What is the first mistake so many horror victims make? They don’t turn on the lights! For crying out loud people, just turn on the lights! And although a little light may reveal the killer, it won’t always save your ass. We like to think light and escape are the solution. As kids, we left that door open, we left that nightlight on, all in an attempt to keep the monsters away. But sometimes the monsters are in the light of day, out in the open, and no amount of open doors or nightlights can save you.
Spring has sprung and summer is almost here. Here are our top ten movies that take horror out of the shadows and into the light of day.
10. Battle Royale (2000)
Battle Royale tells the blood soaked tale of a group of ninth graders who are dropped off on a deserted island. They are given food, weapons, rules and a singular goal: Kill or Be Killed. If they break the rules or try to escape, the collar they’re wearing will explode. If they are the very last one standing, they get to go home. Otherwise, that island is their final resting place. This movie is stylistic, shocking and absolutely ruthless. It influenced many movies from Kill Bill to Suicide Squad. If you haven’t seen it, do so quickly!
9. Deliverance (1972)
My god, who hasn’t been traumatized by Deliverance? This movie was just perfectly done and captured a level of tension not matched by many. It also made a statement about the ugliness of the American South at that time that was very powerful. A group of four friends take a trip to rural Georgia to canoe down a river before it’s damned. Trouble is, they quickly go from tourists to prey and have nowhere to turn. They are isolated out in the woods, in the middle of nowhere and there are no phones or people to help them. One by one they are murdered, raped and tortured as they make their way through the not-so-great outdoors.
8. Children of the Corn (1984)
Dr. Stanton and his girlfriend are driving across the Midwest to their new home and job. On the way, they stumble upon the body of a child. When they go to find help, they learn the town’s only residents are not only children but a cult of children who worship a demon and follow a prophet child named Isaac. He’s whiny, demanding and a cold hearted killer. The good doc and his gal have to escape before they become a sacrifice at Isaac’s alter. This movie does such a great job of turning clichés on their head. The intelligent, educated adults are outwitted and on the run from uneducated, country kids. The horror takes place in the sunlight in an idyllic farm setting. The killers are kids and the vulnerable are adults. Everything is backward and terrifying.
7. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
A clean-cut American family is on a road trip when they find themselves lost in the Mojave Desert. It seems they took a wrong turn and ended up in a former bomb testing site. Their maps are no help, this area isn’t on any map. Cell phones don’t exist and there isn’t a business for miles. As they find their way back they quickly realize they are being stalked. The first worry is baking under the Mojave sun, but now some sort of savages are out there and they’re troubles double. This was Wes Craven’s third feature and the first that was a hit. The influence on the genre is immense. Few movies capture the divide between the uppity and lowly and the terror of isolation like this film.
6. The Burning (1981)
It’s summer and camp is in full swing. Some of the more deviant campers decide to play a little prank on the old groundskeeper, Cropsy. The prank goes wrong and Cropsy is left burning to death. Pesky things like death and burning won’t stop Cropsy. His charred corpse comes to life and stalks each of the little bastards through the forest with his trusty shears. One by one he tracks and takes them down. For my money, The Burning is one of the best summer camp thrillers of all time. It’s campy, it’s bright and it’s full of blood.
5. Cujo (1983)
Donna and her son Tad visit a mechanic who runs his shop out of his rural home. There they meet his friendly dog, Cujo. Car gets fixed and they’re off. When new troubles arise, they bring the car back, but things have changed. They discover Cujo has lost his damn mind and killed the mechanic and their neighbor. They flee, but the car dies after moving just a couple feet. Now they are stuck, baking away in a car while a rabid murderous dog waits outside. The book is a classic, but when most think of Cujo, they think of the movie. Critics hated it, but audiences were truly terrified by the grindhouse aesthetic and gritty realism of the movie. The sun is just as deadly as the dog.
4. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Tucker and Dale are two friends who’ve finally saved up enough money for a cabin in the woods. The buddies head for the forest and enjoy hikes, fishing and a couple of beers when some college students show up. They investigate and see one of them fall in the water, injured. They rescue her, but the kids think T&D have kidnapped her. One by one they try and save her, only to die in horrid, but accidental, ways. This is one of the best horror-comedies of all time. It is endlessly re-watchable and flips the horror script on it’s head beautifully.
3. Revenge (2017)
Jen is a wealthy socialite and model, dating a married sugar daddy. He flies her out to his remote cabin in the desert for some fun. However, his hunting buddies arrive early for a planned trip and one of them rapes Jen. Her boyfriend offers her hush money, but, when she refuses, he throws her off a cliff and leaves her presumed dead and impaled on a tree. Oh, but she ain’t dead. She tracks them down in the hot desert sun with a goddamn chunk of tree sticking out of her and kills them, one and all. This movie is as brutal as the desert sun. Every scene is grounded, realistic and gripping.
2. Predator (1987)
The US government wants to form a covert unit to retrieve a group of diplomats trapped in the jungles of Guatemala. To avoid international laws, they hire a mercenary group willing to go in dark. Once they get in the jungle, the diplomats are the least of their troubles. Some invisible creature or being is literally ripping them to shreds. They adapt and try to survive, but they just keep losing limbs and lives. It’s finally up to Dutch, played to perfection by Schwarzenegger, to kill the beast. Predator is not only classic 80’s horror, it is fantastically well made. It spawned sequels, spin off’s, cartoons and even a Christmas special! Predator is a treasure.
1. Jaws (1975)
What list of outdoor horror would be complete without Jaws? It isn’t just a classic, it’s iconic. From the score to the script, Jaws is a movie that scared an entire generation from going in the water. Hell, some people developed such a phobia because of it they talked about being afraid to go into their own bathwater. In fact, Jaws has such an enormous impact on the psyche of the world, that many feel it is responsible for how the world sees sharks, especially Great White’s, as predators to be feared and killed. The writer of the book and screenplay, Peter Benchley, would go on to dedicate his life to undoing this image. How many movies can boast something like that? To be so effective, so scary, that it changes how the collective conscience of the world views something. Astounding. Jaws changed the game and is a must watch for every human on earth.
Have I scared you out of that camping trip? Going to cancel that trip to the islands? Just remember, heading to the great outdoors might keep you safe from the things that go bump in the night, but there are horrors in the sunlight all the same.