Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Horror Movie List. Today we are checking out 10 Backpacking Horror Movies. This list is slightly inspired by the late 2023 hidden gem Loop Track that we reviewed and explained the ending to just a few days ago. But I have covered this topic, and topics similar to this, on a number of occasions. I think backpacking is a seriously underappreciated subject in horror.
Terror on the Trail
Do you know how many people go missing every year while out backpacking in nature? No? Well, neither do I but I am fairly sure that it is a lot. In fact, 300 people a year lose their way while backpacking in Australia alone and thousands more are lost in National Parks throughout the USA. British backpackers disappear in Thailand all the time and some of them are even found deceased. The less we talk about Australia’s backpacker killer Ivan Milat the better.
The truth of the matter is, you just don’t know what is out there in the wilderness and you have no clue of who might be waiting for you on the trail. It’s a legitimately scary topic and one that is not covered a lot in horror. That makes it all the more noteworthy when a decent backpacking horror movie appears.
Horror movies that manage to exploit the feeling of vulnerability and unease that comes from sharing the great outdoors with complete strangers deserve special mention. It is so easy to invest in the fates of characters who are miles away from civilisation and safety fighting for their lives against almost insurmountable odds.
10 Backpacking Horror Movies
Today we are checking out 10 Backpacking Horror Movies. All of these movies feature characters trekking through the great outdoors and coming face to face with something truly horrifying. I’ve tried to pick 10 actually decent movies but some are, obviously, a lot better than others. Hence why I will be ranking them from worst to best.
I have also tried to bring together a number of different styles of backpacking. From underground to through the jungle to along roads. There’s some decent variety here and something for everyone. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
This one is a little lighter than the other movies on this list and, to be perfectly honest, not quite as good. Starring low budget horror mainstay Scout Taylor-Compton and directed by The Killing Jar director Mark Young. Feral follows a group of friends backpacking out into the woods for a weekend of fun. Not realising that they are about to stumble into an area plagued by horribly mutated creatures out for blood.
Feral tries to do something different but never really manages to succeed all that well. When some are noting the main highlight as being the female cast’s love for revealing tank tops. You know you are in for something that might be somewhat disappointing. Still, Feral might appeal to some and the creature effects here deserve some mention. It’s not great but there are worse horror movies out there so why not give it a go?
The Forest (2016)
Natalie Dormer stars and the writer of The Houses October Built Jason Zada directs. In this movie about a young woman backpacking into the notorious Suicide Forest in Japan to uncover the mystery of her sister’s supposed death. This one starts out with a genuinely intriguing story but it quickly gets away from itself. Turning into a bit of a strange movie that leaves bunches of potential on the table.
The Aokigahara forest setting is a brilliant one and there is a decent amount of tension for awhile in what seems to be a fascinating ghost story. It all comes apart as Zada, unfortunately, abandons the slow build dread and, instead, opts for jump scares. This could have been great and while it is still very watchable. It is hard not to think of what could have been.
Mercy Falls (2023)
At number 8 we have Scottish Tubi Original horror, thriller, Mercy Falls from 2023. Starring Lauren Lyle and directed by Ryan Hendrick. Mercy Falls sees a woman take a group of her friends backpacking into the Scottish wilds in an attempt to locate a cabin left to her by her late father. Things turn deadly when a stranger that the group invited along turns out to have a dark secret.
This one isn’t fantastic. We awarded it 2.2/5 in our review but our Mercy Falls Ending Explained article has proved to be fairly popular suggesting this movie is still generating viewership. Mercy Falls plays out as more of a thriller than a horror but the cat and mouse style events make for some decent tension in the unforgiving wilds of Scotland. The rather inexperienced backpacking group are seriously up against the odds here and the performance of Nicolette McKeown deserves particular note.
Coming Home in the Dark (2021)
We are off to New Zealand for this grim backpacking movie coming by way of director James Ashcroft – 2021’s Coming Home in the Dark. This movie is very similar to the Aussie horror Killing Ground in style but with a bit more focus on backpacking rather than camping. A family taking a road trip decide to spend a day backpacking into the wilderness. Only to find themselves in a fight for survival as a pair of merciless drifters aim to make their lives a misery.
Ashcroft’s feature length debut is a gritty, harsh and brutal one. It’s also pretty scary as well as featuring gorgeous cinematography and fantastic acting. It doesn’t completely nail everything it goes for and it can feel a bit repetitive in parts. But Coming Home in the Dark captures that realism that certain movies have that make them all the more captivating and engaging.
