Scarier than McMansions: half-completed McMansions

In the middle of a slideshow about the “World’s Eeriest Abandoned Places” is an image of a South Florida neighborhood of half-completed McMansions. The description of Lehigh Acres (picture 7 of 8):

There’s something bluntly creepy about the abandoned exurbs of Florida. Forsaken construction sites, like the ones in the middle-class development of Lehigh Acres in Florida’s southwest, are filled with half-built McMansions, unkempt yards overtaken by alligators and snakes, and derelict cul de sacs that lead to nothing. Florida’s population is diminishing for the first time ever, and nowhere is the exodus felt stronger than here.

Before Halloween, I wrote about the trend of horror films using McMansions as scary settings. Perhaps abandoned sites are more in the genre of post-apocalyptic films…

Overall, I’m not sure why abandoned buildings are viewed as being so creepy. I wonder if this fear has increased with the prosperity of the Western world in recent decades. With so much money out there, it strikes us as very odd that a building would just be left behind and unused. Is there something horribly wrong with the building? Why wouldn’t someone want to preserve and reuse it? But, I assume this has happened plenty throughout human history. Think about the ruins of empires; what happened with all the structures the Romans built when their empire slowly collapsed over the centuries? Or what exactly happened to those Mayan cities in the jungle? I remember as a kid learning about the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke but this certainly happened with other explorer settlements like the Vikings in Greenland. Until recent history, abandoned buildings and settlements were probably more common and “normal.”

Is a McMansion truly a better scary movie setting than a smaller, older house?

In the last few days, I’ve seen a few stories about horror movies that take place in McMansions (see here and here). Are McMansions inherently scarier than smaller and older houses? I’ll offer a few arguments for each.

On the side of McMansions:

1. Bigger houses allow more room for weird things to happen and more space for bad creatures to pop out of. The victims have room to run away and utilize rooms they may not have entered in weeks (because the house is just that big!).

2. Perhaps residents of McMansions and all of their faux wealth (according to critics) are more deserving of bad things happening to them or are more naive and innocent. Either way, there is something about McMansion owners that makes them better targets for these films.

3. It is really about a commentary on the foolishness of buying and living in McMansions. Perhaps the horror is the inevitable result of American individualism and consumerism.

On the side of smaller and older homes:

1. They are more claustrophobic. There is nowhere else to go.

2. They are older so there is more potential for odd backstories (think of all of those old owners) or odd places (unused cellars, crawlspaces, attics, etc.).

3. The homeowners may be of a different demographic – they don’t have the wealth to live in McMansions or new homes – so there is potential for different kinds of story lines beyond wealthy and pampered teenagers or young couples who have “made it.”

I think McMansions are an easy target for horror movies and other cultural critics. Most Americans don’t live in them but they symbolize the kind of well-off life that contrasts with darker stories. Of course, dark things can happen in all kinds of houses…