No time or money for your dream vacation this year? Never fear! These 9 movies will make you feel a lot better about staying home this summer.
It’s summer time, and whether you’re working or not, there’s something about that long stretch between The Fourth of July and Labor Day that makes everyone dream of peeling off their couch, brushing Cheeto dust off of their good sweatpants, and heading out for a sun-soaked getaway. If that’s you, go out and enjoy yourself! We’ll cover your desk while hate-scrolling through your Instagram feed. This article’s not for you.
For the rest of us, stuck at home this summer with nothing to do, I’ve rounded up a bunch of movies of vacations gone horribly wrong.
Whatever kind of summer getaway you like, whether you want a thrilling adventure, an introspective road trip, or even a weekend of pampering in a nice hotel, these 9 movies will make you feel better about staying home.
1. Your Own Private Island: 5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970)
Dreaming of a sunny beach with just you, a futuristic mansion, and half-a-dozen of your closest friends? Mario Bava’s Five Dolls For An August Moon will take care of that pretty quick. Four couples join wealthy industrialist George Stark (Teodor Corra) at his private island retreat, including Gerry Farrell (William Berger). Farrell’s got a million-dollar formula and everyone’s angling to buy it. Inevitably, the bodies start piling up. Directed by giallo master Mario Bava, Five Dolls is great fun to watch, with its vibrant cinematography, mod style, and languid sensuality. While not as bloody as your traditional giallo, the deep-freeze sequence alone is worth the price of a streaming rental.
(Honorable Mentions: Who Can Kill a Child?, The Breed)
Private island too relaxing for you? Want your summer getaway to get your heart pumping? This new classic will do that for you — and you won’t even have to put on bug spray.
2. Weekend Warrior: The Descent (2005)
Six friends and adrenaline junkies go spelunking in an unknown cave in the heart of Appalachia. What results is a claustrophobic nightmare of blood, darkness, and skittering humanoid… Smart, well-written characters and the badass all-female cast make every death count. If you haven’t seen it before, make sure you watch the version with the original ending-one that includes a gorgeous, haunting final shot that will stay with you longer than any sunburn.
(Honorable Mentions: Open Water, The Chernobyl Diaries)
Or maybe you want a little culture? You want to see the sights, hike the moors, joke with locals at a nearby pub? Just make sure you don’t go out on a full moon…
3. European Vacation: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Two Americans, David and Jack (David Naughton and Griffin Dunn), are attacked by werewolves while touring the English countryside. Jack is killed, but David is rushed to a local hospital. Jack appears to David, informing him that he is about to become a werewolf. As time wears on, Jack’s warnings become more and more desperate as Jack tries to fight his animal urges.
The horror comedy is a difficult genre, but if you’re going to do it, who better than the man behind Animal House and the Michael Jackson “Thriller” video? John Landis is a master American Werewolf is both surprisingly funny and deeply unsettling. The cringe-inducing transformation scene is famous for it’s Oscar-winning makeup effects (as is Jack’s progressive decomposition), but despite the gore, there is a sweetness and poignancy to the main characters and their relationships. Most importantly, it’ll teach you to always listen to the locals.
(Honorable Mentions: Aftershock, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Don’t Look Now)
If you really want to see the world this summer, there’s nothing like renting an RV and going on a good old-fashioned road trip. You can have quality time with the family, all the comforts of home, and you even get to bring along the dogs!
4. Road Trip: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Somewhere in Nevada, the Carter family stops at a rundown gas station. The owner of the gas station encourages them to stay on the road, but the family insists on finding their own way through the mountains. It’s not long before the family is terrorized by the locals: an incestuous family of cannibals.
An infamous cult classic, The Hills Have Eyes has inspired dozens of knockoffs, homages, and remakes. Known primarily for its violence -the film includes rape, incest, cannibalism, animal cruelty, and crucifixion-it’s also pretty damn smart. There’s some interesting stuff in there about family and survival.
(Honorable Mentions: Sightseers, Southbound)
Maybe you’re not the type of person who likes to “rough it.” Maybe a good vacation for you is one in a beautiful hotel. Not working in one (movie history does not recommend being a caretaker), but staying in a fancy, five star resort — one where all you have to do is sit back and relax. Now all you need to worry about are the other guests.
