One of the most cliché places you could set a horror movie in is the woods. It’s been done thousands of times over the last fifty years. Though, this isn’t to say that there haven’t been some truly great films and even some certifiable classics that have been set in the woodland. Today we are going to be counting down the twenty five best horror films that take place (at least for the most part) in the woods.
25. YellowBrickRoad (2010)
YellowBrickRoad follows the story of an entire town that one day walked into the woods and never returned. The films picks up decades later when a group of researchers head into those same woods to follow the trail the town people disappeared on; creepiness ensues. You could probably consider this film an updated version of The Blair Witch Project, the similarities are undeniable.
24. Monster Man (2003)
Monster Man follows Adam (Eric Jungmann) and Harley (Justin Urich) as they drive across the country so Adam can proclaim his love for his ex-girlfriend before she gets married. They pick up a hitchhiker along the way named Sarah (Aimee Brooks). Later their car is destroyed and they’re forced into the woods, being chased by a man in a monster truck named Brother Bob. So if you want to a monster truck with a freakish driver chases a bunch of guys and a hot hitchhiker get fondled in the backseat, this is the movie for you.
23. The Cottage (2008)
The Cottage follows two brothers named David and Peter (Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith) who kidnap an underground crime boss’s daughter, named Tracey (Jennifer Ellison). They ultimately arrive at an menacing looking farm. Upon entering the house, they soon learn that it’s the home of an insane and gruesomely deformed serial-killer known simply as the Farmer. Horror and hilarity ensue. Broad comedy and splattery horror are a pretty tough combo to execute, but The Cottage pulls it off nicely.
22. Pumpkinhead (1988)
The directorial debut of special effects icon Stan Winston. Pumpkinhead received mixed reviews upon its release, but has since built up a cult following in the years since its release. When a couple of teenagers inadvertently kill his only son, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) seeks the magic of a backwoods witch to bring the child back. But when she tells him the child’s death is unchangeable, his grief causes him to call on a demon (Pumpkinhead) to get revenge. Pumpkinhead is definitely one of those choice films that you rarely hear about but when you find it you’ll be glad you did.
21. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Although, it has been parodied mercilessly over the years, we shouldn’t forget that upon the initial release of this film The Blair Witch Project was an utterly creepy little journey. The film follows the story of three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams) who disappeared while hiking in Burkittsville, Maryland while filming a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. If you can forget all the hype surrounding it you might just find yourself truly enjoying this found-footage innovator.
20. Antichrist (2009)
The film starts off contrasting a sexual act – a married woman and man having fanatical sex with a violent act – a toddler falling to his death out of the window. The couple (we simply know as “he“ and “she“), both struggle to manage their grief. The man (Willem Dafoe) his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) cope with their loss in an isolated cabin in the woods via some rather demented methods. This includes extreme sexual violence such as the women snipping off her own clitoris, crushing her husband’s testicles and masturbating him until he ejaculates blood. As you guess, director Lars von Trier didn’t create a traditional genre flick here.
19. Mama (2013)
Directed by Andrés Muschietti (and Guillermo del Toro serving as executive producer) Mama follows two young girls abandoned in a forest cabin, fostered by an mysterious entity that they affectionately call “Mama”, which ultimately follows them to their new suburban home after their uncle retrieves them. A gripping story, creepy atmosphere, effective special effects, and a fiercely against-type performance by Jessica Chastain, Mama is definitely a genre winner.
18. Secret Window (2004)
Based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King, Secret Window follows successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) who suffers a psychotic breakdown when his wife has an affair on him. He puts off concluding the divorce by receding to his isolated cabin in rural upstate New York. Down in the dumps and suffering from writer’s block, Mort is one day met head-on by the mysterious John Shooter (John Turturro), a Mississippi farmer who accuses him of plagiarism. It’s clear that Writer-Director David Koepp understood the best qualities of the story and held back the almost unbecoming payoff as long as he could. Strange and a little awkward, this film is definitely worth a look.
