31 Days of Travel Horror

I live in the United States in the year of 2020. This means that I am depressed and looking for meaning in my life. I’m also terribly upset that I can no longer travel for work or otherwise. So to help myself, and possibly others, feel better about being stuck at home I decided to watch travel horror movies every day this month for an October Movie Challenge.

Will it help? I’m not sure, but at least I’ll have something to look forward to everyday and a distraction for about an hour and a half every day.

So join me as I try my hardest to not pack my bags and run for the hills, because they probably have eyes anyway.

  1. Hostel
  2. Get Duked!
  3. Vacancy
  4. Truth or Dare (2018)
  5. House of 1000 Corpses
  6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  7. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
  8. 47 Meters Down
  9. The Ritual
  10. Horror Express
  11. Temple
  12. Midsommar
  13. 1408
  14. Hostel 2
  15. Cabin Fever
  16. Children of the Corn
  17. Wolf Creek
  18. Wrong Turn
  19. Open Water
  20. Snakes on a Plane
  21. The Ruins
  22. An American Werewolf in London
  23. The Evil in Us
  24. Welcome Home
  25. The Toy Box
  26. Turistas
  27. Motel Hell
  28. The Green Inferno
  29. Land of Smiles
  30. The Human Centipede
  31. Afflicted

Wolf Creek on Day 17

If you’re not into horror, you may not know that Australia is producing a lot of quality horror content. Wolf Creek was near the beginning, and possibly one of the reasons, for this boon.

There was actually another Australian movie I wanted to add to this list, but I couldn’t get access to the movie without adding a cost that just isn’t in my budget. Maybe if I keep at it Shudder will throw me a few bones and I can watch what I want in peace. Who knows how many watch lists I’m on because of the things I’ve borrowed or requested from my public library. I’d rather my bad taste be sold to some advertiser than the FBI.

I’m still learning more about the aesthetics coming out of this relatively new era of horror production, but I love the Australian landscape of “the middle of nowhere.” It’s so unfamiliar to me that it adds to the feeling of desperation that comes with it.

Wolf Creek follows three backpackers as they travel across the Australian outback out of an old car. This is absolutely something I would do. It’s something I want to do right now in the U.S. , and boy did this movie give me a lot of lessons learned.

Their car breaks down at Wolf Creek Crater and as they prepare to spend the night in their car, an incredibly fortunate and convenient thing happens. A man with a tow truck offers to give them a hand. Of course, he gives them more than just that.

Once I’m more familiar with the Australian horror movie environment, I’d love to do a comparison on the characterization of rural American outdoorsmen and Australian outback outdoorsmen. There were very specific actions and instances that raised the hair on the back of my neck. One was his outward superficial friendliness that the characters did not seem to pick up on as fake. I also got a very racist vibe from him, which I found out is confirmed in the second movie.

I would love to spend some time on this idea and how I as a Black woman identify red flags that other white travelers may not have a lot of experience with. That is for another time.

If you don’t like horror movies because they’re horror movies, you won’t like this one. But if you do like horror movies, I highly recommend this movie. Wolf Creek is a hallmark movie in the horror genre especially those made in Australia.

I’m a big fan of true crime, so the Australian outback of my imagination is already riddled with serial and opportunity killers who are just waiting for the right backpacker to cross their path. You may never find me in the real Australian outback because not only do I just not have that desire, but I’m not trying to go missing.

Things I Learned:

  1. The kindness of strangers only goes so far. At some point they are helping you to help themselves.
  2. My paranoia of cars following me would have paid off in this situation.
  3. Don’t trust people with tow trucks who don’t give you a price. Tow truck drivers always want to know where their money is coming from.
  4. I need to learn how all the guns work.
  5. Always be prepared to be set-up as the killer if you’re the only survivor. (I knew that one though. You’d better have proof especially if you’re Black.)
  6. If the “outback” doesn’t have a Bloomin’ Onion, I don’t want to be there by myself.

