I found it hard to choose just ten films that would cause enough fear to keep people away from densely wooded areas. As I was organizing a list, digging through the hundreds of films that send their protagonists into the woods, I wondered: Are films that are based out of camps really films that take place in the woods, or do the films have to be set totally in the deep wood, away from all forms of civilization? At first I thought that the scariest films take place in the deepest regions of the forest, away from modern safety, but after consorting with other horror fiends, I realized that being in a civilized area when all hell breaks loose is sometimes worse because these are places where you are meant to feel secure. When shit hits the fan, the normal things around you take on hidden dangers; the darkness under the bed, the mystery of what is beyond the basement door. The following list contains films that take place in the deep alone of the woods and in the places where safe, secure cabins turn into a camper’s nightmare.
This film is one of the greatest 80’s flicks based in a summer camp. Unlike Friday the 13th, this film focuses on the campers and less on the counselors. The kids that occupy the camp are always cursing and fighting, which leads to some seriously funny scenes. The scene with the water balloon fight is hilarious; nothing better than a kid screaming, “Pussies!” at the top of his lungs while being held back by an old man. The hilarity of the wild kids at the camp isn’t the only perk this film has to offer. The deaths are unique and the mystery behind who the killer is will keep you guessing for a while into the film. The over-the-top ending will leave you with an image that will haunt you darkest dreams. That final scene is still etched into my brain!
The back story is about an entire town that one day just walked into the woods and never returned. The movie picks up decades later when a group of researchers set out into the woods to follow the trail the town people disappeared on. Insanity ensues. As the group ventures further into the woods, strange things start happening. Music from the 1930’s begins playing through the woods from an unknown place, at first just whispers on the wind but soon it becomes deafening. Members of the group start going mad – minds are lost, along with some limbs. This research expedition begins hike into a horror which no one anticipated. Are they being haunted by the ghosts of the lost town members, or is the city of Oz really at the end of yellow brick road? The ending will leave you in confusion and a little worried about your next hike into the woods.
Nothing says, “Get out of the woods” better than one of your friends being raped by a demon tree. Evil Dead is one of the first horror films I ever saw, and it was instantly a part of my life forever. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a group of friends who rent a cabin deep in the woods. What they soon find out is that the last resident was a professor studying the Necronomican, the book of the dead. Recordings of the professors are played and the ancient evil that the book holds returns to claim the lives of the group. Possessions, immense amounts of blood and pencil attacks are what await this group. The film has brilliant special effects. This is where you will find the start of the story for the horror icon Ash. If you haven’t seen this film and you should run to find a copy of it this minute because it’s a classic above all the rest.
The burning is one of the better summer camp horror movies out there. Teenagers running free, sex, drugs, murder, everything you come to expect in a camping based horror film. This one rises to the top because of the killer special effects and the acting of a young George Castanza . The raft race is legendary in my mind, a must see for any Tom Savini fan.
Jennifer Hills, a writer, seeking a quiet place to work on her first novel, finds that a quiet country town has the same bad element as any large city. The peace she finds is shattered by four local boys and their need to have a taste of a big city girl. The film is gritty, a classic exploitation film, filled with violence, sex and blood. After being raped and beaten repeatedly, the woman is left for dead. Little does the group know that the dimwit left alone to kill the city girl couldn’t complete the task (in more than one way). She survives these brutal attacks and seeks revenge on the group one by one. This leads to a hanging, genital decapitation and boating accidents. Women will feel empowered and men with feel the pain in their loins. I Spit on Your Grave gives many reasons never to leave the city.
Cabin Fever (2002):
Few movies can make me turn away in disgust, but this film makes me cringe each time I see it. Five friends head into the woods to a rented cabin and they find out that Mexico isn’t the only place where you shouldn’t drink the water. An infectious flesh eating disease starts claiming each of the friends one by one. This is one of Eli Roth’s first films and I think it is masterful. The laughs are not overstretched and the special effects are stomach turning. Slashers and mad men aren’t the only things you must watch out for in the woods.
If you’re ever lost down on the Bayou, best not wonder into Victor Crawleys stomping ground. This star-filled flick delivers all the blood and guts you can handle. After Marybeth’s father and brother go missing during a hunting trip, she joins up with a bayou boat tour, which is run by the infamous Tony Todd. The tour guide is sloppy and the boat becomes wrecked. The customers are forced to take to the land, which is known to be the haunted by the vengeful spirit of Victor Crowley. Crowley is seeking revenge on the kids who many years ago burned his house, which lead to his tragic death. The patrons of the tour are slowly being picked off by Victor. The deaths are over the top and extremely brutal, a great time for the horror enthusiasts, but not so much for a tourist lost in the bayou. Hatchet delivers both in story and gore. If you are heading to New Orleans, stay off of Victor’s land.
Friday the 13th 1-7 (1980-1988)
It’s impossible to make a list about horror films based in the woods and not have Friday the 13th make the list. As the list was being collated I reached an impasse – which Friday the 13th conjures up the most fear? Once again I consulted other horror aficionados to come up with a final solution. The solution was that Friday the 13th 1-7 must be included. Everyone’s answer to “What is the scariest part of being in the woods?” was, “What if Jason shows up”. Jason is as natural to camping as are the trees, so the Friday the 13th’s had to make the list. It is up for debate which film brings on the most fear or has the best kills, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide if Jason or his mom will keep you from the campsite.
Don’t Go in the Woods (2012)
This film has received a wide array of mixed reviews, mostly on the negative side, but I loved this movie. A struggling band goes out into the woods to find a quiet place to work on some songs without drugs, booze, or women. The first night they are camping a gang of their groupies arrive and the party begins. Band members and groupies start to be killed off by a strange figure in the woods, leaving some guessing to be done about who and why these killings are taking place. The movie is a mixture of horror and musical, which is why there are so many bad reviews going around about this it, but overall, the movie keeps you guessing. So don’t write this film off before you see it. The music is catchy and the woods never look as dangerous when you don’t know who to trust.
Dale and Tucker vs. Evil (2010)
This film is on its way to cult stardom. The idea is fresh and the actors are hilarious. Dale and Tucker vs. Evil is amazing. Two good ole boys head off to their vacation home to fix it up over the weekend, but on their way up to the new cabin they meet up with a group of college kids. The kids believe that Dale and Tucker are the typical horror movie rednecks, but hilarity ensues when the kids start dying in crazy ways all over their land. With great gore and perfect acting by the title characters, Dale and Tucker vs. Evil flips the backwoods horror story upside down and sometimes the rednecks are safer than your own friends.
Top 10 Horror Movies NOT to Watch Before Going into the Woods