Spring Break is here! Thinking of getting away with friends for a week of drinks and debauchery? Well, you may have second thoughts after this edition of The Chopping Block. With college students invading sunny resorts, it’s time to take a look at some of the best ‘spring break’ or ‘destination’ horror films. Drunk, students may ruin your trip but they can’t ruin this week’s Chopping Block list.
5 – The Tourist Trap (1979)
Released between Halloween and Friday the 13th, Tourist Trap was a low-budget slasher that went largely unnoticed. It’s technically not a Spring Break movie, but qualifies as a “destination horror” film. The story finds college-aged kids on a roadtrip. Along the way the discover a run-down museum where the mannequins are brought to life by its telekinetic owner. True, its storyline is sillier than the average slasher film. Moroever, 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 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 strictly a spring break movie. Instead, it’s a story of backpackers in the Australian outback who run afoul of a psychopathic local. As such, Wolf Creek is certainly ‘destination’ horror.
There are some truly harrowing and graphic depictions of torture and murder in this Aussie thriller. What makes the violence even more distressing is just how much time McLean gives you with his three likeable protagonists. In addition, John Jarratt’s ‘Mick Taylor’ qualifies as one of horror’s most terrifying villains.
3 – The Ruins (2008)
Based on Scott Smith’s novel, The Ruins flew under a lot of horror fans’ radars. American college students vacationing in Mexico visit a Mayan ruin. Not surprisingly, they upset local residents and trespass on the sacred site. Our young Americans discover that the locals aren’t the only thing blocking their escape. Predatory, supernatural vines are also surrounding them.
Strong performances from a likeable cast also help elevate the fim from its B-movie premise.
While the premise of The Ruins sounds silly, director Carter Smith pulls off a tense psychological horror movie. Horror fans are treated to a rare instance of relying on what you don’t see as opposed to 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-movie premise.
2 – Piranha 3D (2010)
Piranha 3D is the rare remake that gets it right. If you’re making a movie about giant prehistoric piranha feasting on college students, this is how you do it. Simply put, Piranha 3D is wildly fun, over-the-top movie, and never takes itself seriously. Director Alexandre Aja is no stranger to extreme graphic violence. His New French Extremity movie, 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, for instance, will be a stand-out scene for gorehounds. Some viewers will take issue with the spotty CGI effects. However, I’d argue that the effects are in keeping with Aja’s overalls. Come for the man-eating frenzy of piranha, stay for Jerry O’Connell’s hilarious performance.
1 – Hostel
Horror fans seem to either love or hate Eli Roth. Some of that criticism may be probably warranted. Recently, critics have turned their noses up to Roth’s last few movies including Green Inferno, Knock, Knock, and Death Wish. 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 made ‘Torture Porn‘ mainstream. Roth’s story of an Eastern European ‘tourist murder industry” preying upon American tourists is more than a little xenophobic. Nonetheless, 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.