This is our very last of Halloween Specials. In this short episode, I’m bringing you a bunch of recommendations for a Croatian-themed Halloween.
Have you already made a list of movies to watch this Halloween? Fear not (or be afraid, be very afraid), Croatia Underrated is here to help. I say – be very afraid because, truth be said, if you’ve heard anything good about these movies, they are probably overrated, not underrated.
Still, let me share some horror movies filmed in Croatia, and some other recommendations for this Halloween. Listen to the episode or scroll down if you prefer reading:
Even if you’ve never been to Croatia, you might be more familiar with it than you’re aware of. You might have seen it – on the TV screen. The city of Dubrovnik still carries the nickname “King’s Landing”, even if the Game of Thrones hype has completely died down.
But I remember Dubrovnik from another movie. Rosemarie’s Baby. Croatia might have become the hit destination only recently, but Dubrovnik has always been a brand of its own. No matter how disturbing the movie, and especially the ending was, everyone from around here watched it with a smile on their faces when Minnie and Roman pretended to go to Dubrovnik. “Shut up, you’re in Dubrovnik, I don’t hear you!” is a line that you might have missed, but we certainly haven’t.
Some other famous horror movies have a tiny little link with Croatia. You know, just before Game of Thrones was filmed in Dubrovnik, there were years of lost opportunities. It was kind of hard to persuade anyone to come and film in Croatia after the movie set of Omen 666, a remake of the original Omen, that was supposed to be filmed in the Croatian town of Solin, burst into flames. It turned out that the fire had been staged. Quite crazily, it was by a local politician who is currently in power, and just this year, he bragged about it, told it publicly as an anecdote. While still in power. Don’t ask.
The bottom line is, scary Damien literally ran away from Croatia. Poor Mia Farrow, who also stars in the movie. She just never seems to get a hold of the Dalmatian coast.
Ok, but let’s finally get to the movies that were actually filmed around here. For example, have you ever seen Sophie’s Choice? It’s probably the most famous movie filmed in Zagreb. Meryl Streep even won Oscar for her leading role.
I’m sure the image of Jackie Chan getting killed in Samobor seems a bit absurd. But that’s what almost happened back in the ’80s when he was severely hurt during the filming of his classic Armour of God.
It must have been fun for Richard Gere to film The Hunting Party, and to have the liberty to walk around Zagreb without even being recognized. It was only in the first decade of this century, but things change so rapidly… If he’d come today, I’m sure that the hunting party would be on him, and it would be made out of an entire paparazzi army.
If you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof , you’ve seen the Croatian village of Lekenik.
Zagreb-based film production company Jadran Film was filming foreign movies for decades, so I can’t even name each and every one out of 150 international films made in Croatia. For now, I’m bringing you only horror movies. Unfortunately, the “horror” part can usually be attributed not only to the genre but to the poor quality of the movie as well. Anyway, since the locals (yours truly included) are always entertained to see their home city as a movie stage, let’s check the most horrawsome movies made in Croatia.
Horroawsome movies made in Croatia
No 5 Transylvania 6-5000
If Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley, Geena Davis, and Michael Richards (read: Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld, the sitcom) won’t motivate you to see this 1985 movie, maybe the fact that a beautiful little town of Samobor (near Zagreb) acts as Transylvania will. I don’t really get why this film has always been omitted from best-or-worst-movies lists and countdowns… I mean, the cast is great, the movie includes every single scary creature from Frankenstein, vampire, werewolf to a Yugo car! What else could you possibly need from a movie? I think it’s about time for you to visit your nearest video store (because it’s sooo last century, I don’t think you’ll find it digitalized). Nah, I’m just kidding. You can actually find it on youtube at the moment. Transylvania 6500. You know, like the Glenn Miller tune Pennsylvania 6500.
Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t think alike, but Zagrebers are doomed to love seeing the final chapter of Bloodrayne. We just spend the entire movie trying to figure out the filming locations. Some of the most recognizable Zagreb sights are part of the scenery, like the Upper Town, the Mirogoj cemetery, National State Archives, even the abandoned Brestovac sanatorium in the woods above the city. I prefer the previous movie over this one, but this one has truly recognizable scenery.
This one’s holding a very high position. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen it yet:) But you have to admit, the fact it was rarely screened brings a touch of true mystery along. It’s a 13 episodes TV series based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and hosted by one-and-only Lord of Darkness (or make it eight-and-only, for that’s how many times he played Dracula) – Sir Christopher Lee. Some of it was filmed in the Gvozdanovic palace in Visoka street in Zagreb.
Before you start frantically googling for this series, you should probably know that it’s the so-called Christopher Lee’s Lost Series because it was so bad that nobody wanted to air it, and even the famous actor once stated:
“God, I hope they don’t show too much of this.”
No 2 Izbavitelj – The Rat Savior
Well well well, here’s one original Croatian horror movie from 1976 where rat people are taking over the world in a wicked conspiracy. I was te-rri-fied of this one as a kid. Actually, the movie is much more believable and reasonable than the short description promises.
No 1 Zagreb School of Animation
It would be unfair to end this post without sharing a few words about the most artistic scary films originating from Zagreb, or more precisely, from the world-known Zagreb School of Animation. I should first mention his Mask of the Red Death, a cartoon by Pavao Stalter and Vladimir Jutrisa based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe.
The creepiest Zagreb cartoons must be the Kafkaesque works by Aleksandar Marks – The Spider, and The Fly… a perfect reminder that Croatian people sometimes have a touch of twisted geniality.
Time to grab your popcorn and enjoy the horror of Croatia!
I need to mention another one. Here in Croatia, we have probably seen at least one that those of you who don’t speak a similar language to Croatian, weren’t able to get a hold of. This particular recommendation goes to our neighbors from Serbia, and it has marked all of our lives at a certain point. It’s the cult Serbian horror movie from the times of Yugoslavia, called Leptirica – She-butterfly; based on actual Serbian urban legend that has properly scared a lot of us. You can find it on youtube with English translations. It’s a bit slow, but that’s appreciated today. Midsommar step aside. It’s considered a cult horror movie in this region. I sure love the dresses of the main character.
Speaking of, I’d like to give you another recommendation for this years’ Halloween. There is a new podcast called Mythoslavic. I very much enjoyed the storytelling of Karmen from Croatia, the host. One of the episodes is based on stories similar to the one that inspired the butterfly-vampire movie.
Croatian Ghost Tours
To end this episode, a lot of people keep complaining there’s nothing to do in the Halloween season in Croatia. Well, let me just correct you right there. We have our own set of night tours. They might not have special effects so don’t expect the kind of ghost tour that you get in Savannah, Georgia. We don’t even have that many slasher stories around the country, I’m sorry about that…
But you can expect some dark tales for sure and some passionate storytelling. I should know because my Secret Zagreb also flourishes in what we call the spooky season! As far as I know, at the moment, there are only three tours in Croatia that could be characterized as ghost tours offered on weekly basis in English, at least in tourist season. That’s Haunted Dubrovnik, that I already mentioned. There’s also Nocturnal Tours of Split and Trogir. I visited both. The first one I visited only virtually, and the second one I had an opportunity to visit in person, it was in Split, led by Doris Kafka. I really enjoyed both of them. The third one, you already know… It’s Zagreb Ghosts and Dragons Tour by Secret Zagreb. That’s my tour:) Make sure to visit when you come to Zagreb if you like my stories:)
These are not the only dark tours, there are so many across Croatia. But I haven’t bumped into any other that is available in English on regular dates. You can book them as private tours, though. Even I have some dark-themed tours that are not available regularly so I haven’t included them in this article.
The spooky season is almost over. If you haven’t listened to the other Halloween Specials, you can still spice up your Halloween with the previous three, namely: Children’s Games, Witches, and Cemeteries.