13 Road Trips from Hell
Article By: Don Lewis
Here’s an idea…let’s grab some friends, pack up the car with camping gear, junk food, beer and mayhem and take a good old fashioned road trip! What do you say?? It’ll be cheap if we all chip in for gas and who know what kind of fun adventures we’ll have on the road. What could possibly go wrong? By way of example as to that last part, here’s 13 road trips that started off just fine but took a turn into sheer terror.
1. Joy Ride (2001)
This 2001 gem was directed by underrated thriller master John Dahl and stars the much missed Paul Walker. In the film, Walker sets off on a road trip to pick up his high school sweetheart (what a romantic gentleman!). However, he is soon saddled with his screw-up brother (played by Steve Zahn) who thinks pranking truckers on the CB is a fun way to spend time on the road. Umm…bad choice guys. Joy Ride is scary and thrilling before becoming bloody, and it also inspired two follow-up films. But none are as solid as the original.
2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
While many might not realize it, seminal slasher flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is indeed a road trip movie gone wrong. Horribly wrong. Five friends with the best partying intentions head out to a remote area of Texas. Along the way they make a classic horror film mistake and pick-up a hitchhiker. From there, things get weirder and freakier as the gang stumbles upon a houseful of cannibals. This film remains effective due to it’s low budget aesthetic and balls-to-the-wall insanity. Say…what was in that meat we ate a few miles back at that BBQ joint?
3. Duel (1971)
Back in 1971 a young up and comer named Little Stevie Spielberg (OK, he was never called that) made the leap from directing television shows to the almost big screen. Working from a short story adapted by fantasy/horror maestro Richard Matheson, Spielberg directed a made for TV movie called Duel. Let's just say…it was clear from this moment forth, Spielberg had some skills. In the film, a businessman who apparently angered his boss is forced to work in the middle of nowhere USA. He runs afoul of a mysterious trucker with a severe case of road rage who ends up bullying the businessman as they set out down the highway. The big rig in the film is a pretty good precursor to the shark in Jaws as well. While not the least bit gory, Duel remains a scary and thrilling film and reminds us all to remain calm on the roadways.
4. The Catechism Cataclysm (2011)
Here’s a film many of you probably have never seen, let alone heard of, but we here at Chiller are here to serve and introduce you to the best of the messed-up best. 2011’s creepy, funny and deeply twisted The Catechism Cataclysm definitely qualifies. Steve Little (Stevie on Eastbound and Down) plays a Catholic Priest who takes his struggling pal on a road trip to enjoy some peaceful canoeing. After he drops his Bible into a rest stop toilet, everything on the trip goes to hell. Literally.
5. The Hitcher (1986)
Look, I’m not going to lie to you fine people. I’m really not sure 1986’s The Hitcher is really a top 13 anything. But anyone over the age of 30 who saw it as a kid still has terrifying memories of this film based mostly on a plate of french fries. Plus, 80’s-era Rutger Hauer is always quality and he definitely plays a wicked, creepy dude as the titular character in this film. Also starring C. Thomas Howell as the fool who commits the aforementioned road trip cardinal sin (don’t pick-up hitchhikers!) as a sort of everyman who gets sucked into a nasty game of cat and mouse. The Hitcher may be mired in old-fashioned movie cheese but it’s clever storyline and a few unforgettable moments make it a classic.
6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Boy, there sure are a lot of movies that ended up being remade into less good movies on this list. But once again, I’m sticking with the original: 1977’s Wes Craven classic The Hills Have Eyes. In this one, a family en route to California breaks down in pretty much the worst spot one could ever break down. No, not Bakersfield. A former nuclear testing facility in the middle of nowhere. As if that weren’t bad enough, the area is populated by mutated, cannibalistic whack jobs who immediately grab forks and plates as the family is stranded with nowhere to go. Tall, gangly horror film stalwart Michael Berryman plays the iconic role of "Pluto" and we’re all the better for it.
