Spring Break is almost over but there’s still time to pick out a few horror films for a last-minute marathon. With hordes of college students invading resorts and sunny destinations, probably ruining your family vacation, it’s time to take a look at some of the best ‘spring break’ or ‘destination’ horror films. Drunk, obnoxious students may ruin your trip but they can’t ruin this week’s Chopping Block list.
5 – The Tourist Trap (1979)
Released between Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), Tourist Trap (1980) was a low-budget slasher film that went largely unnoticed. It’s technically not a Spring Break movie but certainly qualifies as a “destination horror” film. The story finds college-aged kids on a roadtrip who discover a run-down museum along the highway where the mannequins are brought to life by its telekinetic owner. Its storyline is sillier than the average slasher film and it’s not particularly well made, but there’s a surprising amount of dark atmosphere in Tourist Trap. This is not a film I would recommend to casual horror fans but for slasher film aficionados, I would say it’s definitely worth checking out.
4 – Wolf Creek (2005)
Simply put, Australian horror film Wolf Creek (2005) is one of the most brutal films I’ve watched. Greg McLean directed this “torture porn” entry that has since spawned a sequel and television series. Like Tourist Trap, Wolf Creek is not a spring break film but its story of backpackers in the Australian outback who run afoul of a psychopathic local fits under ‘destination’ horror. There are some truly harrowing and graphic depictions of torture and murder made even more distressing given the amount of time Wolf Creek spends developing its three protagonists and their relationships. John Jarratt’s ‘Mick Taylor’ qualifies as one of the most terrifying horror film villains committed to the big screen.
3 – The Ruins (2008)
Based on a novel of the same name by Scott Smith, The Ruins (2008) is another film that’s flown under a lot of horror fans’ radars. American college students vacationing in Mexico visit a Mayan ruin, upset local residents, and make the mistake of ascending the ruins’ steps. Unfortunately, the young Americans discover that escaping the ruins is not just complicated by the locals but also the predatory, supernatural vines surrounding them. While the premise of The Ruins may seem silly, director Carter Smith pulls off a tense psychological horror film that prefers what you don’t see to overt graphic violence. You’re largely pulled into the characters’ struggle to survive and buy into the film’s concept. Strong performances from a likeable cast also help elevate the film from its B-level premise.
2 – Piranha 3D (2010)
Piranha 3D is exactly what a movie about giant prehistoric piranha feasting on college students should be – a wildly fun, over-the-top movie that never takes itself seriously. Director Alexandre Aja is no stranger to extreme graphic violence; his French horror film, High Tension, pushed all sorts of boundaries. With Piranha 3D, Aja’s eye-popping, flesh-eating gore is definitely more tongue-in-cheek; the beach massacre will be a stand-out scene for gorehounds. Some viewers will take issue with the admittedly shoddy CGI effects, but I would argue that they’re in keeping with the overall tone of the film. Come for the man-eating frenzy of piranha, stay for Jerry O’Connell’s hilarious performance.
1 – Hostel
These days Eli Roth is the subject of a lot of criticism and scorn in horror circles. Much of that criticism is probably warranted. His latest offerings – Green Inferno, Knock, Knock, and Death Wish – have received tepid responses from critics and fans alike. It’s almost hard to remember that Roth turned a lot of heads with Hostel. In addition to scoring a modest box office take on a small budget, Hostel helped solidify and mainstream the ‘torture porn’ subgenre. Roth’s story of American students falling victim to a ‘tourist murder industry’ in Eastern Europe may be a little xenophobic but its lingering grotesque imagery still has the power to shock. Hostel will certainly have you booking a hotel on TripAdvisor the next time you’re travelling.