5. Five Star Hotel: The Witches (1990)
Technically a children’s film, The Witches is about a boy (Jason Fisher) who comes to live with his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) after the death of his parents. His grandmother warns him about real witches who disguise themselves as nice women while hunting down children. The two take a holiday at a beautiful resort where the leader of all the witches (Angelica Huston) just happens to be holding a convention.
While often pretty goofy, the performances are played with straight-faced perfection by the actors, and the witches underneath their people masks are downright disgusting(helped along with puppetry effects from the Jim Henson Company). The early scenes in particular contain some child abduction sequences that are more unnerving than they have any right to be.
(Honorable Mentions: Puppet Master, Mountaintop Hotel Massacre, Vacancy)
No hotel? Why not a romantic camping trip? After all, the best way to relax and reconnect with your loved one is to be among nature. Especially if you’re hunting Bigfoot.
6. Camping: Willow Creek (2013)
Jim (Bryce Johnson) believes in Bigfoot. So much so that he’s making a documentary on Bigfoot lore. And he’s dragging his skeptical girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) on a “romantic camping trip” to Willow Creek, CA, the Bigfoot capitol of the world. Will Jim’s passion for proof push them into dangerous territory? Will Kelly start to believe? Will any of us want to go camping again?
Found footage movies can often be derivative, but the best ones add something new to the genre. Jim’s obsession with documentation motivates the found footage style while delivering on moments of real intimacy with the two leads. Director Bobcat Goldthwait ratchets up the tension in the camping scenes, making potentially silly subject matter ominous with clever audio design and some unique scares.
(Honorable Mention: Rituals, The Final Terror)
The unknown can be scary, but what about something where everything’s planned out for you? An all-inclusive, incredibly expensive cruise complete with poker, showgirls, and speedboats? Well, that and a spiky tentacle monster.
7. Cruise: Deep Rising (1998)
In fact, the cruise in Deep Rising is beset by several misfortunes including a beautiful jewel thief (Famke Janssen), and a group of mercenaries led by John Finnegan (Treat Williams) hired to destroy the ship. Treat & Co arrive to find the ship (seemingly) deserted. As they continue to explore, they find that a giant squid-like monster has been devouring everyone in sight-and they’re next on the menu. Deep Rising is a fun, silly film with terrible CGI and absurd characters names such as “Trillian St James.” Director Stephen Sommers, with films like The Mummy and Van Helsing, is known for making movies that range from ridiculously fun to ridiculously awful. Deep Rising falls squarely in the middle.
(Honorable Mention: Ghost Ship)
Some people can’t handle the heat of a beach or tropical island. For some, the best vacation is a beautiful snowy retreat, perhaps on a mountain in Eastern Norway.
8. Winter Retreat: Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt) (2006)
A group of five friends go to a remote mountain for a snowboarding weekend when one has an accident, breaking his leg. Unable to get to help, the friends hole up in a mysterious abandoned hotel, where a young boy had gone missing thirty years prior. It’s not long until the friends discover they’re not alone.
This cabin-in-the-woods-type slasher is livened up by the hotel’s mysterious backstory and a star-making final girl turn by Ingrid Bolsø Berdal. The film was a huge success in Norway, spawning two sequels. The English-language rights were purchased last February by WWE Studios, so expect a US remake soon!
(Honorable Mentions: Dead Snow, The Corridor)
In fact, if you’re really willing to splurge this summer, you can’t go wrong with a theme park. Those guys will do anything to make sure you have a good time.
9. Theme Park: Westworld (1973)
Decades before the HBO series, Westworld’s premise is Jurassic Park crossed with Cowboys and Indians. Like Jurassic Park, Westworld spares no expense, allowing guests to interact, kill, or have sex with lifelike robots. (Of course, this is no coincidence. Director Michael Crichton wrote both screenplays). With a brilliant performance by Yul Brynner as robot-turned-psycho-killer, the film evokes the best of the philosophical questions posed by HAL 9000 and Frankenstein’s monster. What is consciousness? What is humanity? And what does it mean to be good or bad in a world created for you?