7. Death Proof (2007)
While most people remember the amazing and death defying real-life car stunts done by incredible stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell, many may forget that Death Proof is very much a road trip gone wrong horror movie. Four female friends take a day off to drive out into the country to check out a badass car, a white 1970 Dodge Challenger to be exact. But as the ladies take the car for a joyride, psycho killer “Stuntman Mike” (played with reckless abandon by Kurt Russell) tries to drive them off the road and into oblivion. The first half of Death Proof also features some fantastic car death gore, but the second half is truly a road trip that goes to hell.
8. House of 1000 Corpses
It’s kind of amazing how movies with a plot as basic as “a group of friends take a road trip and end up stalked by a psycho” keep cropping up. Most bad car trips take place in Texas too, huh. Go figure. But the reason for this popular plotting is, this is a scenario we can all relate to. It’s the execution of said plot (no pun intended) that makes it such a reusable container and each director brings his or her unique vision to what we see. In the case of House of 1000 Corpses, twisted musician turned even more twisted filmmaker Rob Zombie gets extreme, sleazy and downright weird when he steps into this well travelled road. (Warning, clip is weird, gross and not terribly safe for work.)
9. The Ruins (2008)
Let’s go on an international road trip, shall we? How about hiking in a lush but far removed site of ancient ruins off the beaten track in Mexico? That’s exactly what a group of young couples do in 2008’s The Ruins. And since we’re talking about road trips that go down the drain in a hurry, you can probably guess this little hike doesn’t go well. The Ruins is a pretty jarring and dark film, and the book is much better. While there are several layers of terror coming at our desperate people in need, it’s their own bickering and backstabbing that escalate the tension until the end result finally becomes clear. Hint: it’s not a good end result.
10. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Now that I’ve pretty much got one of the most irritating songs ever stuck in your head, let's remove any remaining sense of sanity by talking about the eerie 2001 horror flick Jeepers Creepers. A brother and a sister are heading home from college on spring break when they see a body get dumped in the countryside. Now, if they decided to just ignore it and move on, this wouldn’t be much of a horror movie but rather a case study in common sense. Alas, they decide to investigate and soon find a massive grave site of graphically mutilated people. But the evil in this film isn’t hell bent on mass destruction for the sake of bloodlust. Oh no….he’s got his, ahem, eyes set on something very specific in terms of terror.
11. Psycho (1960)
What’s that you say? How in the heck is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho a road trip movie? Umm….pretty easily actually. In the film Marion Crane is splitting Arizona with a suitcase full of cash. Once on the road anxiety and guilt plague her and she pulls into a hotel to get a good nights sleep before trying to make amends for her evil ways. The only problem is, she decides to stay at the Bates Motel where things get kind of…stabby. It’s nothing a nice, warm shower can’t help remedy, right?
12. Race with the Devil (1975)
1975’s classic Race With the Devil is one of those movies many have seen but just as many forget the name. They all remember two couples in an RV taking a vacation together to do some dirt bike riding. No sooner do they pull into a podunk RV park, then things get weird. The locals ain’t too friendly and witnessing a bizarre, ritualistic killing just complicates relations. From there the trip just gets worse and a real sense of terror is formed around the claustrophobic feeling we get from the friends trapped in the RV in the middle of nowhere. Plus the film has one of the greatest all-time endings that I won’t ruin for anyone who has yet to see this gem.
13. The Tripper (2006)
We here at Chiller don’t like to get political, but what’s scarier than a psychopath with an axe sporting a Ronald Reagan mask? OK, OK…. many things are much scarier but it’s doubtful they’re as weird as this psychedelic slasher flick written and directed by David Arquette. Yes, David Arquette wrote and directed a crazy ass slasher film. It’s about a group of hippies who road trip to a concert in the woods. Things get gory in a thinly veiled attack on Reaganomics and conservative politics (the sheriff is named “Hal Burton.” Oof.) but the film still manages to be a weird and raucous splatter fest. (Clip not safe for work. And, silly.)