12 Summer Holidays from Hell
It’s that time of the year when most people in the UK are looking to sunnier climates to escape work life and get a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation. Our fantasies are filled with poolside loungers, the smell of the ocean and swim up bars with unlimited cocktails, the kind that nobody uses spirit measures for. As it looks like we won’t be getting very far this Summer, in terms of Holidays abroad at least, maybe it’s the perfect time to look at some Holidays from Hell, just to remind ourselves that not every outing is sunshine and ice cream.
Whether it’s tourists who take a wrong turn into unfriendly territory, fun activities that slowly slip into danger or even nature and its toothy creations striking back, Horror has often made leaving our homes seem like a deadly mission. So let’s unpack our bags, avoid trauma at the airport or on long sweaty drives and just stay put and binge these 12 Horror films that will make you want to stay safely at home.
Shrooms (dir. Breathnach, 2007)
This Irish Psychological Horror will definitely make you think twice about going on a holiday that centres around taking psilocybin mushrooms. It may seem like fun and games to take some hallucinogens in a remote area, but not as much fun when that area seems to be the playground for a serial killer. The young Americans in Shrooms, who travel to Ireland for the ultimate high, end up instead on one killer bad trip. It seems like the same premise as many other remote location slashers but with its use of magic mushrooms it can be a little more trippy and nightmarish with its imagery. Just remember, sometimes it’s better to be a square and “just say no”.
Wrong Turn (dir. Schmidt, 2003)
There’s nothing worse than a traffic jam when you’re heading out on Holiday, except for a traffic jam when you’ve got an important meeting to attend. The only solution is to take a dirt road shortcut. This is how medical student Chris Flynn ends up meeting a group of young campers who have also taken the shortcut but seem to have been sabotaged by a barbed wire trap. Wrong Turn shows how one little detour can derail everything as the group search for a phone to call help and they realise that the ‘people’ that set up the trap are hunting them down. It’s a cheesy violent film about inbred cannibalistic mountain men so it’s not exactly nuanced, but it’s a fun way to put yourself off ever camping again.
Hostel: Part II (dir. Roth, 2007)
The Hostel franchise constantly reminds us that travel can be dangerous, especially if you happen to be a privileged and slightly boarish American visiting a European country. After the events of the first film we follow a new group of tourists to Slovakia, this time it’s three women, Beth, Whitney and Lorna who are enticed by the offer of a luxury spa but find themselves instead being tortured for the deviant enjoyment of the wealthy. Hostel: Part II definitely improves upon its predecessor and offers more of an insight into this Elite Hunting Company that prey upon tourists. It also takes away the safety net of the first film, these women aren’t jerks so this shouldn’t happen to them, but being nice won’t save you in this situation.
The Hills Have Eyes (dir. Aja, 2006)
The good old family holiday, where young kids and their parents all pack into campervans, RV’s or even just overstuffed cars and make a sweltering trip to somewhere new. In the UK this is usually just a couple of hours maximum, but in America you can spend just as long traveling as you do at the actual location. Of course, sometimes the destination isn’t actually reached, as is the case in The Hills Have Eyes. The Carter/Bukowski family never make it to San Diego after being attacked by bloodthirsty mutants. The 1977 Craven original is incredible in its own rights, but this remake from Alexandre Aja takes everything up to 11 and really utilises the disturbing special effects from K.N.B. This film is definitely a road trip holiday worst case scenario.
The Ruins (dir. Smith, 2008)
When two American couples decide to have a holiday in Mexico they probably thought it would be filled with beaches, booze and all inclusive luxuries. However, when they step off the beaten track to help a German tourist find his brother who has become lost on an archaeological dig they find more than just Mayan ruins and angry locals. The group are forced to the summit of the ruins, and held there by the Mayan villagers, left to the ravages of the baking sun and some suspicious vines that seem to be more aware than any plant should be. Nature is fighting back in this eco survival horror and it definitely gets super gory and delves into Body Horror territory. Sometimes you’ve just got to stay on the path most travelled, or face the consequences.
Honeymoon (dir. Janiak, 2014)
A honeymoon is a great reason for a holiday. Newlyweds will flit off to somewhere beautiful and secluded to be together after their wedding and do all the romantic things they want. In Honeymoon Bea and Paul, a loving couple completely in sync with each other, are plunged into a nightmare when they honeymoon at her family’s rustic cottage in Canada. On their first night there Bea disappears and Paul finds her disoriented in the woods. She claims to have been sleepwalking but it seems that something much more ominous has happened as her personality begins to fade away and she forgets basic information and functions. This slow burn Horror will definitely make you want to push aside the romantic getaway and just head somewhere that other people are present.
