Sunday, October 11, 2015

Travel Horror

Today’s episode of Sounds of Cinema continued the month-long Halloween theme with a look at travel horror. These are movies about road trips and vacations gone horribly wrong. What follows are some of the movies discussed on today’s show as well as some other titles.

An American Werewolf in London
Two backpackers traveling the British countryside are attacked by a wolf. One of them is killed and the other is cursed with lycanthropy. This film was renowned for its groundbreaking visual effects.

Cabin Fever
Eli Roth’s first feature was a mix of gory horror and black comedy in which vacationers in a secluded cabin contract a flesh eating virus. The movie works on its own terms and it contains a glut of nods to classic horror films like Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead. A remake of Cabin Fever is anticipated for release in 2016.

Cannibal Ferox
Throughout the 1970s and 80s Italian filmmakers churned out a lot of films in which white adventurers are killed and eaten by cannibalistic natives. One of the nastier entries in this trend was Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (a.k.a. Let Them Die Slowly). In this film anthropologists in the jungles of Columbia are caught between drug dealers and an anthropophagous tribe.

In the annals of travel horror, one of the most essential titles is John Boorman’s Deliverance. In this movie a group of white suburbanites on a canoe trip run afoul of murderous hillbillies. Deliverance is the film that made Burt Reynolds a star.

The Descent
The Descent is frequently cited as one of the best horror films of the 2000s. In this film a group of women on a spelunking expedition are trapped in a cave among subterranean creatures. The Descent has two different endings: one that was seen in U.S. theaters and another that was seen elsewhere.

Before Steven Spielberg became a Hollywood director he spent some years working in television. In that capacity he directed Duel in which Dennis Weaver plays a businessman driving across the desert in a compact car and is stalked by a truck driver. The film played on ABC in November 1971 and was later shown theatrically in Europe. In many respects Duel was a dress rehearsal for Spielberg’s Jaws.

The Edge
Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins play two wealthy New Yorkers who are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. They struggle to survive the elements while being stalked by a bear.

No, not the Disney cartoon. This 2010 film told a story of three young people who are stranded on a ski lift high above the tree line and must find a way down before freezing to death.  

Hostel: Part II
The original Hostel was about a group of hedonistic American backpackers abducted by an organization that allows rich people to live out murder fantasies. The sequel expanded and improved the original idea, focusing on female students studying abroad, and Hostel: Part II had some provocative things to say about violence against women.

House of 1000 Corpses
Rob Zombie’s first directorial feature tells the story of young people who come upon a sadistic family while on a road trip through the backwoods of Texas. House of 1000 Corpses was financed by Universal and shot on the backlot but when the studio executives saw what Zombie had made they refused to release the movie and it sat on the shelf for years before being released by Lionsgate in 2003. Ironically, the Universal Hollywood theme park incorporated elements of House of 1000 Corpses in its Halloween Horror Nights attraction in 2010.

Open Water
Inspired by true events, this film focused on the plight of a married couple stranded in the ocean when their tour boat accidentally leaves them behind. Open Water was filmed on a very low budget and was created by hiring two scuba certified actors and putting them in the water amid real sharks.

Red Eye
Red Eye concerns a young woman on a cross-country flight who is held captive by a mysterious passenger seated next to her. The movie plays very effectively on the fears of flying and then compounds it with a tense abduction story.

Snakes on a Plane
Throughout the 2000s there were deliberate attempts to engineer cult movies. Of course these things cannot be engineered as was discovered by the makers of 2006’s Snakes on a Plane. Before its release the movie was an internet phenomenon but it wasn’t as much shlocky fun as it was promised to be and the film was a box office disappointment. Nevertheless Snakes on a Plane is an interesting artifact from the past decade.

Who Can Kill a Child?
In this 1976 film a couple travels to a European island and find that the adults have been killed by the children. The movie was remade in 2012 as Come Out and Play.

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