17. Dead Snow (2009)
Dead Snow follows group of teens taking a trip up to a remote cabin where they come face to face with some Nazi zombies. The film is able to mix up horror conventions with some supernatural zombie terror. Thankfully, Dead Snow is also entirely aware of itself, playing most of its clichés for amusement. Definitely one of the most underrated zombie films of our time.
16. Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)
This black comedy follows two walking hillbilly clichés Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine) , as their friendship is tested by the lurking evil surrounding them in the woods. This meta-horror film asks, “What if the hillbillies were the innocent victims of the damned college kids?” Tropes are inverted, there’s gore in profusion, and the two leads make endearingly rough-hewn heroes.
15. The Last House on the Left (1972)
Inspired by the 1960 Swedish film The Virgin Spring, The Last House On The Left was the directorial debut of Wes Craven. It may seem tame by today’s Serbian Film and Human Centipede standards but during the early ’70s The Last House On The Left was beyond brutal. The film follows two teenage girls who travel to New York for a concert, and ultimately get held captive by a gang of psychos. What follows is rather vicious; they rape the girls repeatable, drive them out to the woods, rape them some more, make one of the girls piss on herself and ultimately they kill them both. Quite atrocious!
14. Friday the 13th (1980)
Probably the first movie that comes to mind when you think of horror movies set in the woods is Friday the 13th and its plethora of sequels. So why is the original film of the series not higher on the list? Well, because several of the sequels were far better. Also, iconic slasher Jason Voorhees doesn’t appear in the film at all (aside from the infamous final lake scene). In the original Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) is the killer and she might just be as ruthless as her son.
13. The Burning (1981)
After the success of Friday the 13th in 1980, the slasher genre got flooded with endless imitators, most memorably 1981’s The Burning. The film tells the story of an alcoholic caretaker at a camp (nicknamed “Cropsy”) who falls victim to a prank carried out by a couple of campers who accidentally burn Cropsy alive. After recovering, Cropsy leaves the hospital and heads back to the camp to execute his revenge. The film is unoriginal, dumb, and completely awesome! Plus who could forget the Tom Savini effects in play, especially during the infamous raft scene?
12. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway Camp (also marketed on VHS as Nightmare Vacation) came at a time when slasher films were in their heyday. The film follows shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) who is sent to Camp Arawak for the summer. Shortly after their arrival, a series of peculiar and violent accidents begin to claim the lives of various campers. Sleepaway Camp is largely known for its twist ending which is considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings ever among horror films. SPOILER ALERT, Angela has a penis.
11. Evil Dead (2013)
The fourth installment of the Evil Dead franchise, served as both a reboot, a remake and as a loose continuation of the series; the first neither to have Bruce Campbell as the main star or to be directed by Sam Raimi. Many horror fans counted this reboot out, until it was actually reassessed that is. It has everything that a good horror movie should; gore, terrifying moments and lots of blood. The infamous tree rape scene was also pulled quite flawlessly.
10. Wolf Creek (2005)
Written and directed by Greg McClean, Wolf Creek is the Blair Witch Project of the Australian outback. Capitalizing on the fear of becoming lost in the wilderness, in this case a desert crater called Wolf Creek National Park. The film follows three backpackers who find themselves held captive and subsequently hunted by a serial killer in the coarse outback. The film has been marketed as being “based on true events”; the plot has elements similar to the real-life crimes of Ivan Milat and the 2001 murder of Peter Falconio. Overall, this is a nicely done horror film.
9. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Day of the Woman (better known by its re-release title, I Spit on Your Grave) is one of the most controversial cult classic rape and revenge film of all time. The film follows a New York City writer who heads up to a secluded cabin in the woods to write her first novel. While there, she is heartlessly raped by four country boys and left for dead. Surviving the assault, she carefully plots and implements horrific, bloody revenge against her attackers. This includes severing off a guy’s penis in the bathtub…quite brutal!
