I've been watching a lot of American horror movies, and a big trope is the characters staying in old, abandoned cabins in the woods. Or if not cabins then lodges, or in Westerns or haberdasheries etc. Which makes sense, because America's such a vast landscape and such cabins were used by travellers covering hundreds of miles.

I noticed it's not a big thing in British horror cinema, and I'm wondering if it's because there's nothing like that in British architectural history (perhaps because Britain's so much smaller and therefor not needed), or if it's just not a very prominent trope in British cinema.

So, any architectural or cinema historians that could help would be appreciated.

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    I believe the American trope is based on isolation. The similar trope in UK is moors; because they are British, they tend to have castles rather than cabins, The other issue is that population density in the UK is (IIRC) far higher than in the US; there are fewer remote habitations. In the USA, an abandoned house is a symbol of failed hope. In the UK, uninhabitable land is largely marginal; isolation has connotations of marginal life, exile and outcast. (opinion; I lack the scholarship to write a good answer)
    – MCW
    Feb 4, 2021 at 18:51
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    – MCW
    Feb 4, 2021 at 18:52
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    Montana is nearly twice the size of Great Britain (the island); but with a population density roughly 1/3 that of the Outer Hebrides. Think about that - perhaps it answers your question. To be clear: Celtic Britain had a population density significantly greater than Montana has today. Feb 4, 2021 at 19:00
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    Note how the bulk of the US has less than 10 people per square mile while only one county in England has less than 10 people per square kilometer. (with 10 people per square kilometer being roughly 26 people per square mile.)
    – user15620
    Feb 4, 2021 at 19:37
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    @MarkC.Wallace It is more likely that more people in Britain lived in cottages than in castles, whether in outlining areas or not. Feb 4, 2021 at 22:47

2 Answers 2


While I can't speak to the horror movie genre, you will find occasional mention of such in British fiction: gamekeeper's cottages & crofter's huts, bothies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothy and so on. In real life, there are even a number of abandoned stately homes: https://www.loveproperty.com/galleries/64516/the-incredible-secrets-of-13-abandoned-stately-homes?page=1

Also, the trope of the abandoned cabin in the US may be more fiction than reality. It's far more likely that any unoccupied "cabin" you might stumble across is really a vacation home.

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    Also maybe abandoned crofter's huts?
    – shoover
    Feb 4, 2021 at 23:32
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    @shoover: Thanks! That's what I meant by "agricultural workers cottages", just had a brain stall on the right term.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 5, 2021 at 4:18
  • Those are kinda what I imagined. I'm going to see if they've been featured in any films. Feb 5, 2021 at 11:39

There's Henry II and Thomas Becket's visit to a Saxon hut in Becket (1964). It's not exactly a horror film, but it certainly would have been if the Saxon peasant family had been the protagonists....

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