Children of the Corn of Day 16

Children of the Corn is based on a short story by Stephen King about a young couple driving through Nebraska who encounter a group of murderous children who are being led by a child priest named Isaac.

This movie is iconic in horror film history. We have creepy murderous kids, disorienting corn fields, extreme religious beliefs, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), and a mysterious being who demands sacrifice. You can see the shadows of this movie throughout the horror genre. Despite this, I found the movie boring and not outstanding in the least.

I wanted to know more about the children and the evil in the town rather than seeing an adult fight children. The mystery of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” and the possible mass possession of a large number of people was the creepiness I wanted. Instead I feel like I watched a sub-par slasher movie.

I know this is not a popular opinion. Maybe I’ll watch it again in a few years and have a different viewing experience. However in 2020, Children of the Corn did not live up to my horror expectations.

If I were to get a job on the other side of the country, I would definitely drive cross country to get there. That being said, it would take A LOT for me to turn down a dirt lane into a cornfield without at least consulting a map. And if I did happen to turn down that road, I would be ruining someone’s corn as I turn around realizing I made the wrong decision. This movie did finally convince me to invest in a satellite phone if I decide to get out there and explore the more rural areas of the country. If I can drive 3 hours away from my house and not have service, I would be fool to drive across the country and not have plans for such an instance.

Things I learned:

  1. I need to get more comfortable with the idea of having to kill a child trying to murder me.
  2. Lock the car doors every time you get out of the car.
  3. Always check confusing signs against your map.
  4. If you find a kid surrounded by drawings of people getting killed, don’t ignore it.

Day 15 of Cabin Fever

Eli Roth has directed four of the movies on my list of travel horror movies: Hostel, Hostel: Part II, Cabin Fever, and The Green Inferno. He’s clearly a fan of the genre, so I’m not terribly surprised that his first feature reminds me of so many of the classics.

I remember really liking Cabin Fever when I first saw it in high school; however, the feeling did not repeat itself with this second watch. Many of Roth’s inspirations come from classic low-budget horror movies like The Evil Dead and The Last House on the Left. But I just can’t bring myself to like this one as much as those classics.

Personally, the biggest difference is that I’ve grown up. The main character is portrayed as sympathetic when he sexually assaults his childhood friend and dooms his friends because he can’t stop himself from peeping on a woman in another cabin. None of this is presented as a personality problem.

Roth truly believed a horror movie needed certain types of characters and devices. I think this lack of questioning the horror genre he clearly loves has ultimately stunted the potential of all three movies I’ve seen so far.

Is Cabin Fever a good comedic horror movie? I found absolutely nothing about this movie funny or humorous. Of course humor is subjective, but I’m willing to objectively say nothing in this movie managed to get as much as a smirk out of me. Especially the ending with the older white man saying “my n***a.” It’s not funny.

Ultimately, it’s a solid horror film that sparked a franchise of its own. The story is interesting and unique, and there is enough here to make the movie worth watching if you want to watch milestones in the genre. If you’re looking for a good movie about kids in the woods or about mysterious illnesses, there are other things to watch.

Cabin Fever did succeed in not encouraging me to rent a cabin. I would absolutely be suspicious of the infrastructure, and I’d rather stay at home during this pandemic. I’ll take my normal cabin fever over whatever I could catch in somebody’s cabin. Let’s hope that feeling continues into tomorrow.

Things I Learned:

  1. You can’t trust bottled water.
  2. You also can’t trust every city’s water filtration system. Did you know Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean water? CNN Timeline If you know a good organization to link to, let me know in the comments.
  3. Sometimes you just have to drink beer to save yourself.
  4. The virus is not the scariest part of having to deal with a highly contagious virus…I think I already knew that one too.

Hostel: Part II for Day 14

Hostel: Part II remains the superior Hostel of the Hostel Movie Franchise. It is rare for a sequel to overcome its predecessor, and yet here we are. Hostel: Part II focuses on three American women studying art in Rome who are persuaded to go to Slovakia by their new drawing model. Then, of course, suspicious events begin to happen at every turn.

