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The Dreadful Ten: 10 Horror Films Where Terror Takes Place Outdoors

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Summer is finally here. The air is warm, the sun is bright, and it’s time to enjoy the outdoors. With this time of year comes swimming, hiking, camping, and exploring. Back are the days when it feels great to simply stroll along under the trees in your neighborhood. There’s something peaceful about being away from other people, alone or with a few friends in the calm of a park, the cover of the woods, or in the seclusion of a hiking trail. But there’s also something unsettling about it. There’s no one in sight, and when that hushed silence registers in your mind, it’s a harsh reminder that you are all alone… aren’t you?

That’s the thing about the woods, the outdoors. There’s so many places for things to hide, so many trees and so much brush, that you can’t possibly know if you’re by yourself or not. The woods are unconquered by people, an uncivilized, mysterious place with secret paths and hidden caves. Who knows what’s actually lurking within the dark depths of the outside world? To help your imagination along, FANGORIA presents ten films which have been inspired by isolated cabins, rural towns, and the wilderness that surrounds them. As you’ll see, each film insists that the woods are anything but empty. Happy trails.

 

THE RUINS

10. THE RUINS (2008)

In THE RUINS, a group of friends vacationing in Mexico get the chance to visit an archaeological dig site. As they’re exploring the pyramid like structure, local townspeople arrive and refuse to let the American tourists leave the area. The friends think being held captive at gunpoint is the sole threat until they realize there is something much worse living on the ruin with them. The tourists find themselves preyed upon by something they could never have expected. THE RUINS, based on Scott Smith’s novel, packs jarring twists and gruesome surprises that will leave you squirming.

 

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9. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

Rather than a forest, CHILDREN OF THE CORN takes place in the rolling farmlands of Nebraska. Based on Stephen King’s chilling short story, the film follows a couple driving cross country. When the two travelers stop in a rural town, they are shocked to find that the only living residents are children. In place of parents, the children look to a supernatural entity called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”. The film succeeds in creating a creepy town and depicting a cult of murderous children.

 

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8. THE REAPING (2007)

In THE REAPING, Hilary Swank plays Katherine, a former Christian missionary who is asked to investigate strange occurrences in a rural Southern town. Inexplicably, the supernatural occurrences mimic the — biblical plagues. Katherine is alarmed to find the fanatically religious townspeople blaming the plague-like attacks on a young girl who lives on the outskirts of town. The film follows Katherine has she daringly plunges through Southern swamps, wading through the town’s anger and confusion in the hopes of finding a scientific explanation for the strange events unfolding. The plague like manifestations are creatively creepy in this film whose screen play is written by Carey and Chad Hayes, the writers of THE CONJURING and its sequel.

 

The Forest

7. THE FOREST (2016)

THE FOREST’s storyline centers around the Aokigahara Forest in Japan. While the lush forest is beautiful, it’s also the site where locals go to commit suicide. When American Sara finds that her twin sister has entered the forest, she journeys to Japan to find her. Despite the locals’ warnings that the forest is home to vengeful spirits, Sara determinedly enters the woods. The film lends the Aokigahara forest a deadly feel, as if the very air is poisonous. But it’s the entities that begin to appear to Sara that have murder on their mind.

 

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6. THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

Instead of taking place in the woods, the film finds a vacationing family stranded in the barren Nevada desert. Before they can repair their flat RV tires, the family is attacked by a tribe of mountain dwelling mutants. The movie very slyly leads up to the actual attacks, building tension through unnerving incidents. While using the gas station bathroom before the RV breaks down, adolescent Bobby sees someone watching him through a crack in the wall. And when the family becomes stranded, Bobby goes after the family’s dog, who’s gone running into the desert. He finds her not only dead, but cut open and mutilated. We know the family is being stalked by something malicious as we anxiously wait for all hell to break loose.

 

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5. THE WITCH (2016)

Recently released, THE WITCH offers a refreshing take on the supernatural genre. Set in 1630’s New England, it’s a convincingly executed era movie as well as a horror film. The story follows a strictly religious family who choses to leave its colonial plantation home. Alone in the New England woods, the family finds itself falling victim to something unspeakable. As members begin to disappear and unnatural occurrences become more frequent, teenage Thomasin is accused by her family of evil acts. Hauntingly crafted, the film’s solemn depiction of one family’s nightmarish experiences is likely to leave you both awed and chilled.

 

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4. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

With so many found footage films around, it can be easy to forget the sheer magic that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT brought to the screen. The film feels so realistic that viewers will forget they are watching a fictional movie. The ‘found tape’ is footage of three students who go into the Maryland woods to film a documentary on the witch who supposedly haunts the area. What starts off as an ambitious film project spirals into a frenzied, panicked disaster as the team finds itself hopelessly lost in the woods. With each new night the students must spend in the woods, they become more convinced that the witch they came looking for exists. Something is stalking their campsite in the dark, causing the group to be overcome with terror and hysteria. Truly anxiety inducing, the film is so well acted that it’s impossible not to share in the characters’ panic. The film presents a truly nightmarish trek through the cold, gray expanse of Maryland’s woods.

 

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3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a film bursting at the seams with rowdy, bloody fun. Intelligent in its mixing of horror and humor, it somehow manages to be both creepy and funny at the same time. In this particular secluded forest cabin, a group of college friends come for a weekend getaway, unaware that they have been lured to the spot as part of a sinister scheme. When the friends explore the gloriously creepy basement, filled to the brim with strange carnivalesque objects, they unknowingly summon a family of sadistic undead hillbillies. Besides being clever in its fresh, unique blend of laughs and thrills, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS features an explosively epic finale. It’s surprising, corkscrewing plot makes for a ridiculously wild and exhilarating ride.

 

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2. THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

I couldn’t choose between the original and the remake, so I put them both on this list. The original film by Sam Raimi had a such a different tone from the remake that the films stand apart as drastically different pieces. The original had a far more playful, over the top feel than its sterner predecessor. The original also had Bruce Campbell, whose portrayal of Ash became one of the most notorious performances in horror history. Despite the low budget Raimi had to work with, THE EVIL DEAD is rich in thrills, atmosphere and even laughs. Watching Bruce Campbell battle demonic forces may be the most fun you will have all season.

 

Evil Dead

1. EVIL DEAD (2013)

Few films have managed to transform the woods into as disturbing a place as the masterfully crafted EVIL DEAD remake did. The film follows a group of friends who seclude themselves in a house deep in the woods, determined to help troubled Mia kick her heroine habit. The group hopes to help Mia push through opioid withdrawals, tucked safely away in the forest where there’s no one she can score drugs from. But when they stumble upon the Book of the Dead, they arouse a demonic force and open themselves up for possession. All alone in the dark woods, the friends soon realize there is something lurking in the cabin with them.

The film presents one of the scariest possession scenarios to date, with gruesome effects and applause-worthy acting. From start to finish, the atmosphere is phenomenal. Viewers are taken through sinister, foggy woods and into the dark cabin where a new horror lurks in each shadowy corner, just out of the light’s reach. A true masterpiece of a supernatural film, EVIL DEAD will be the movie that haunts your forest adventures this summer.

About the author
Lexi Harrington

Lexi Harrington fell in love with horror after picking up Stephen King’s novel Carrie in middle school. Since then, she’s devoured as many horror movies and horror novels as she can. Lexi even writes about horror at Florida Atlantic University, where she is studying English. She’s also a Vinyasa yoga junky and teacher.

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