The 13th Floor

The Horror Of The Second City’s Cinematic Representation

There’s nothing quite like growing up in Chicago. Midwest charm and gorgeous lakefronts nestle what is still one of the most populous and bustling cities in the entire world. It’s a city of diverse people filled with endless amounts of pride, and quite possibly the greatest food ever cooked. Chicago is my home, my heart, and the biggest contributing factor to why I am the way I am.

This past week I followed Derek’s suggestion and binge-watched the entire first season of THE EXORCIST, a TV show that transported a tale inspired by the beloved classic film and dropped it right in the heart of the Chicago I know and love.

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Upon finishing the season finale, I opened my laptop to see that President Trump threatened to “send the feds” to Chicago if the “carnage” didn’t stop, in addition to the long list of ignorant bullshit he’s already perpetuated about my city. My initial reaction was anger, but considering I moved to Cleveland to kick cancer’s ass, screaming from over 300 miles away wasn’t going to do me any good. So, like any special millennial snowflake, I went looking for the perfect Chicago style horror movie reaction gif so I could tweet a smart-ass remark. I scavenged Tumblr for CANDYMAN, CHILD’S PLAY, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and THE EXORCIST (2016) gifs and quickly realized that the horror movies I’ve been supporting for years perpetuate the same ideals that Trump wants to continue to tell: the urban sides of Chicago is where evil truly lies.

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In CHILD’S PLAY, Andy Barclay and his family lived in a lavish condo in the historic Brewster Building in Chicago, an extremely wealthy locale that recently boasted a one-bedroom unit that sold for $219,900. Christopher Sarandon’s detective shouts out “I got the strangler! Wabash and Van Buren!” in pursuit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who is running, away from the rich and wealthy “North Side” of Chicago, and heads South for safety.

A serial killer with the power to transport his soul into a child’s play thing would absolutely find solace in the overlooked, violent, and angriest part of the city. He is then brought into the Barclay home in the form of Chucky, the Good Guy Doll and causes absolute chaos for the family. CHILD’S PLAY is an invasion from “the wrong side of town.” What’s interesting is that the toystore Charles Lee Ray breaks into isn’t in a “bad” neighborhood. The opening chase is designed to look as scummy and gritty as possible, and people often mistake the setting for a “South Side” neighborhood because it’s presented as a crime scene.

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Lower Wacker Drive sounds like just a street (it is) and many will remember it as the site of the chase scene in THE DARK NIGHT. This main road running along the south side of the main branch and the east side of the south branch of the Chicago River is also home to a great amount of the Chicago homeless community. It’s also one of the most iconic locations from the grisly, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. If THE BLUES BROTHERS is considered a love letter to the city of Chicago, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER might as well be the city’s suicide note. The film captures dangerous back alleys, low-income housing, and puts to the forefront the very real violence that the city experiences every day. This is the Chicago the news outlets try to warn you about. This is the bleak and hopeless city our President wants to send in the military to fix. This is the evil Chicago wasteland we call “Chiraq” painted with a white complexion.

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But Chicago isn’t white complexions and “wife-beater” tank tops. Chicago is rich in its diversity, and that may be what scares outsiders the most. CANDYMAN holds the reputation as being the only Black slasher icon, but the location he terrorized doesn’t even exist anymore. Cabrini-Green has a troubled history, but CANDYMAN centered around these housing projects as the eye in a perfect storm of urban legends (emphasis on “urban”), a lack of police enforcement on crimes that matter to the community, and uppity white folks trying to “fix” what doesn’t belong to them and wind up looking like heroes in the process. Folks at horror conventions have asked me “is Chicago really like how it is in CANDYMAN?” so many times I’ve lost track. This fictional fear combined with a real life hot bed for crime has instilled in many that the urban areas of Chicago are a total horror show.

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As THE EXORCIST television show elegantly showcased, Chicago is a fascinating setting. The city is a battleground for good and evil, both supernatural and, unfortunately, very real. There’s a constant matter of determining whether or not Chicago’s problems are based solely on a demonic infestation, or if the way we as people have acted within the city has made it an attractive locale for evil to take up residency.

The numbers don’t lie. Chicago is one of the deadliest cities in the country, but that’s not all it is. Despite it all, Chicago is a city of hope. This is a city that endured a 107 year drought for the Chicago Cubs winning a world series, but finally pulled it off. This is a city that is constantly trying to enhance its communities. No matter if it’s real life violence or a hook-handed man with a chest full of bees, Chicago can withstand whatever horror comes its way.

Even if that horror comes from the leader of the free world.

*Photos: CANDYMAN – Sony Entertainment, THE EXORCIST – 20th Century Fox Television, CHILD’S PLAY – MGM/Universal Pictures, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER – Dark Sky Films 

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