Hostel: Part II really leans into what they know the viewers came for — gruesome, bloody, tortuous deaths with a sprinkling of revenge and nothing else. And it delivers oh so well. We get a line-up of deaths that reinforce the idea that the rich consider the poor as consumable products. For the right fee the wealthy can bathe in blood like it’s the newest, or oldest (I’m looking at you Countess Bathory), beauty product. They can eat the poor in a candlelit chamber with classical music on in the background. They can literally do whatever they want as long as the end result is death.

As gory as the Hostel movies are, you cannot ignore the commentary on wealth, power, and class. We see the Americans kidnapped have their perceived power destroyed in the most painful way. They all enter Slovakia with the idea of going there to spend a small amount of money for a whole lot of fun. This is a common exchange with tourists from countries like the United States because the transactions are based on an economy of exploitation and unstable governments and economies.

Each group from the first two movies encounter locals and their treatment of those locals directly affect their chances of escape. The first movie allows the one who gave back to the children to live. In Hostel: Part II the women do not give anything to the children with the result of the children and the travelers being punished. Fortunately for Beth, one of the American women, she has enough personal capital to free herself from this specific cycle of exploitation.

*On a side note, Whitney just wanted to have some mutually consenting fun with another traveler named Morislav. Let’s just say that neither of them get what they want.

This movie actually did make me rethink traveling. Covid-19 has made it easier to forget the advantages and privileges I have. I don’t want to be a part of the demand that forces someone to take a physical part in a pandemic economy just because I’m tired of the same four walls. Things are really messed up in the world, and I don’t want to do an unnecessary act that could result in another person’s death.

Things I learned:

  1. If someone in poverty asks you for money, don’t offer them a smint.
  2. Don’t cancel reservations just because a good looking stranger suggests you do something else.
  3. Don’t go off alone at night in a boat with a person you don’t know in a place you don’t know. What would your exit strategy be?
  4. Find out the reputation of the place you’re visiting.
  5. Be rich. If you have any leads on this one, leave them in the comments.

Bonus Fun:

I watched the bonus content and the director Eli Roth said he heard complaints about the female nudity in Hostel. Even though he didn’t think the amount of female nudity was a problem he added more male nudity so it wouldn’t be a problem in the second one. (Yes, he actually said this.) Then he proceeded to triple the amount of female nudity in Hostel: Part II. I don’t even know where to start with this, so I won’t. What I will say is that the horror movie genre has certainly grown in the last 13 years, and it’s better for it.

1408 is actually on the 13th Day

My eyes are green with envy at Mike Enslin’s job as an author who writes about haunted places. I’m not envious of the haunted part, but more the being able to travel and write about it for a living. Every day brings me closer to trading in my car for a van and just driving across the continent.

1408 is based off of a short story by Stephen King. Of course a writer is writing about a writer, do you notice how that happens a lot? 1408 follows Mike Enslin as he’s trying to find a hotel to feature in the final chapter of his latest book highlighting haunted hotels.

He receives an unexplained invitation to investigate room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. This room torments him, and it’s a fun ride. There was never a moment I was scared, however the suspense in this movie was excellent. I often couldn’t figure out how Mike could end his torment and actually escape room 1408.

Many of the effects are cheesy and clearly of their time, but this doesn’t subtract from the already tense situation. However, it doesn’t add anything either.

Room 1408 enters your mind and plays on your deepest regrets, pains, and traumatic experiences. Mike’s personal tragedy, that he literally ran from years ago, comes back into the same room with him. His mental toughness is what ultimately saves him in the end.

I would recommend this movie if you’re scared easily. This movie will give those types of viewers quite a thrill. For others, I’d say expect to not be scared, but to have a pleasant stay at the Dolphin Hotel.

I’m thinking of starting to give the movies I watch a rating. Since it’s horror maybe something like, it gets 7 out of 10 skulls or something like that. This is a bit of a joke from the movie, but I’m also actually considering it.

