When it comes to this list, “wanderlust” and “bloodlust” prove to be quite interchangeable.
A lot of us literally can’t travel at this time, which is…not ideal. But here’s the thing: when you’re watching one of the below features, you’ll probably say something like, “OK, maybe I’m not so mad about not being able to take that Eastern European vacation after all!” So, tune in to these enjoyably troubling flicks to make you feel better (?) about not being able to leave your home, let alone state lines, at the moment.
Top Picks for You
Hostel: Part II (2007)
The best film in this Euro-trash trilogy (I say that with the utmost regard) brought to you by genre “auteur” Eli Roth (who also helmed the too-timely Cabin Fever), Hostel: Part II is better-paced, better-acted, and overall leaner than both its successor and its predecessor. Its setup may imply “torture porn”—three American women are lured into a hostel by a beguiling model who has ulterior motives, to say the least—but it provides just enough twists to make it more than that. It features a badass protagonist and some of the best (worst?) kills in the series, including a literal blood bath and multiple decapitations, so you’ll no doubt take comfort in the fact that you’re cozied up in your digs and not on a train in Slovakia with a mysterious stranger who’s a little too intent on showing you all their country has to offer.
The Bermuda Triangle has been mined for plenty of horror media over the decades, but 2009’s Triangle is perhaps the freshest take. After a few friends on a trip are, via a storm, forced to abandon their boat and hop aboard an abandoned cruise, they are confronted by a stalker with an ax. Things start off bad and they only go downhill. The moral of the story is don’t board or sail on a cruise with a route that passes through or near the Bermuda Triangle because, brace yourselves, time travel. Or, maybe that’s just a mantra I’ll stick to. You do you.
The Ruins (2008)
Wow, do I love this movie about a group of silly people venturing to a place they have no business being—an ancient Mayan temple, off-the-beaten-path—and getting absolutely annihilated by killer plants. Killer plants! A truly underrated villain. For a little more context, two young couples on vacation in Mexico meet another tourist searching for his missing brother. The crew agrees to go looking for the missing, and when they reach his last known location—an extremely cursed archeological dig in the middle of the jungle—heart rates increase drastically. The setup might seem trite or goofy on paper, but the film’s tone, the amount of tension it conjures, and an always-reliable Jena Malone make it a success in my book.
Fun fact: Believe it or not, the movie’s actually based on a book whose author also co-wrote the screenplay.
A Perfect Getaway (2009)
The next time you take a breather from whatever you’re working on, reflect back and be thankful for thrillers like 2009’s A Perfect Getaway, which major studios just don’t want to shell out coins for these days. The story follows two newlyweds (played by Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn) on vacay in Hawaii. While trying to see as much of paradise as possible, the husband and wife stumble across two oddly suspicious couples who end up accompanying them on their nature walk. Soon, word gets out that police are looking for a man and a woman who may have committed a murder nearby and all bets are off. Just goes to show, you can never be too sure who you’ll run into on the trail. You, reader, are on your couch though, so there’s no reason to worry there!
Where to Watch: Netflix
Here’s your periodic reminder to watch anything with Kiersey Clemons in it. And now that you’ll likely have some time on your hands, know that she’s front and center in this sandy creature feature; tune in if you want to do well on the quiz. Literally, no one else appears—no one human, at least—until halfway through the movie, which sees Clemons’ character, Jenn, washed up on a remote island. Details are sparse but come nightfall, Jenn learns quite quickly that she must defend herself from something in the water if she wants to survive.
Where to Watch: Crackle
Countryside roads complete with picturesque vistas always appear to be so serene, so calming; this underrated thriller knows that and uses it to its advantage. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star as a jaded, extremely disgruntled, soon-to-be-divorced couple that just want to get home for the night after coming back from an annoying family function. The two play so well off of each other that, by the time it hits the fan—which is only like 25 minutes in—you’ll likely be rooting for them to get back together when the chaos subsides. And by “chaos,” I mean, of course, maniacs who have disguised a veritable playground of torture devices as a remote motel in which the weary Wilson and Beckinsale are forced to hole up in after their car breaks down.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Remember, like, a decade ago or so when the found footage genre was all the rage? Flicks like Cloverfield and the Paranormal Activity series had the attention of more than a few moviegoers and while those each use the found footage device to clever effects, there are some equally entertaining, stylistically similar movies that fell through the cracks. One of them is 2013’s Afflicted. This gem follows two backpackers whose goal it is to film themselves traveling the world, but when one of them contracts a peculiar sickness and subsequently gains superhuman strength, things take a turn for the worse. It’s a spooky, innovative take on a classic tale and should be on any Bram Stoker fan’s watchlist.
The Descent (2005)
Where to Watch: Hulu
It’s a relentless genre classic and should absolutely be on any list that involves (fictional) Weekend Trips Gone Wrong. Sorry, the rules are the rules. If you’re not familiar with the setup, six female friends go spelunking and wind up fighting off something not-quite-human when the cave’s primary entrance collapses. For maximum effect, watch it with the lights off and the sound up. And take solace knowing you’re on your couch, where you can spread out and actually breathe, unlike the claustrophobic, damp areas in which the movie places the unfortunate travelers.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Where to Watch: Crackle
The appropriately-named follow-up to 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer sees Julie James—mostly healed from the traumatic events of the previous summer when she was involved in a hit-and-run that ended in the secret disposal of a body—hanging with a new clique. The college pals manage to win themselves an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas and Julie needs a vacation like a travel influencer needs a filter, so she ships off for paradise. But, wouldn’t ya know it, Ms. James hasn’t quite escaped the past, and she soon finds herself surrounded by palm trees with a slasher closing in. Fans of Scream should especially add this to the queue if only to watch (or re-watch!) Jennifer Love Hewitt and Brandy Norwood give the scream queen role(s) their best shot and swoon over Freddy Prince Jr.