By Amanda Tullos.
The road. It can mean many things to different people and for some, it’s a way of escaping or it’s a pathway to the future. For others, the road is a deadly place full of the unknown. The “road movie” is the perfect element in horror because it’s a terrifying character in and of itself. The following are a list of the best road movies in the genre.
The holidays are a time when you are forced to surround yourself with a majority of the people who you hate, and most of them are family. In Dead End, Frank Harrington and his brood are on their way to his in-laws to celebrate Christmas Eve. Frank takes a shortcut and soon the family finds themselves in a never-ending loop of terror and frustration that they can’t escape. The long drive on a dangerous back road brings out the family’s painful truths and like any good road trip, it brings about the hostilities between family members. Nothing says Christmas like drinking, crying, and fighting for your life!
When a viral outbreak happens, a group of individuals set out on the road to find a safe haven. The group quickly realizes that the disease isn’t their only worry as they face challenges that make them question their morality. Brian, his girlfriend Bobby, his brother Danny, and their friend Kate must decide if helping people is worth the risk, and if their relationships are strong enough to survive the struggles along the way. The film will make you wonder what you would do for the ones that you love, and make you hate small children who can’t cover their mouths when they cough!
When brothers Fuller and Lewis embark on a cross country trip from New Jersey to Colorado, they make the fateful decision to buy a CB radio and use it to play a prank on an unsuspecting truck driver named Rusty Nail. The brothers pose as a young woman and when Rusty quickly realizes that he has been duped by two guys, he makes them pay in the most brutal ways. Words of advice: if you ever reach someone on a CB radio who goes by the name of Rusty Nail, chances are that he’s a lunatic that uses the road as his playground. The movie teaches you that you shouldn’t play tricks on people—especially truck drivers who sound like Buffalo Bill.
When a vampire virus takes over and leaves the world desolate and dangerous, a young boy finds that his life is in the hands of the mysterious man who saved him. The man known as “Mister” turns out to be a badass vampire hunter and he teaches the young boy his ways. As the duo travel along the countryside looking for safety, they pick up travelers on the way. However, en route to their destination the group discovers that the vampires aren’t the only ones to fear. The gritty, dark world is full of bloodsuckers of all kinds in the apocalyptic saga about finding your strength and overcoming personal obstacles.
The Australian Outback is a gorgeous sight worth seeing, but the beautiful miles of open land can also be deadly. When three backpackers set out to explore the remote scenery, they find themselves stranded after their car mysteriously doesn’t start. Luckily for the friends, a nice man with a tow-truck comes a long and offers to help. Except, he turns out not so nice and the young people find themselves being hunted and tortured by a man who has a fascination for knives, and a determination to make them a “head on a stick”. The intense horror movie is filled with vicious violence and a ruthless villain, who happens to be based on an actual person. The film shows how important it is to pay attention to your surroundings, have a backup plan, and be careful who you trust with your life.
Whatever you do, don’t pick up hitchhikers—especially if they are Rutger Hauer. When Jim Halsey is driving from Chicago to San Diego he decides to be a nice person and pick up a hitchhiker. Things are fine at first, but then the hitchhiker explains to Jim that he murdered the driver of a passing car and that he plans to kill him as well. Jim manages to escape the madman by kicking him out of his car; however, the terror really begins afterward when the hitchhiker makes every effort to ruin Jim’s life.
When siblings Trish and Darry decide to drive the long way home, they probably figured that their biggest issue would be each other. Quickly into their trip, however, the bickering duo realizes that the road is a dangerous place when they are nearly run off of it by a mystery man in a rusty truck. Later, the brother and sister spot him throwing a body down a pipe and they make the fateful decision to go back to help. The decision starts a set of events that changes their lives forever, and introduces them to an immortal creature with a strong sense of smell. The pair spends the entirety of their road trip trying to escape the monster known as the Creeper, but once it finds something that it likes, it won’t let it get away. The movie birthed a terrifying creature with an interesting means of survival, and was a breath of fresh air in the genre at a time when smartass slashers reigned supreme.
When a family road trip through the Nevada desert is derailed after they fall victim to a trap, the group soon realizes that breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the least of their problems. They learn that the hills are alive with cannibals who are looking to satiate their appetites and sick need for sex and violence. The family is taunted, stalked, beaten, raped, and some are killed by a group of sadistic people who use the road as foreplay for their next big meal. For the monsters living among the hills, the road is the perfect way to catch their prey, play with and season it, and cook it until it’s just right.
When a group of friends decide to revisit a family gravesite and an old family home in Texas, they unearth a few skeletons, human skin, and a household of cannibals who are looking for some guests to have for dinner. It all begins when the individuals pick up a hitchhiker and—surprise—he turns out to be psychotic. The lunatic is kicked out of their car, and the gang makes their way to the remote family home where they are greeted by a chainsaw and Leatherface. The group happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and they pay for it with their lives. The film’s atmosphere is so gritty and disturbing; you almost want to take a shower after the movie is over. Fun fact: director Tobe Hooper tried limiting the amount of onscreen gore so that the movie could get a PG-rating.
When a family of drifters rolls into town and a young man named Caleb falls for the young woman of the group, he soon finds himself entangled in a life that he didn’t ask for. After a night with the mysterious girl, Caleb gets bitten and realizes that the family are vampires and he is one too. The young woman takes him to be a part of their group, but Caleb learns that the vamps are as ruthless and as rough as they look. The vampires in Near Dark use the road to stay alive, driving from town to town seeking out weak-minded prey and vulnerable people to feed on. The most vicious of the group is Severen who plays with his victims and taunts them before brutally killing them with glee. When Caleb learns about the family’s true nature he realizes that some roads should never be taken, and that the humble life he lived before was the right one for him.
Honorable mentions go to Zombieland, The Battery, and The Forsaken. What is your favorite road horror movie?