This movie only increased my desire to travel, however I’m not one for staying in fancy old hotels. Don’t get me wrong, I love the atmosphere, but I just don’t like to dwell on the probable history of racial prejudices practiced by those kinds of hotels. They didn’t need my money then, and they don’t need my money now to continue their legacy.

Things I learned:

  1. If Samuel L. Jackson tells you to not stay in the room, then don’t stay your motherfucking ass in the motherfucking room.
  2. Mental fortitude is incredibly important. My depression would probably mean I’d last 5 minutes.
  3. If someone offers you an upgrade to a penthouse suite, TAKE IT!
  4. Top Ten Lists are and will always be moneymakers.
  5. I need an agent. Please leave any leads in the comments.

Midsommar in the daytime on Day 12

Midsommar is a bright, beautiful, and slow-paced film filled with inconsiderate selfish assholes and a woman looking for genuine care. Dani is fresh off a traumatic family event that would emotionally cripple anyone let alone someone already dealing with mental illness and who has no seemingly genuine and close relationships in their life.

This movie is unlike a traditional horror movie in that you are often waiting for the horror to appear. It begins with the Final Girl already surviving a traumatic event within the first ten minutes. The movie then plays out more as a drama about a woman dealing with feelings of worthlessness, lonlieness, and inadequacy.

Dani, her horrible boyfriend, and three of his friends travel to Sweden to witness a traditional community festival for academic pursuits. Of course it’s a trap of some sort, but again nothing truly horrific occurs until late in the film.

I found Midsommar to be a film of emotional horror. Dani is put through an emotional ringer, and this is not often what we see or expect to see in a horror movie. The horror revealed is an extreme showing of other’s true and natural feelings towards life, death, and individualism. Dani’s grief is constantly almost consuming her and she is bombarded with callousness, greed, and the false sense of objectivity that many academics claim to have towards their objects of study.

I highly recommend this movie! I happen to already be very careful about going to other people’s homes especially if they live in another city, state, or country. But I’m often still tempted. Midsommar will definitely make me even more careful, and much less tempted to come home and meet your family.

Things I Learned:

  1. Don’t date someone you don’t like. You’re not doing anyone any favors by staying with someone you do not like.
  2. Don’t inject yourself into any-old-body’s festival. You never know what role you might play.
  3. Don’t pee on sacred trees. If you do, do not act like it’s not a big deal.
  4. Have respect for other people’s traditions. But that doesn’t mean you need to partake in them.

Temple on Day 11

Watching Temple is rough because I want to be in Japan so badly right now. I am prepared to risk it all to just be a bum in Japan. It’s not even funny how serious I am. I am willing to drop my credit score to 200. I am not playing around.

The first half of Temple was a joy to watch. We have 3 American tourists who are just making all the wrong choices. What’s more fun than yelling at the stupidity of others in a situation you wouldn’t mind being in? Not much in October. Unfortunately, there is nothing else that this movie adds to any horror movie watching experience.

Temple left me a little confused, and just wanting to be in Japan.

Things I learned:

  1. If the locals say don’t go, DON’T GO.
  2. If you are relying on a friend to translate for you, make sure that friend doesn’t have ulterior motives of any kind.
  3. Don’t travel with someone’s child without talking to their guardian(s) first.
  4. If you do bring that child with you, don’t let them go back down a mountain on their own. That’s irresponsible.
  5. Don’t explore abandoned sacred places.

Day 10 on the Horror Express

I love watching the horror movies that would play during October on Turner Classic Movies. I consider it a time to see movies that are rarely shown and basically unavailable in good definition elsewhere. Today I watched a horror movie called Horror Express. It stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as they travel on the Trans-Siberian Express.

I love trains. I think they are a wonderful way to travel, and if I had my way I would have already traveled on the Trans-Siberian Express. I think trains are probably why I like Japan and Europe so much. They offer comfort, a wonderful view, and a chance to get up and walk when you need to.

