The woods are lovely, dark, and deep… but they’re also creepy as hell so you should probably just avoid them. There have been many cautionary tales of why one should avoid the cabin in the woods scenario, but take away the relative safety of four walls and a roof (and plumbing), and things can go sideways very quickly.
Being alone in the woods can be scary, but the possibility that you’re not all alone is even more terrifying.
Have you ever watched one of those Man Vs. Wild type survivor-man shows and wondered what the hell they would do if shit just hit the proverbial fan? Man Vs. does exactly that. Doug Woods (Chris Diamantopoulos), a “survival expert”, hosts a tv show using just the gear that he is left with. His support team is nearby, but he is – in every sense – on his own. Or so he thinks. He wakes up in the middle of his first night to a loud crash and things get progressively stranger and more dangerous. The woods create an isolation here that emphasizes Doug’s confusion and increasing fear. He’s completely helpless and he’s in way over his head.
A listless young man, upon learning he is ill, leaves his job, girlfriend and city behind, and ventures alone into the British Columbia interior, bringing his fears and anxieties with him. The scenes in the woods are dialogue-free and mostly silent (except for the score of classical music) which adds a heavy weight to his journey. Beautifully shot, The Interior really highlights the terror of being completely and hopelessly isolated and knowing that someone unseen is out there with you. Each time our protagonist is cautious of another presence, he retreats deeper into the wilderness. The shots are so wide and open, yet it’s somehow claustrophobic. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but the atmosphere creates a tension that crawls over you.
Of course this is on the list. Stay with me here, though. I’ve included the original over the 2016 sequel because just about everything that happens to our unfortunate campers is more grounded in reality. The 2016 film had the effective horrors of forever darkness, time manipulation, a hands-on Blair Witch and that terrifying tunnel, but I wasn’t worried about that happening on my next camping trip.
The 1999 film used increasing levels of horror that seemed feasible. If you were camping and heard someone throwing rocks outside your tent, would you want to investigate, assuming that there’s someone there? Or would you assume there’s a natural – probably squirrel-based – explanation and ignore it? Things can be easily explained away, but The Blair Witch Project gave us a reason to be scared of the unknown. The woods take on a different character at night. Add in the possibility of being hopelessly lost and you’ve got something to be legitimately worried about.
The Blair Witch Project made its mark on the horror genre and built a real and pressing fear out of a few simple ideas. The stick bundles, nighttime noises, quietly disappearing crew and the image of someone silently facing a corner weren’t overly complex, but they were extremely effective. If you were nervous about camping before you first saw this movie, you were probably terrified afterwards.
Any movies you would add to this list? Tell us in the comments! If you want more outdoorsy horror, head on over to our list of 10 Camping Movies for more.