13 Summer Vacations Gone Totally Wrong
Article By: Don Lewis
It’s summer! That means it’s time to get together with family, friends and psychopaths to enjoy some fun and relaxation. What could be better?! Here’s 13 movies that show just how horribly wrong summer vacations can go. Have fun!
1. Jaws (1975)
Come on, as if there could be any better film about a summer vacation that went horribly wrong than the Big Daddy of them all, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece Jaws. Not only does the film combine elements of a thriller with horror, comedy and family drama, it also turns the notion of a summer island getaway into a one-way ticket to terror. Admit it, even today when you’re swimming (or taking a bath) the music from Jaws makes you want to jump out of the water to make sure you’re safe.
2. The Evil Dead (1981)
Oh, Sam Raimi…where have you gone? Will you ever return to the comically epic horror genre you did better than anyone? Apparently “mo money equals mo problems,” especially when it comes to recent output. But, we’ll always have 1981’s The Evil Dead. It’s unclear whether this is truly the “first” horror film that took place at a remote cabin in the woods, but it’s definitely an early best and set the barometer for insanity. All at once scary, hilarious, melodramatic and gory, The Evil Dead is still effective and inspiring today. (Evil Dead II rocks as well.)
3. The Descent (2005)
I’ve got an idea! Let’s all go explore an underground cave with passages so small, only a teeny, tiny, skinny person can fit through them. Oh, and there’s monsters down there. Sound like fun? No messing around, Neil Marshall’s 2005 film The Descent is freaky as hell. Even the most hardened horror fan got the willies as a group of female friends takes a weekend spelunking trip that turns to complete disaster as soon as they get underground. Not only does the film utilize creepy creatures and terrifying jump-scares, there’s also deep character development that thickens the further the ladies descend into the cave. Did we mention the sense of claustrophobia as well? Yeah, The Descent is scary.
4. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
At number four with a bullet is 2012’s brilliant, genre changing The Cabin in the Woods. Written (with help from Joss Whedon) and directed by Drew Goddard, this debut film is sure to be a tough act to follow as Goddard turns the cabin in the woods horror subgenre so far onto its ear, there may never be another horror film set at a cabin in the woods. Oh, who are we kidding? They’ll never die. But still, this film somehow manages to be terrifying as well as smart and funny by showing you the strings that make it work and then severing those strings as all hell breaks loose. Literally.
5. Cabin Fever (2002)
Ranking Eli Roth’s 2002 directorial debut within the top 5 is probably going to cause some friction, but let’s be honest. The film takes the cabin in the woods genre which had grown stale and played out and drenches it in blood, gore and all around ickiness. For whatever reason, R-rated horror had fallen out of popularity in the early 2000’s (post-9/11 blues, anyone?) but Roth throws it back into the limelight with a gruesome summer vacation gone very, very wrong. (Warning, clip has loud and bad language!)
6. The Strangers (2008)
Another possibly controversial pick but again, it’s an old horror idea executed brilliantly. Key word: executed. Rookie director Bryan Bertino helmed this creepfest in 2008 and it’s a very simple story told extremely well. A young couple rents an isolated cabin for a night of fun following a wedding reception. A pleasant adult evening almost immediately goes south when three masked strangers begin a creepy and violent game of cat and mouse. What makes The Strangers so effective is the ambiguity and visceral fright we witness onscreen but what drives it home is the senselessness and cruelty that slowly bubbles to the surface.
7. Open Water (2003)
2003’s Open Water took the cinematic world by storm after it premiered at Sundance but it’s been ripped off and copied so many times it seems to have, ahem, watered down the film's effectiveness. Here’s some news: Open Water is still terrifying. It’s also genius in that it follows the old low budget indie film guideline of “two people, one location” and elevates it to a whole other level. A freaky level. Not only are these two people we kind of sort of like lost in the ocean like needles in a haystack, once they start bickering and the sharks start circling, the feeling of dread they sense flows from the screen and right into our laps.
8. Wolf Creek (2005)
What’s that? You say you want to go on a backwoods backpacking adventure this summer? Sounds great! Provided you don’t head out to Wolf Creek in the Australian outback. If you end up there you might meet an Aussie redneck named Mick Taylor. He enjoys auto repair, pig hunting and eviscerating humans with his large knife. While the film treads a line between cruel comedy and stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere horror, it’s ultimately the bloody nastiness that makes it a winner.
9. Funny Games (1997)
In 1997, cinematic provocateur Michael Haneke released Funny Games, a downright unusual and cruel film about a family who encounter terror on their summer holiday. While home invasion films have always been pretty common, what makes Funny Games so awesome is Haneke’s almost playful way he makes the viewer complicit in the terror onscreen. He does so by letting you know almost exactly what’s going to happen and giving you ample time to walk away or turn off the film. Whether or not you do is not only up to you but also speaks to how and why we want to see violence onscreen. He even allows characters to break the 4th wall and wink at the audience but no one ever seems to leave. A nasty film through and through, Haneke upped the ante in 2007 when he made virtually the exact same film again as a remake but with more popular actors. Oh, Michael. You so crazy.
10. Hostel (2005)
Boy, horror movies really do their best to make people not want to travel to foreign countries, huh? While it seems a little unfair to not spread the love and have 13 different directors here, Eli Roth scores another spot with the truly messed up Hostel from 2005. If you’ve seen the film then you’ll probably agree. The overall feeling of confusion that starts with being a foreigner in a foreign land melts seamlessly with an inability to escape. That soon gives way to terror and torture and away we go on a gut-wrenching allegorical journey that is best seen through the fingers covering your eyes. And just when you think things are going to be all right…they get worse. (Warning! Extremely gory clip!!)
11. Club Dread (2004)
With all these terrifying, demented and blood-spattered films, it’s only fair to throw in an off-beat comedy to mix things up. Enter Club Dread, the 2004 horror/comedy/mystery from comedy gang Broken Lizard. While not particularly gross, scary or demented, Club Dread still definitely qualifies as a vacation gone wrong as a serial killer upends a hedonistic beach resort. Did we mention the great Bill Paxton stars as the Island's party director, Coconut Pete? It’s a sexy, slapstick, stabby, booze-soaked time for all!
12. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Since we’re on the comedy angle for whacked out vacations, let’s stick there shall we? 2010’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is another genre bender that sort of dismantles the scary-redneck-and-a-cabin-in-the-woods idea in an inventive way. Tucker and Dale are indeed two rednecks but in this film they’re the ones on vacation. When a group of college guys and gals looking to party arrive and things get bloody, Tucker and Dale get the blame but the more they try to help, the darker the film gets. A rare perfect blend of gore and humor, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a must see for the diehard horror buff. (Warning, this clip gets a bit bloody…yet, hilarious!)
13. Black Rock (2012)
Some might not have seen this film and those who have may be upset by it’s inclusion but I’ve got 2 words for you: Girl. Power. This thriller was written and directed by Katie Aselton and stars her, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth as lifetime buddies who set off on a camping trip at, you guessed it, Black Rock. Things get complicated when some dudes show up and the film takes a hard look at gender relations and expectations that, as we all know, can be scary in their own right. Black Rock ends up being a dark, sad and intense film that’s a nice companion piece to the usual mindless campout slasher films.