately rural), it makes perfect sense that Ohio would take the crown for fictional horror settings. To anyone outside the US, Ohio is anonymous enough to provide a unifying viewing experience. You can project whatever you want onto Ohio.
Ohio is not only the heart of American horror, figuratively speaking, it’s also the birthplace of fantasy and science fiction. Growing up feeling like an alien in Cincinnati, Ohio served as the springboard that would catapult Steven Spielberg to becoming the most successful Hollywood director of all time. Laced with escapist fantasy, Super 8, set in a small town in Ohio, represents the transportive power of movie making for a kid with a camera who didn’t belong.