Backwoods, hillbillies, bumpkins, rednecks movies or whatever you want to call it, this type of horror sub-genre is what we will be taking a look at today. So let’s just jump right into this. This is the 25 Best Backwoods/Redneck/Hillbilly Horror Movies…
25. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Stars: Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Jeffrey Allen, Shelby Livingston
It’s 1965, and six Yankee tourists are lured to Pleasant Valley, an unassuming southern town that seems to be full of good people. In fact, they’re so hospitable that they designate their Northern visitors “guests of honor” for their upcoming Centennial celebration. Everything seems fine until some of them begin to disappear and the townspeople won’t let them leave. The guests soon begin to piece together that it’s the Centennial celebration of the end of the Civil War, and this valley isn’t so pleasant for Yankees. The town doesn’t just want to have them over for dinner – they want them to be dinner after a day of demented celebrations that aim to maim and mutilate the guests!
In short, do not watch this film if you like: Quality acting, good sound and dubbing or well-judged pacing and editing. If, however, you like hilariously bad acting, awful Southern US dialogue (“Dog gam!” “By Dinghy!”), ludicrous plotting (at one point Mr White stumbles across a memorial stone revealing that Pleasant Valley was laid to waste in 1865 by a group of renegade Union soldiers and concludes that “It means that we’re to be killed!” – eh? How’d he work that one out?), memorable characters, jaunty Country and Western soundtracks and a huge side portion of cheese, then this is the film for you. Altogether now – “Yeeeeehyehaaa – oh, the South’s gonna rise again”.
24. Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974)
Directors: Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby
Stars: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner
If not for serial killer Ed Gein, the horror genre would be missing some of its most important films. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and Silence Of The Lambs, just to name a few, are partially based and/or have characters based on the legacy of Plainfield, Wisconsin’s own “Mad Butcher.” But one movie that’s often left out of the group is Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen’s Deranged. This movie is a direct reflection of the life of Ed Gein, from his mother’s death to his arrest. And as they say at the beginning of the film, only names and locations have been changed.
In the film, Ezra Cobb, is a mama’s boy in all the wrong ways. After losing his Bible-thumping mother, Ezra decides the only way to soothe his fractured soul is to dig up dear old mom. Disappointed in her deteriorating appearance, Ezra becomes obsessed with taxidermy in hopes of repairing the rotting corpse. He eventually turns to darker methods of “preservation.”
23. Mother’s Day (1980)
Director: Charles Kaufman
Stars: Tiana Pierce, Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Frederick Coffin
Three female friends head to the woods to remember their collegiate good times, all the while with no idea that they’re being hunted by a dysfunctional hillbilly family. Mother is teaching her backwoods boys how to rape, torture and kill young women – and her adept pupils are more than willing to practice their lessons.
Roger Ebert famously hated this film. Upon its release, he wrote (for the Chicago Sun-Times), “So far there seems to be no end to the vogue for geek films. And there seems to be no limit to the inhuman imagery their makers are prepared to portray in them.” He then concluded with the death nail, “The question, of course, of why anybody of any age would possibly want to see this film remains without an answer.” Well, as much as Ebert knew films, his reviews were for the masses, recommending films to anyone and everyone. Thankfully, with bloody fantastic sites like this one, fans know where to go to enjoy the movies they love without shame.
22. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Stars: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry
Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by the forest ranger that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorizing the area. Ignoring the warnings, they set up camp, and start disappearing one by one. If that sounds too run-of-the-mill, there’s a genuinely shocking plot twist half-way through.
Just Before Dawn is a well above average backwoods slasher with several ingredients that set it apart from the pack. The film has a deliberate pace, which is usually a death knell for this sort of movie, but rather than becoming dull the story builds up pleasingly to the inevitable slaughters. The better than expected acting helps maintain interest, and there are some very well done eerie moments. The forest setting creates a claustrophobic feel and the killer’s wheezy laugh is also an effective tool to generate unease. The characters do some stupid things, which is commonplace in these types of films, but they’re not so terribly stupid as to be implausible, which is virtually unheard of in this genre.
