The scariest thing about most into-the-woods horror flicks? Just how hapless and ill-prepared the victims are when confronted with haunted cabins, ax murderers, or hell-sent wildlife. Not so in these six, where the protagonists have the wilderness know-how to survive—or at least go down fighting. Pick your genre poison and gather around the small screen for a night where the slashers, ghosts, goblins, and zombies get a run for their money.
Beware the Backcountry
After enduring the horrors of war, you could do a lot worse for a fresh start than the untrammeled beauty of the Sierra Nevadas—right until the cannibal shows up. Ravenous is set in the mid-1800s, so there are no cell-reception or car-engine issues to distract from the good, clean slasher-in-the-woods fun. Bonus points for the edgy, old-timey soundtrack.
The Battery (2012)
Hell Is Other People
Finally, a zombie apocalypse spent fishing, camping, and road-tripping across the countryside. Of course it’s not all Instagram-filtered sunshine for the two protagonists: their fledgling friendship is constantly strained by the new rules of survival, a holdout community that doesn’t want them, their own differences, and of course, zombies. The best pick for people who don’t actually like Halloween movies, and easily the least gory here.
The Last Winter (2006)
Global warming and the fossil-fuel industry give us the willies as it is, which is why it’s hard to root for the oil-company team when things get supernatural in the frozen north. This one has all the genre staples—isolated protagonists, barely-glimpsed monster, psychological breakdowns, desperate struggle for survival—but the fresh premise, solid cast, and non-belabored message kept us biting our nails all the way through.
The Descent (2005)
Survival of the Fittest
It could have been just another slaughterfest of hapless trekkers—only this time at the hands of orcs! In a cave! But in a mold-breaking move, The Descent gives us six hardcore wilderness athletes who are fully prepared and completely capable (aside from the leader’s total fail to give the Park Service the right trip plan). More like this, please.
Orca: The Killer Whale (1978)
Man Versus Beast
Orca was born of Hollywood’s post-Jaws mission to "find a fish tougher and more terrible than the great white." The resulting reverse-Moby-Dick tale of righteous fury is indeed more disturbing than the original.
The Ruins (2008)
It’s nice to see a group of kids who take time out of their poolside-margarita-filled Mexican vacay to check out an archaeological dig at a Maya pyramid deep in the jungle. Also nice: the fact that they leave a note before setting out, at least try to speak Spanish with the locals, and demonstrate basic survival smarts when their day trip turns into a terrifying extended stay. Not that it's enough to save them.