Ask any horror fan what their favorite movie is, and it’s most likely to be something like Nightmare on Elm Street, The Conjuringor maybe The Shining. Not that there’s anything wrong with those choices, but a sub-category in the horror genre that often gets forgotten is wilderness survival horror. Maybe it’s not as easy to get spooked by the concept of starvation and exposure to elements from the comfort of your couch, but for those who enjoy exploring the wilderness, these movies can make you rethink your next camping trip.
Just because a horror movie takes place in an outdoorsy environment doesn’t necessarily mean it fits into this sub-category. For example, Wrong Turn is about a group of people who happen to be stuck in the backwoods of West Virginia. They are trying to survive and get out of those woods, yes, but mostly because of the cannibalistic inbred mountain men that inhabit those woods. Here are a few basic ingredients to create a great survivalist horror movie. First and foremost, the main antagonist should always be sourced mainly from the environment. Extreme heat or cold, wild animals, infection, starvation, and dehydration are all things that can and will kill a person if they are not adequately prepared. The protagonist(s) will have to use their brains and available resources to survive.
The Edgestarring Anthony Hopkinsand Alec Baldwin, is a perfect example of wilderness survival horror. Yes, Baldwin’s character does try to kill Anthony Hopkins’s character in the movie, but he’s not the main antagonist. The bear that is stalking them, as well as the extreme Alaskan wilderness, presents the largest threat to the characters. The fact that a flock of geese caused their plane to crash in the first place is just another example of the dangerous unpredictability of nature. With winter drawing closer, so many folks are looking to get one last camping trip in before the cold sets in. But before you plan your next vacation, you might want to give some of these movies a watch first.
Written and directed by Adam McDonald (slasher), this movie really changes your perspective on who sits on top of the food chain. Alex (Jeff Roop) takes his girlfriend Jen (Missy Peregrym) on a camping trip in a national park. He refuses to take a map from the park ranger, stating he knows the park very well. He injures his foot early on, and when they make camp at the end of the first night, they meet Brad (Eric Balfour), who tells them he is a tour guide for the park. Insulted by how Brad flirts with Jen and insinuates that they would be better off with him as a guide, Alex takes Jen off the marked trail the next morning.
They come across the mauled remains of a deer shortly before they realize that they are lost. And once they set up camp, a grizzly bear is drawn in by the scent of Alex’s foot injury, raising the stakes even higher. Traumatized, injured, and lost, Jen has to find her way back to civilization before the bear catches up with her.
back country is available to stream on Kanopy and Shudder.
This Australian film is actually based on the true story of Israeli explorer Yossi Ghinsberg and his harrowing experience in the Amazon rainforest. The movie was written by Justin Monjo (farscape) and directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek). Daniel Radcliffe stars in the lead role of Yossi, who plans to venture into the jungles of Bolivia with his two friends, Marcus (Joel Jackson) and Kevin (Alex Russell). They meet an Austrian man named Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), who claims to know of an undiscovered indigenous tribe that he can bring them to see. After some trepidation, the trio decides to set into the rainforest with the Austrian as their guide.
Without giving too much more of the story away, this movie will leave you having second thoughts about venturing into jungles of any kind, especially with a stranger. jungle is available to stream on Roku and Prime Video.
Long Weekend (2008)
Another Australian film (to be fair, nature in Australia is especially scary), directed by Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), this one is actually a remake of the 1978 movie, Long Weekend. also titled Nature’s Gravethis movie stars Jim Caviezel (Frequency) as Peter, who is planning a camping trip with his wife, Carla (Claudia Karvan) at a remote beach on Australia’s NSW North Coast. There’s palpable tension between the couple, which only gets worse as the movie goes on. Peter runs over a kangaroo carcass, flicks a lit cigarette out his window, and overall the couple displays an egregious lack of respect for nature.
Not long after they get their campsite set up, nature starts pushing back against their intrusion. It starts slowly, like getting stalked by a possible shark, then getting a biting ant infestation at their campsite, but nature’s retaliation escalates quickly in this movie. It stands as a solid reminder to “leave no trace,” when you’re a guest in mother nature’s house. Long Weekend is available to stream on Roku.