The Cabin in the Woods (dir. Goddard, 2011)
The title says it all! The ‘cabin in the woods’ genre has been around for quite a while now and it often does exactly what it says on the tin, abandons a group of people in a secluded cabin away from civilization and lets all hell break loose. The Cabin in the Woods however adds something more to this trope, reflecting the genre tropes back at itself and getting all meta about it. Five college students head out for a weekend away from studying only to find themselves morphing into Horror movie stereotypes and being terrorised not only by a zombified family but also by an underground laboratory and its employees. This is one time when it’s impossible not to fall into the traps and tropes of the genre because someone else is controlling the game.
The Evil Dead (dir. Raimi, 1981)
One of the original ‘cabin in the woods’ films, The Evil Dead set the bar for what to expect when a group of teens head off into the woods for a ‘relaxing’ time. When the group stumble across an ancient text and some tape recording they decide that playing them out loud is definitely a good idea. Spoiler alert, it was not. The incantation leads to the release of a demonic entity that takes over the students and causes mayhem and destruction. The incredible Tom Sullivan bombards the screen with a whole heap of stop-motion and practical effects that blur the line between pure camp and cringe inducing gore. The final note to take from this film, when you holiday in a remote cabin, always take your own reading material and don’t rely on the cabin to provide it for you.
Eden Lake (dir. Watkins, 2008)
In all honesty, holidaying in England can be a bit of a nightmare no matter what. From the unpredictable weather to the overcrowded beaches it’s sometimes just better to stay at home. That’s definitely the case in Eden Lake, a harrowing and ruthless Horror film that hits a little too close to home for a British audience. When a couple heads to the lakeside for a remote weekend they don’t expect to be accosted by a young gang. The torment starts out small, noise pollution, vandalism and some petty grand theft auto, but soon escalates to unspeakable levels. Dealing with society’s fear of ‘hoodies’ and the broken children of Britain this film is an endurance test to get through and leaves the audience with wrecked nerves, chewed fingernails and an urge to never go anywhere in the UK ever again.
Jaws (dir. Spielberg, 1975)
The beach hasn’t been looked at in the same way since this classic Horror terrified a generation and put them off even dipping a toe in the water. Jaws is synonymous with Summer Holiday Horror, the ultimate vacationing gone wrong film that made sure beachside tourism dramatically dropped. Amity Island is visited by a 25 foot, razor toothed killing machine that loves to snack on those who dare to enter the water, be they skinny dipping teens or young children on inflatables. Even with the effects being super old school and the fact that Bruce is barely shown, this is still one of the most effective and thrilling Horror movies about fear at the beach. Anytime we step near the ocean all it takes is someone humming a single ‘dun-dun’ for us to go screaming and running in the opposite direction.
Wolf Creek (dir. McLean, 2005)
Australia is definitely one of the most popular backpacking spots in the world and attracts tourists and adventurers from all over the world. Some may hostel surf in the major cities whilst others want to explore the vast outback’s and get off the beaten track. Wolf Creek will be successful in putting most people off of that idea pretty damn quickly. Spawning one of the most terrifying Horror film figures, the knife wielding, unhinged Mick Taylor who is now a bogeyman amongst backpackers. After our protagonists are left stranded they end up being the target of this crazed bushman who loves to torture and monologue in equal measure. This relentless Horror will have most people realising that sometimes the most dangerous predators in the outback are people.
The Descent (dir. Marshall, 2005)
For some a holiday is all about rest and relaxation, for others it’s an adventure and a time to explore and seek thrills from abseiling, mountain climbing or, in this case, spelunking. A year after a tragic accident caused the death of her husband and child, Sarah, and her group of high octane friends reunite for a holiday in the Appalachian mountains. The group of Brits planned to explore a simple cave system, one that has been mapped and logged on their travel record, but petulant Juno has other plans and leads the group into an unknown cave system. Adventure holidays can be great, as long as someone knows where you are. Otherwise you’re stuck underground, with no escape plan, no rescue team and some strange glowing eyes following your every move in the darkness.