The Northwoods of Wisconsin’s 1980s Horror Films & FANGORIA Connection?!
I just visited my old stompin’ grounds up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin & it peaked my interest into a specific window of time in the late 1980s & early 90s when apparently horror movie productions were a hot commodity up there-Fangoria was on the cutting edge of “cheesehead” fright flicks! Who knew? So waaaay up north there’s a cluster of small towns, Eagle River, Three Lakes, Sugar Camp & Rhinelander that were the main staple in filming many of these late 80’s early 90’s horror films. There was a unique studio all the way from the UK that oddly made it’s headquarters somewhere between this little group of cities. My mom currently lives in Three lakes (we had a cottage on a lake there since the 80s, my dad grew up there, my Aunt does too and owns a property in Sugar Camp & my mom also just bough a property in Rhinelander) alas I have spent a LOT of time there throughout my life. In fact I was just up there for an entire month. However I never suspected it was a mini horror mecca until recently. Why? Well let’s find out! Wisconsinite horror fanatics, this one’s for YOU!
Windsor Lake Studios which was based in Eagle River, Wisconsin, (I’ve heard possibly Sugar Camp Wisconsin too?) population 1300, produced a number of films for Fangoria and a few other smaller VHS only companies, though a few actually have made it onto blu ray over the past few years. Oddly only one of the trio of Fangoria Films releases have seen blu ray releases. At the time it was a big deal in the horror community when they started producing their own movies. It’s strange to me how or why a movie studio that produced predominantly horror flicks was open and operational in this tiny region nestled in the thick of the Northwoods and it’s plentiful chain of lakes. It’s definitely NOT Hollywood in the Northwoods-I can fully attest to that! That being said you just might run into a Rhinelander, Hodag (pictured below) in the woods if you’re lucky enough..
Windsor Lake Studio was started in 1987 and attracted the talent of Eagle River native Hank Carlson, only a teen at the time but had ambitions to be the “next Tom Savini”. He went on to become quite an impressive practical fx artist getting his start at Winsdor Lake by being annoyingly persistent, visiting the studio property many times though univited. There’s a great interview with him right here for all of you locals who want the scoop on this regional horror legend. He also gives some excellent perspective in the commentary of the Arrow Video blu ray’s for ‘Trapped Alive’ & ‘The Chill Factor’.
The three owners of the studio were from the UK and producers of major Hollywood hits ‘Heathers’ and more notably ‘Hellraiser’ & ‘Hellraiser II: Hellbound’. Apparently the premiere for ‘Hellraiser’ happened at the Vilas theater in small town Eagle River where Hank Carlson worked. I wish I’d have known that back then dammit!