“camping attracts people of all ages”
Getting back to nature – sleeping in the dirt – it’s all about getting back to our roots; having societal accessories stripped from us, falling back in to the natural food chain and our primal selves.
Of course in the world of horror, it means living like prey and my top ten camping horror movies will show you just how much can be tackled in one simple setting – from environmental issues to rape culture.
10. Just Before Dawn (1981)
This independent slasher, directed by Jeff Lieberman, has all the “What are you doing?!” moments you’ve come to expect when watching a film about a group of horny young people ignoring the warnings of a murderer being on the loose in the woods they want to frolic in. But don’t be deceived by the seemingly run-of-the-mill plot.
The film sees five classic teen tropes make their way to the woods for a camping trip and, after ignoring the warning of the local Sheriff, being hunted down mercilessly by a giggling, machete wielding man in plaid.
9. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
This Christian Camp set horror is packed with original kills and even had one drunk cast member who could not bring himself to do one of his scenes sober. If that doesn’t tell you this summer camp flick; directed by Robert Hiltzik; isn’t worth a peek, I don’t know what will.
The film sees Angela, a shy young girl, being sent to summer camp by her aunt after her parents died in a boating accident. But when accidents begin to take the lives of campers too, it appears Angela is nothing but bad luck for those around her.
This film is especially interesting as it takes an VERY extreme look at the dangers of forcing gender on to a child, and what the oppression of a persons’ true gender can do to a persons’ psyche.
8. Madman (1982)
Directed and written (screenplay) by Joe Giannone, this simple, classic and fun slasher is a must for any horror fan that loves watching teens get chased around by a madman after being told scary stories round a campfire – in good ol’ camp horror spirit.
Quite similar to Friday the 13th, the film sees a murderer come back to life to hunt at a summer camp. After a cocky teen says the name of the legendary murder, the slaughter begins.
7. The Burning (1981)
Directed by Tony Maylam, this cinematic take on the Cropsey legend sees a group of teens play a prank on the camp caretaker which causes him to be severely burned and ready to seek revenge. Although the plot is incredibly similar to Friday the 13th, don’t be mistaken in thinking that you don’t want to see Cropsey snip the cast down a peg or two.
The inventive use of POV shots for its time and the fact that Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th Part 2 makes this a worthwhile film to see in itself.
6. Blair Witch Project (1999)
This is a shaky, riot of a film – but therein lies its charm. Created by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, The Blair Witch Project is a found-footage film about three student filmmakers that go in to the woods to investigate local legends of The Blair Witch. This film is either loved or hated by viewers, but it began a fresh chain of POV films that came across as being realistic.
It took me a long time to love this movie, but in 2011 I met my Finnish friend Janne (a DoP) who lectured me over our correspondence about his love of POV and suddenly I understood its purpose; I finally understood why those rickety shots are just as beautiful as perfectly filmed art pieces.
Not even ‘The Boss of It All’, a Lars von Trier classic, was able to teach me that.
5. Primal (2010)
Directed by Josh Reed, Primal comes from an only-in-Australia branch of werewolf horror tale. Never short on gore, this film sees a group of friends hike to view some ancient cave drawings where one of them becomes infected with a virus that makes her lose all sense of humanity and turn in to animalistic and very hungry predator.
Reaching in to the realm of psychological horror on occasion, this film does what you’ve come to expect from the Australian horror scene, but with more grace than expected from a camping movie.
4. Eden Lake (2008)
Eden Lake, directed by James Watkins, not only tackles the camp setting but also violence stemming from group mentality. The film shows a couple being aggressively pursued on a weekend camping trip after asking a group of teenagers to turn down their music. Extreme, I know, but all the more chilling to see just how easily things can get out of hand.
The film seems somewhat inspired by the French-Romanian horror movie ‘Ils’ (‘Them’) based on true events of a young couple who were murdered by a group of pre-teens in an old sewer system (if memory serves me correctly) somewhere in Eastern Europe. Add that gritty British effect that just comes naturally and you’ve got yourself a great and unnerving horror film.
3. Long Weekend (1978)
Directed by Colin Eggleston, Long Weekend has a very clear and very forceful message at the core about the relationship between mankind and nature. But this surprisingly doesn’t take away from the thrills of the story.
The film sees two suburban dwellers camp at a beach for a weekend, recklessly destroying the environment a little at a time. You may have already guessed it is not long before nature balances things out.
2. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
If memory serves me, Friday the 13th Part VI was the only film in the franchise to have actual camping take place – and as well as this it is very often regarded by fans as the best film in the entire franchise. Packed with nods to other horror gems from the period, as well as some great 80s rock music there really is nothing more you need to head back in to that warm embrace of Camp Crystal Lake.
The film sees Tommy make the journey to Jason’s grave to finally get rid of his body, but instead he accidentally raises him from the dead.
1. Deliverance (1972)
The inbred hillbilly has always been a staple to camping (and any other woodland set) horror; but no other film tackled this nasty horror archetype in quite the same way. It was a blunt, stripped down look at rape and its effects, shown through the eyes of a group of white, cis, heterosexual men.
Although rape and rape culture obviously affects woman more than men, I think this film was incredibly smart for its time as most men are able to discuss rape unemotionally as the threat of it does not affect them on a day to day basis as it does with women in most corners of the world. So making the victims men must’ve really helped to explain the fear and shame faced by survivors of these attacks in a more relatable way.
A heavy film if there ever was one, but no doubt one of the best camping horror classics you could ever hope to come across.