Vacations are supposed to be an opportunity to escape the mundanity of everyday life and do something fun. Whether you’re going for a weekend getaway in a town nearby or taking a trip to another state or country, it’s a time for ignoring your problems and relaxing. Horror movies like Us, The Cabin in the Woods, and Final Destination, however, don’t care about vacation expectations. They’re out to ruin a perfectly good time with unexpected twists and turns, killers, zombies, and so much more.
Here are eleven vacation horror movies to watch before your next getaway:
Berlin Syndrome (2017)
Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome might be the scariest movie on this list for women who like to travel alone. Australian backpacker Clare (Theresa Palmer) meets Andi (Max Riemelt) while on vacation in Berlin. On the surface, this looks like it could be a harmless vacation fling – he shows her around the city on her last day, they sleep together, and she spends the night at his place. When she wakes up the next morning, however, she discovers that he left for work and locked her in the apartment, with no intention of letting her leave when he returns. Berlin Syndrome takes a (hopefully) unlikely scenario and turns it into a horrifying reality. Watching this movie will definitely have you second guessing the strangers you meet on your next vacation.
Jordan Peele’s sophomore feature Us follows the Wilson family on their family vacation to Santa Cruz, California. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is apprehensive about returning to her family’s lake house after having a traumatic experience there as a child, but is able to put that aside to have a fun day at the beach with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their kids. Even though the day starts out normal, things take a terrifying and bizarre turn when a family that looks exactly like them shows up in their driveway late that night. The Wilson’s doppelgängers are out for revenge, leaving the family to fight for their lives until morning.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
On the surface, The Cabin in the Woods has the makings of a stereotypical horror movie. A group of young college students go away to a secluded cabin for the weekend, they run into a creepy guy at a gas station that warns them of the danger they’re in, and they find a bunch of weird, old stuff in the cabin’s basement that is definitely cursed. But what the unsuspecting youths don’t realize is that, while they are having a blast swimming in the lake and playing strip truth or dare, a secret government organization has constructed their entire trip to offer them up in a ritual sacrifice. This extra layer of conspiracy makes The Cabin in the Woods stand out from other weekend getaway horror movies. Also, if a cousin you barely know invites you to stay in their secluded cabin you’ve never been to, maybe do a little research first.
Train to Busan (2016)
In this Korean zombie movie, chronically busy dad Seok-Woo (Gong Woo) begrudgingly boards a train to Busan with his daughter so she can spend her birthday with her mother. Unfortunately for them and everyone else on board, someone infected with a zombie virus jumps on the train right before it leaves Seoul. Once she transforms, chaos breaks out in the enclosed space as the virus spreads both on the train and the cities they pass through. The survivors are forced to crowd in empty cars and barricade themselves from the undead passengers, hoping that they can survive long enough to find a safe city to stop in. Train to Busan uses its location so well, making the train feel both claustrophobic and like it’s the only world in the film that matters. It’s paradoxically both a safe haven and a death trap hurtling toward an uncertain future.
Final Destination (2000)
The Final Destination franchise is well known for taking ordinary life events and making them deadly, and the first installment is no different. Before leaving on a class trip to Paris, Alex (Devon Sawa) has a vision of the plane exploding on take off, killing him and his classmates. He freaks out, and gets himself, a teacher, and a few of his classmates kicked off of the plane. The plane then explodes as Alex predicted, leaving the survivors to deal with the aftermath. Not only do they have to deal with the trauma of losing their classmates and colleagues so violently, but they also have to try and outsmart a mysterious, malevolent force that wants them dead.
The Trip (2021)
Married couple Lisa (Noomi Rapace) and Lars (Askel Hennie) tell their friends and family that they are going on a weekend getaway to a family cabin to reconnect and repair their fractured relationship. In reality, however, both have plans to kill the other in order to claim their life insurance money. The Trip starts as a cat and mouse game between the couple, but things get even more insane when they discover that a group of murderers who just escaped prison have been hiding out in the cabin with them. After the crooks take the pair hostage, Lisa and Lars have to figure out if they trust each other enough to work together and escape their captors or if they’ll sell each other out to survive. This Norwegian film combines home-invasion horror with slasher-esque kills for a truly wild ride.
A summer festival in a remote Swedish town sounds like a fun time, right? There’s something about getting to relax away from the hustle of the outside world that sounds incredibly appealing. However, what Dani (Florence Pugh), her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends don’t realize is that this seemingly idyllic community is far from that. It turns out that they weren’t invited out of the kindness of the community, they were lured there to take part in ritualistic events that range from odd – doing a maypole dance while on drug-like herbs – to deadly. But by the time they realize that other outsiders are disappearing, it’s too late for them to escape what the community has planned. Midsommar turns a bright, cheerful folk setting into a creepy village of nightmares, proving that the daylight can hold just as many horrors as the dark.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Still haunted by the events of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) struggles to enjoy her summer. After her roommate Kayla (Brandy Norwood) wins an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas, she hopes this getaway will finally give her a chance to relax and move on. But of course this vacation can’t be that easy. For starters, their trip is planned for the “off season” when severe rainstorms hit the island, and it’s essentially abandoned by tourists. This scenario definitely isn’t ideal for a tropical vacation, but it is the perfect environment for a killer to enact some revenge. I’ll admit, this movie is a little cheesy – the killer’s weapon of choice is a one-handed fishhook – but the location makes it a unique slasher worth the watch.
Friday the 13th (1980)
The quintessential “summer camp gone wrong” movie, the original Friday the 13th is 80s horror at its best. A couple of decades after the death of a young boy and a couple counselors, Camp Crystal Lake is set to reopen under new ownership. Counselors arrive to help get the grounds in shape before children arrive, and of course they decide to have a little fun while they do it. For these young adults, this seems like the perfect time to let loose while getting paid. Little do they know, however, that a creepy figure is nearby looking for any excuse to kill them and keep the camp from reopening. Not only is Friday the 13th a great vacation movie, it also has one of the greatest killer reveals in slasher history.
The Rental (2020)
The Rental may be more of a slow-burn thriller than outright horror movie, but its creepy premise alone makes it worth the watch. Friends and business partners Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Sheila Vand) decide to book a waterfront rental home for the weekend to celebrate a lucrative deal for their company. They bring their romantic partners Michelle (Alison Brie) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) along for what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend away. However, things start to get weird when they discover a locked room under the house and hidden cameras in the showers. Things escalate when the creepy owner gets involved – what starts as a coverup between cheating lovers ends with murder. Despite a hint of melodrama, The Rental feels so realistic that it may even have you second guessing your next Airbnb.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
Okay, so Blood Red Sky isn’t technically a vacation movie – Nadja (Peri Baumeister) is going to America for medical treatment of a rare vampiric blood disorder, not a relaxing getaway – but since the majority of this film takes place on an airplane, I hope you’ll trust me and let this one slide. Nadja is desperate for a cure so that she won’t fully transform into a vampire and potentially hurt her son. The pair hop on a plane to New York hoping for a new life and a future free from this fear. However, things go wrong when their plane is hijacked and Nadja is forced to embrace her vampiric nature to protect her son. Her actions unintentionally spread the disease and turn other passengers into blood thirsty vampires. Blood Red Sky is part Die Hard style thriller and part vampire movie – with the viewer left to decide who is more monstrous, Nadja’s true form or the sadistic hijackers.
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