The Canyon (2009)
A newlywed couple decides to take a mule ride down into a large canyon with a tour guide named Henry (Will Patton). Nick (Eion Bailey) and his wife Lori (Yvonne Strahovskic) are interested in seeing petroglyphs but are told they are another half-day ride away. Along the way, Henry is bitten by rattlesnakes, and the mules run off.
Forced to continue on foot, Henry soon dies of his rattlesnake bite, leaving the newlyweds on their own to navigate out of The Canyon. They are faced with the elements, injuries sustained from attempts to climb, and a pack of ravenous wolves. So much for a relaxing honeymoon adventure. The Canyon is available to stream on Roku.
No, this isn’t the movie with the singing and talking snowman. Written and directed by Adam Green (hatchet), Frozen follows Parker (Emma Bell), her boyfriend Dan (Kevin Zegers), and Dan’s best friend, Joe (Shawn Ashmore) hanging out at a ski resort. Just before the resort closes for a long weekend, the three of them convince the ski lift attendant to let them go up for one last run for the night. When the other attendant sees three skiers come down the slope shortly after, he assumes it’s the same trio and shuts down the lift, trapping Parker, Dan, and Joe high above the ground.
After Dan attempts to jump down, breaking both of his legs in the process, a pack of wolves sets in on him, leaving Parker and Joe watching helplessly from above. Nobody is coming to rescue them, they will freeze if they stay put, and they will get attacked by wolves if they climb down. Singing “Let It Go” isn’t going to get them out of this Frozen nightmare.
Frozen is available to stream on Amazon Freevee and Roku.
Open Water (2003)
Open Water is the perfect survival movie for shark lovers. Loosely based on true events from 1998, this movie is about a couple who charter a scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef and get left behind by their boat. It was written and directed by Chris Kentis (Silent House).
Blanchard Ryan (beerfest) and Daniel Travis (Thank You For Smoking) decide that a scuba trip will be the perfect opportunity for them to spend some quality time together as a couple. They board a scuba charter with 18 other divers and make their way out to sea. The two separate from the group during the dive, and before they can rejoin, the boat leaves the dive site after a miscount of the returning divers. After they realize they’ve been left behind, the realization sets in that the boat will not be returning for them and that they’ve also drifted away from the dive site. It doesn’t take long for the resident sharks to start eyeing them up as their next meal. Will someone notice they are missing and send out rescue boats before it’s too late?
Open Water is available to stream on Prime Video.
yet another Australian survival horror film, also written and directed by Greg Mclean (jungle). An American travel journalist, Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) joins a group of tourists on a crocodile-watching river cruise in the Northern Territory of Australia. Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) leads the expedition as Kate Ryan, a wildlife researcher. The group spots a distress flare further up the river and investigates, only to find a half-sunken wreck. As they get closer, something large below the surface crashes into their boat, damaging it irreparably.
They manage to steer it to a small island in the middle of the river, but Kate realizes they are in the middle of the crocodile’s territory and that the river will rise at night, covering the island entirely. They will have to find a way to cross the river to the mainland before they fall prey to the gigantic man-eating crocodile. The crocodile in question is loosely inspired by a 17-foot saltwater crocodile named “Sweetheart,” who was responsible for several boat attacks in the 1970s.
rogue is available to stream on Plex, Tubi, and Vudu.
Written, directed, and produced by Joe Carnahan (Death Wish), this survival horror movie brings us back almost full circle to The Edge. You’ve got a plane crash in the brutal wilderness of Alaska, wild animal attacks, and tension between the survivors that put each other in peril. Liam Neeson (Tasks) stars as John Ottoway, a sharpshooter working for an oil company in Alaska. His job is to keep the packs of wolves away from the workers who drill for oil. After his last day on the job, he boards a plane set to take him and several other men to Anchorage for their 2-week furlough.
The plane hits heavy turbulence, causing it to fall apart, crashing deep in the Alaskan wilderness. He and the other survivors of the crash find themselves deep in the wolves’ territory and have to find a way to be rescued as the wolves pick them off one by one. The Grey isn’t streaming with any of the subscription or free-with-ads services but it is available to rent or purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Apple TV.