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Good To Know: 7 Movies to Avoid Before Going Camping

Don’t get us wrong. We love the outdoors. But we also recognize it can frighten as much as it can inspire—especially if you’re driven by superstitions like the bad luck of Friday the 13th. With that in mind, we profile seven movies that we recommend you avoid watching before you head out into the wilderness. Whether you’re going camping, hiking, paddling, backpacking, caving, or bedding down in rustic and remote cabins, you don’t want the images depicted in these films to haunt your dreams.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Rated R

The three leads in this movie knowingly walk into the woods to make a film about witches—so it may be hand-slaps-forehead obvious what happens next. But this blockbuster still does a spectacular job of capturing the inky-dark scariness and overwhelming isolation that can be found in the woods, and launched a legion of hand-held-camera found-footage film imitators that have taken this creepiness to new levels.

Deliverance (1972) – Rated R

Not specifically a horror film, per se, but its depiction of what could happen when a group of friends head out to paddle the Cahualawassee River still ranks as deeply unsettling. Local yokels have become horror clichés, but none may be more memorable (for all the wrong reasons) than the ones the protagonists encounter in those deep woods.

The Descent (2005) – Rated R

Unlike most horror movies that cast a handful of stereotypes who wander along in the plot with predictable procession, the cast of this all-female film stands shoulders above its contemporaries by focusing in on real characters before everything goes awry. Things get sketchy when a daylong caving tour goes sideways for this tight-knit group of femme spelunkers. And then things get really bad when they find out that they’re not alone in the recesses of those dark caves. 

Friday the 13th (1980) – Rated X

It’s the film that launched the franchise (12 movies and counting, with another slated for 2015), but the original still remains one of the best in the entire slasher sub-genre. Mrs. Voorhees stalks and murders a handful of hapless teenagers as they get Camp Crystal Lake ready to re-open in a twisted homage to her son Jason (yes, that Jason), who drowned in the lake while two counselors were off…enjoying nature. Hockey masks, slapstick deaths, and fights with Freddy of A Nightmare on Elm Street would follow in the ensuing decades, but the original reminds you what a truly scary place a placid lake can become when people start disappearing.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977 & 2006) – Rated X & R

Both the original by horror auteur Wes Craven and the re-make of this cult classic exploit a broken-down RV, cannibalistic mutants, and the remote wilds of Nevada’s deserts to the creepiest extreme. Though the films devolve into what basically becomes revenge flicks, the first two acts—where the horrors start to unfold amidst the foreboding and mysterious landscape—can make the arid parts of the southwest feel just as terrifying as the deepest woods.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Rated UR

This quintessential horror flick takes place in a remote cabin in the deep woods and arguably invented the zombie genre. It also broke the race barrier by casting an African American as the lead, and invented a whole new universe of creatures to haunt your dreams. Whether you fear the lumbering zombies more than their more modern, aggressive counterparts, these creatures should never be fresh in your mind when you step into the wild outdoors.

Wolf Creek (2005) – Rated R

The expansive landscape of the Australian outback and the loose proclamation of being “based on true events” help this indie strike fear into the hearts of any backpacking traveler. The grindhouse-style, straightforward depiction of violence at the hands of a serial killer to three unfortunate wilderness travelers creates a haunting, desperate atmosphere of terror for a place typically associated with walkabout and stunning, brilliant-orange sunsets.

Honorable Mention: A Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Rated R

This meta-horror movie plays with the remote cabin clichés of the genre (see Night of the Living Dead, Cabin Fever, and Evil Dead and their endless stream of sequels) and turns it perfectly on its head. Yes, the college-age protagonists are picked off in creative and gruesome fashion by some half-seen horrors. But the filmmakers also plunge you headlong into a full embrace of the entire world of horror movies, both past and present. Terrifying at first, and then wildly inventive.


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