8. Misery (1990)
Based on the novel by Stephen King. Successful romantic novelist, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), who has just been saved from a car wreck by his No.1 fan…now lives to regret it. When Ann Wilkes (Kathy Bates) learns that her most loved character, Misery Chastain, has been killed off in his latest novel she’ll do anything to make certain he brings her back to life. Now Paul Sheldon must write as if his life depended on it…because it does. An exceptional thriller which anyone would enjoy, highly recommend, especially if you’re a Stephen King fan.
7. Hatchet II (2010)
Of Adam Green’s three Hatchet films, part deux is definitely the greatest. Kane Hodder reprised his role as the deformed, swamp-dwelling killer Victor Crowley and the film even introduced Danielle Harris as the new protagonist. The director had a famously epic battle with the MPAA who seemed hell-bent on taking every bit of gore they could out of the film, Green argued that the gore and violence was so over-the-top cartoonish that nobody could take them serious. And he was right, ripping heads apart at the mouth and chainsaws to the genitals may sound brutal, but it’s really just hilariously entertaining.
6. Wrong Turn (2003)
An unspeakable nightmare begins when a group of young friends (Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto) is left high and dry on an isolated road deep in the hills of West Virginia, with no hope of rescue. Hopeless and fearing for their lives, the horror surges as they find themselves relentlessly pursued by a horde of psycho inbreeds. The film spawned five sequels with a sixth on the way. If you like cannibal-mutant-hillbilly movies, you’ll probably enjoy the Wrong Turn films.
5. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Directed by Drew Goddard in his directorial debut, produced by nerd icon Joss Whedon, and written by the both of them, this satirical horror film pokes fun at the sub-genre it’s also reinventing. The story follows a rambunctious group of five college friends (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz) who head away for a weekend of depravity in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures (including unicorns, werewolves and zombies) in a night of endless terror and bloodshed. Cabin holds a mirror up to not just every universal horror movie theme, but also makes the viewer deal with why they get so much enjoyment out of horror films, Definitely an innovator.
4. Cabin Fever (2002)
In Eli Roth’s directorial debut, four friends ( Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello and Giuseppe Andrews) head out to an isolated cabin in the woods for one last hurray after college. They eventually all come in contact with a deadly flesh-eating virus that takes effect almost immediately. The infamous shaving scene in the bathtub will make you cringe so hard you might sprain your jaw. The only bit of levity is the fact that the film will make hungry for PANCAKES!
3. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
If somebody were unfamiliar with Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th films and you could only play one entry of the series for them, which would it be? Friday The 13th:The Final Chapter is like a compilation or a “best of” of the entire F13 series. Everything that a Jason Voorhees movie is known for is shown perfectly in this movie; horny teenagers, drug using, skinny dipping (shoutout to the gorgeous Judie Aronson) and machetes to the face. The “Final Chapter” enjoyed the luxury of a much bigger budget than its predecessors. It also was the last entry to present Jason as simply a masked killer; as he would essentially become a zombie in later films. Plus Tom Savini returned to do the effects for the film resulting in the most gruesome and most awesome Jason death of the franchise.
2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
It has been called “sick,” and “perverse,” “grisly,” and “the movie that redefined horror.” It was banned by governments, attacked by churches, and acclaimed by only the bravest of critics. It bewildered audiences worldwide and set a new standard in movie terror forever. In 1974, director Tobe Hooper unleashed this visionary tale about a group of five young friends who face a nightmare of anguish at the hands of a depraved Texas clan. Today it remains unsurpassed as a landmark of outlaw filmmaking and unmatched in its impact as perhaps the most frightening motion picture ever made.
1. Evil Dead II (1982)
It seemed a little redundant to include the original Evil Dead simply due to the fact that its sequel is essentially the same thing…only better. A little known fact; after the modest success of the original Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi couldn’t get funding for a sequel. Horror aficionado Stephen King was apparently a huge fan of the film and basically single-handedly convinced Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis to develop the project. Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of the first film, returns to the identical cabin in the woods and again lets loose the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by these demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to once again battle the flock of the damned as the most deadly – and groovy – hero in horror movie history!
What was your favorite horror film set in the woods? Let us know in the comment section below.