Where Is Area X in 'Annihilation'?

A scene from the 2018 Netflix film 'Annihilation' 

Sometimes the best settings in works of fiction are born out of dreams. Sometimes they are born out of real places.

Sometimes they're a combination of both, as in the case of the alien landscapes of Area X. The fictional seaside area, first glimpsed in Jeff VanderMeer's award-winning Southern Reach trilogy, and their 2018 Netflix adaptation, "Annihilation," is a wildly original take on nature gone mutant.

"Annihilation" fans have St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to thank for inspiring VanderMeer to write about the fantastic place beyond The Shimmer. Speaking with the Tallahassee Democrat, VanderMeer recalls hiking there for years and being in awe of its comely but ultimately fearsome flora and fauna. 

The lighthouse in the books (and the Alex Garland-directed movie adaptation) has a real-life counterpart in the refuge. “Seeing this place every time I was out here hiking was a huge influence,” VanderMeer says. “I started researching the history of the lighthouse and the St. Marks area."

Author Jeff VanderMeer is very fond of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, Florida (below via Tim Donovan, FWC), inspiring his Southern Reach books and the 2018 film adaptation starring Natalie Portman (above)

Its gets even wilder during sleep—the underground tower in the book came to him in a dream. “It’s got this clarity to it and the clarity, the lucidity, makes it freaky," he tells the Tallahassee Democrat. “When I woke up from the dream, that trail at St. Marks was in my head. It was so natural, so nice, to write about a real place.”

Of course, St. Mark’s Refuge had to be the filming location for "Annihilation," right? 

Wrong. As much as Garland wanted to film at the refuge, the vegetation was so thick there that it affected depth perception, and production ultimately took place in England at sites such as Windsor Great Park and Holkham Beach. 

VanderMeer breathed a sigh of relief as his beloved refuge was "an environmentally sensitive area."

We all could use one, too. Nature is not to be messed with, and sometimes it's best appreciated from a safe distance, as some characters find out too late in the novels. 


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