The Royal Hotel (2023)
We are back down under now with Kitty Green’s 2023 movie The Royal Hotel. This one follows a pair of backpackers travelling across Australia who find themselves running out of money. Keen to get back on track, the pair take jobs in a local pub only to find themselves trapped in a potentially harrowing situation.
Ozark’s Julia Garner stars in this one alongside Jessica Henwick with accompanying performances by the fantastic Hugo Weaving. The Royal Hotel focuses less on the backpacking itself and more on the inherent dangers that come along with being a young woman when backpacking goes wrong. It would be a stretch to call this one a horror movie and even the thriller label goes a bit too far. But it is a movie with a deep psychological element that deserves a mention in this list as something completely different. Not for everyone, this is worth checking out if you enjoy slower paced movies that are light on the scares and tension.
We couldn’t do this list without including Eli Roth’s 2005 sleeper hit Hostel, could we? Three backpackers head out to a city in Slovakia looking for a good time. Only to find themselves at the mercy of a twisted group of people who get their kicks by torturing people in any way they desire.
The follow up to Roth’s well received Cabin Fever. Hostel turns up the sadism as Eli Roth pokes fun at the tourism industry. It’s not a great movie by any stretch and probably appeals to teens and people in their early 20s rather than older viewers. But Hostel still manages to find its way into people’s favourite horror movie lists and stands as one of the more memorable shock horror movies from the early 2000s.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Brutal, sadistic, cruel and vicious. All words to describe our number 4 entry Wolf Creek, again from 2005. Australia reminds us that it can do visceral horror better than most places with this story of a group of backpackers hunted across the outback by a crazed killer. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about Wolf Creek is that the movie is based on the real life backpacker killer Ivan Milat. A fact that sends a shiver down your spine.
It’s a bit derivative, it isn’t particularly clever and it doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well. But Wolf Creek achieves exactly what it sets out to achieve. And that is to have buckets of gore and some genuinely nasty scenes. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre but set in the land down under and you are halfway there. Great fun to watch with friends, Wolf Creek is still worth checking out in 2024.
The Ritual (2017)
Director of the 2022 remake of Hellraiser, David Bruckner, takes the helm for our next entry, The Ritual from 2017. A group of friends backpack into the woods of Sweden where they discover an ancient, evil presence, lurking that threatens them all in this folk horror from the UK.
The setting is something of a star in its own right here and while Bruckner doesn’t do much new with the formula. He manages to put together a genuinely effective, tense and, at times, creepy horror movie in the form of The Ritual. The camaraderie between the friends draws you into the story and keeps you hooked. The last 20 minutes or so can be a bit disappointing but The Ritual is still a lot of fun and well worth checking out.
Loop Track (2023)
We are back to New Zealand for our entry at number two and it is the inspiration for this list – Loop Track from 2023. Directed, written by and starring Thomas Sainsbury; Loop Track follows the story of a man called Ian who is desperate to escape his life and get away from society. Grabbing a backpack, he heads into the forests of New Zealand where he, eventually, meets up with other backpackers. Reluctantly joining them on their journey, Ian’s paranoia begins to put everyone on edge as he is convinced they are being followed by a dark shadow.
This is a great movie that is something of a surprise. It doesn’t go how you may think it will go and the ending, maybe, leaves more questions than answers (hence why I put together a Loop Track Ending Explained article). But the journey there is full of tension and some great performances which help keep you engaged in the mystery as it plays out. Definitely worth checking out, Loop Track is a hidden backpacking horror gem.
The Descent (2005)
Directed by Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall. The Descent is probably the best movie on this list and earns its place at number 1 in our list. A group of friends are on a backpacking holiday in the Appalachian Mountains when they decide to go on a bit of a spelunking adventure that goes horribly wrong. Deep inside the cave system the women are greeted by something horrific buried far below the ground.
Does this count as backpacking? I don’t know, I think it does. There are backpacks, cabins in the woods and hikes so why not? It’s simply a decent movie and fits the theme pretty well so I would feel weird to not include it. The Descent is tense, legitimately scary, and honestly thrilling in parts. The interpersonal drama between our group of friends only adds to the scares and it features some of the best monster design in recent horror. A great movie, we awarded it 3.5/5 in our review but plenty of people like it a whole lot more than this. Definitely worth checking out for all horror fans.
Thanks for Reading!
So that is 10 Backpacking Horror Movies Ranked. I hope you found something on this list worth checking out. There is a little bit of crossover here with a few or our other lists. Namely 10 Creepy Camping Horror Movies to Make You Scared of the Woods – RANKED and 25 Hiking, Backpacking and Camping Movies To Stalk You Outdoors – RANKED so why not go and check those out if you are looking for more of the same.
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