Summer is a time we all associate with baseball games, swimming pools, summer camps, no school, and just vacation itself. And horror has always been associated with “ruining” everyday things by making them terrifying and the same is true for summer and vacations.
So we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of these horror films that have definitely made us think twice before taking any of these vacations. Or if you’re anything like us, you love watching these movies while on vacation!
The Beach House (2019)
This Shudder original starts as an awkward trip to the titular beach house where a couple on the verge of breakup is working through their problems. But as a dense fog rolls in, things get very Lovecraftian.
The Beach House is definitely a slow burn, but it takes its time to build suspense so that when the creepy cosmic horror and grotesque body horror begin, you really feel it. Perfect for a beach getaway, but you’re not in the mood for a traditional shark movie.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977/2006)
Both the 1977 original and 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes are the perfect movies for a road trip. We’ve all been on a long drive through the middle of nowhere, and being stranded on the side of the road, hunted by a family of violent cannibals is just about the worst thing that can happen to you. Both versions go all out with brutal violence and make you question how far you would go to defend yourself and your family.
Hostel franchise (2005, 2007, 2009)
Eli Roth himself was delighted at the idea that his movie “ruined” backpacking in Europe the same way that Psycho ruined taking a shower. We hear horrifying real life stories about people disappearing via human trafficking when they travel, so it’s always in the back of our minds that if we travel somewhere we’re unfamiliar with anything can happen.
These movies are peak “torture porn” from an era in which that was the dominant subgenre of horror. And while the third movie isn’t that great, and the first is just okay, the second is a chilling tale of the depths of depravity that humans are capable of.
The scene of random people around the world bidding on who they get to kill is far more terrifying than any torture scene, because it reminds us that monsters are among us.
It doesn’t get more classic than this, nor is any trip to the beach complete without a screening of it. Steven Spielberg delivered not only the first summer blockbuster, but he also gave us a monster movie that is definitely deserving of the “horror” classification, no matter what anyone says.
It’s brilliantly written, acted, paced, and directed, and there’s a reason it’s still a beloved classic all these years later. Even now, you can’t make a shark movie without it immediately being compared to Jaws!
M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent film famously departed his usual Philadelphia setting for something more tropical. Shot on location in the Dominican Republic, Old is a disturbing tale of horrors of aging and our own mortality, all set on a beach.
Granted, it has all the usual odd quirks we’re used to seeing from Shyamalan, and if you’re not a fan of those or can laugh at how awkward they are, this probably isn’t the movie for you. But if you can get past that, it has a creepy tone and feels at home for someone who has ever felt like a day at the beach with the sun beating down on them went on and on forever.
Open Water (2003)
Advertised as the low budget indie version of Jaws, Open Water is a much smaller scale, and in some ways, much more disturbing movie. Based on a horrifying true story about two scuba divers who went missing in shark-infested waters, Open Water follows a couple as they desperately try to survive in a bleak and hopeless situation.
It’s shot mostly handheld, with a lower quality DV to give the whole thing a documentary vibe. The result is a genuinely disturbing movie that will make you never want to scuba dive.
The Ruins (2008)
For those who prefer exploring inland jungles over beaches, The Ruins is the perfect vacation horror film for you! Following a group of friends on a Mexican excursion, this movie take a strange turn into body horror and will definitely get under your skin (no pun intended). A lot of horror films frame either a killer or a monster as the thing to fear, but movies like this demonstrate that nature itself is equally terrifying and destructive.
AirBnB certainly has its issues, but for many it’s a cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel and this is where movies like Superhost come into play. You never really do know who’s house you’re staying in and it’s not like there’s hotel security on site either.
Movies like Superhost (as well as 14 Cameras) touch upon how terrifying the idea is that something as innocuous as a security camera could be used to stalk or any other number of sinister things. Word of advice, get a place where the host isn’t going to be right there and double check for any hidden cameras when you arrive…
Another young people backpacking horror story, this movie took the whole organ harvesting urban legend and just ran with it. When traveling in a foreign country where we may not know the language or norms, there’s always a fear that we could be exploited without even knowing it.
There’s movies on this list that just happen to be set on vacation, and there’s movies like Turistas where the vacation itself is the source of horror. Plus it features great performances from actors like Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, and Olivia Wilde, before they would each go on to bigger things.
Jordan Peele’s creepy thriller that deals with social class issues may not be explicitly about vacation, but the family in peril is on vacation at their beach house when the events unfold. We also get a lot of great scenes with the beach and boardwalk as a backdrop.
The movie itself is chilling, poetic, and disturbing in ways that really make you think. And the fact that it’s set during vacation just sort of adds another layer to it and makes it something fun to watch while you’re on vacation yourself.
What are your favorite vacation horror movies? Let us know in the comments!