21. Tourist Trap (1979)
Director: David Schmoeller
Stars: Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood
Tourist Trap begins as so many other low-budget horror films do; namely, with a group of young attractive girls and a couple of their male friends stranded in the middle of nowhere with car trouble. Then, wouldn’t you know it? A Good Samaritan comes along and offers to help the kids with their troubles. The guy’s a little weird and lives alone in a house filled with stuff that belongs in a circus tent, but hey, there’s no one else around, so why not accept the old geezer’s offer?
So from what you’ve just read, you probably have a fairly good sense of where the movie is going from here? Thing is: you’d be wrong. All because we didn’t mention the mannequins that come to life and kill one of the youngsters during the first five minutes of the film. You see, one of the two guys in our coterie of stranded travelers makes the initial foray into a house up the road while seeking help. Within minutes, mannequins – indeed, the type you’d see in a department store – come to life and murder him. It’s from then on that you know you’re not watching just another slasher film. What we get is an off-kilter, slightly funny (the killer complaining about his brother not letting him use his telekinetic powers is a particular delight), but yet very unique and creepy movie.
20. Eaten Alive (1977)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns
So how do you go about successfully following up an instant classic like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Some would argue that director Tobe Hooper never really did but in 1977 his next project following that landmark film was another grubby little shocker set in the deepest, darkest backwoods of Louisiana, albeit a grubby little shocker with a different kind of bite to it.
After an uncomfortable run-in with randy redneck Buck (a pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund), prostitute Clara is given directions to a hotel where she can pull herself together after her ordeal, but when she arrives at the Starlight Hotel she is greeted by the curmudgeonly Judd who introduces her to his pet crocodile in a most unfriendly manner. This is because Judd is slightly unhinged and before long more guests arrive, giving Judd the chance to sharpen up his scythe and slice them up into pieces for his reptilian friend to feast on. Where will it end…?
19. Calvaire (2004)
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Stars: Laurent Lucas, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigny, Jean-Luc Couchard
A few days before Christmas, traveling entertainer Marc Stevens is stuck at nightfall in a remote wood in the swampy Hautes Fagnes region of Liège, his van conked out. An odd chap who’s looking for a lost dog leads Marc to a shuttered inn; the owner gives Marc a room for the night. Next day, the innkeeper, Mr. Bartel, promises to fix the van, demands that Marc not visit the nearby village, and goes through Marc’s things while the entertainer takes a walk. At dinner that night, Bartel laments his wife’s having left him, and by next day, Marc is in a nightmare that may not end.
In a nutshell, Calvaire is basically Deliverance in the French Countryside, but with less Ned Beatty, and way more rape. The film looks great, and it maintains an uneasy feel throughout, until eventually the unease turns to anguish during the more violent scenes. Once you realize that everyone in this movie is insane, it makes you feel even more skeeved out about what you’re seeing. It’s hard to imagine that you’ve seen many movies that are as bizarre as this one is.
18. House Of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: Sid Haig, Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie
No one was really expecting much when metal head Rob Zombie announced he was making a horror movie. But House Of 1000 Corpses turned out to be one of the most startling, striking horrors of the 2000s. It’s a deliberate throwback set-up, almost gleeful in it’s lack of originality. Set in the ’70s, a group of four annoying kids are on a road trip of America’s weirdest roadside attractions. Eventually they end up at the home of the Fireflys, a family of psychos.
There’s just an incredible gleeful bleakness to it — you know these kids are just going to go through hell. Plus the Firefly family, including cuckoo clown Captain Spalding, are amongst the most entertaining horror antagonists of this century. And at the very least, you have to applaud House Of 1000 Corpses on at least one level: The movie has absolutely no interest whatsoever in sanitized horror.
17. Eden Lake (2008)
Director: James Watkins
Stars: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Finn Atkins
Steve and Jenny take off for an idyllic getaway in the country to a quiet spot called Eden Lake. Not long after they’ve arrived, the couple encounter a group of young, but belligerent youngsters. When Steve confronts the motley clutch of miscreants, it sets off a senseless and increasing level of violent encounters. With the bloodthirsty gang of kids in pursuit, Steve and Jenny attempt to get out of Eden Lake alive.