Horror Express is about an ancient extra-terrestrial being who can absorb memories and knowledge through the eyes. At first, I thought this movie was nothing special, but the things picked up when the ancient beast was supposedly killed. Instead it transferred it’s being into a human, and the movie becomes more suspense than horror at this point.

This movie was enjoyable to watch, but since the field of archaeology and biology has become much more regulated I doubt I have to worry about a fossil coming to life and wanting my memories. I am still quite ready to buy an express ticket to just about anywhere. So drop any deals you know about in the comments!

Things I learned:

  1. Don’t steal from people’s bags. You never know what people are traveling with.
  2. Trains are wonderful places, especially in the winter.
  3. Anyone dying on a train should be treated as a big deal, even if they don’t have speaking parts.
  4. Sometimes you need a jerk to take charge, but he also should probably die before the end of the movie.

I missed my ritual for Day 9

It’s quite fitting that I missed my ritual October horror movie on the night I was to watch The Ritual. I remember friends recommending this to me when it first came to Netflix and they were right to recommend it.

I am certainly thinking twice about going hiking especially in Europe. The Ritual is about a group of 5 men who always go on a vacation together over some sort of regular interval. But, they don’t seem to actually like each other much. One of them dies in a rather tragic way in the company of Luke. So now the other 3 sort of blame Luke for the incident.

They decide to do hike through the woods to spend their holiday at a lodge. It sounds like a wonderful trip to me, but things quickly go left.

The Ritual begins like many lost in the woods movies, but there is actually a bit of mystery on whether people are hunting them or if it’s something otherworldly. It’s worth watching this movie just to see what/who is hunting them. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Overall, I’d still take a trip like this, but I would not venture into the wilds of Europe while the world is more paranoid than usual. It would make it a lot harder for me to trust random cabins in the woods.

Things I learned:

  1. It’s better to move on from old friends than to have them all die.
  2. If it’s a good shortcut then it would just be the route. Don’t take sketchy shortcuts.
  3. Sometimes it’s good for your wellbeing to go through emotional pain.
  4. Be familiar with local mythology.

47 Meters Into Day 8

I avoided watching 47 Meters Down when it first came out because I still wasn’t fully over Open Water. (which I’m also watching this month.) Being stranded in or on a large body of water is actually a terrifying thought to me because there is so little you can do to take care of yourself in that situation. You can’t swim across an ocean nonstop, you can’t find your way to land without a reference point and depending on the weather that could be impossible anyway. You can become entirely and utterly lost.

47 Meters Down begins with two sisters on vacation in Mexico. Lisa, portrayed by Mandy Moore, is getting over a breakup and is in need of some self-esteem. Some strangers invite them to go diving with sharks, and Kate, her sister who also happens to be a certified diver, convinces Lisa to lie about knowing how to dive. FULL STOP. Why would you LIE about this? You can literally die from improper scuba diving. Even I know about the bends, and I’m sure that’s just one of many things you need to know about while diving.

So this movie has already removed me from this situation. No Open Water horror here. Now that I am fully removed, I can actually breathe and enjoy what this movie has to offer. Mandy Moore does a wonderful job in this movie. Her performance, once she’s underwater, believably mixes terror, the want to survive, and the mental and physical limitations that comes with them.

Nothing in this movie is a surprise, and you’ll probably see the twist coming as soon as it’s foreshadowed. The only thing you might question in this movie is how many sharks will come eventually come after them.

This one doesn’t make me want to close my open tabs on trips to Mexico, but it does make me wary of water adventures in general. However, as much as I say that I am not the type to do those things, if I’m with the right person, or even in the right mood, you’ll find me in some unlikely places including a shark cage.

Things I learned tonight:

  1. Don’t lie about knowing how to scuba dive.
  2. If a guy thinks you’re boring, move on and keep being you.
  3. Put the camera wristlet around your wrist!
  4. Don’t ever say I wish I could stay somewhere forever if you don’t literally mean it.