Seriously bloody horrible in every particular, and uncompromisingly bleak to the very end. Eden Lake is nasty, scary and tight as a drum. The story has been done before, but in seldom such a provocative, savagely astute manner. It is a violent ordeal nightmare that brutally withholds the longed-for redemptions and third-act revenges, offering only a nihilist scream and a vicious satirical twist in our perceived social wounds: knife-crime, gangs and the fear of a broken society. It’s a claustrophobic marvel.
16. High Tension (2003)
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Cécile De France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon, Franck Khalfoun
Also known as Switchblade Romance, this French grody extravaganza that kick started the career of Alexandra Aja is an expertly crafted film even if the shocking twist has you scratching your head for days. Set on a remote country farm the film takes place over one terror filled night when Alexia and her family are visited by a grunting hulk of a man with murder on his mind. After a relatively quick blood soaked killing spree the majority of the movie centers on Marie as she takes off in pursuit of the killer that has her best friend chained up in his truck, becoming an incredibly tense cat and mouse game until the two finally come to head to head.
The nameless villain here is a ruthless neanderthal of a man whose heavy breathing and creaking boots is enough to fill anyone with dread as our wannabe heroine struggles countless times to escape being spotted by him. High Tension is the perfect title for this film, as you are likely to spend the majority of it clinging to the edge of your seat, praying that Marie and Alexia escape the clutches of this most fearsome of killers. Another strength of the film is its ability to completely knock you for six as the twist is revealed; the first viewing of this film is an experience that can never be enjoyed again but you will probably want to watch it over and over just to piece together the plot in retrospect.
15. Wrong Turn (2003)
Director: Rob Schmidt
Stars: Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto
In 2003, we received the first installment of the Wrong Turn franchise, which involved a family of inbred backwoods cannibals who made a habit of dining on attractive young people. It was followed with five direct-to-video sequels: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End in 2007; Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead in 2009; Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings in 2011; Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines in 2012; and Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort in 2014.
Wrong Turn had a lot of mixed reviews, to say the least. But for a horror cheese-fest about six ill-fated teens on the verge of brutal maceration by inbred hick monsters, Wrong Turn is surprisingly worth the detour. Gory enough to satisfy jaded horror fans and scary enough to offer a decent, frightening night for everyone else. The Joe Lynch-helmed sequel is actually pretty great as well. After that you probably shouldn’t waste your time.
14. Motel Hell (1980)
Director: Kevin Connor
Stars: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod
Motel Hell follows a seemingly friendly farmer, Vincent, and his sister as they kidnap unsuspecting travelers and bury them alive, using them to create the “special ingredient” of their famous roadside fritters. It’s nutter butters. And while the humor of it all is quite effective, the horror dimension is still plentiful. The sight of Vincent’s “secret garden,” where he buries his victims up to their necks alive until he’s ready to butcher them, has the irrational power of a nightmare. And the dueling chainsaw climax, which might have inspired a similar scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is informed by the memorably creepy touch of Vincent’s deranged laughter, which can be subtly heard from underneath the huge and absurd-yet-nevertheless-unsettling pig’s head that he insists on wearing for whatever reason.
Tying the figurative room together, so to speak, is the film’s heightened atmosphere of sleazy, remote, red-light-district woodiness, which is ineffably specific of ’80s horror films and, in this case, suggestive of every weird country burg you’ve ever driven through as quickly as possible.
13. Cabin Fever (2002)
Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent
The story for Eli Roth’s directorial debut is simple: A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.
2002 was post-Scream, yet pre-Cabin In The Woods, when self-awareness was hip, but had not yet evolved into full-on genre parody. Cabin Fever reflects equal tweaks of spoof, homage, retro style, and wink-wink cleverness for a tone that is gruesome above all else, but relieved with enough quick pinpricks of humor to make for a mood of not-so-serious horror entertainment. Eli Roth is having fun playing on and off of scary movie clichés, and the audience is always in on the joke. Essentially, what it loses by trying to be a comedy, it makes up by being a showcase for the grotesque. Indeed, there are scenes that will make even the most seasoned horror fan squirm – you know the scene we‘re referring to.
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