Top 10 Horror Films That Take Place In The Woods

If you were asked: what are the best places to set a horror film, you’d probably offer one of two answers: a haunted house or the threatening expanse of the woods at night. Here we take a look at the latter…

The woods might be a cliched location for a horror film now. But it’s a cliche because it’s a place that’s been used so effectively countless times by filmmakers seeking to scare their audiences. In fact, as this top 10 reveals, there have been some bonafide classics to take place in the woods.

10. Cabin Fever (Roth, 2002)

Cabin Fever - 2002

In Eli Roth’s directorial debut, four friends head out to an isolated cabin in the woods for one last carefree excursion after college. They eventually all come in contact with a deadly flesh-eating virus that takes effect almost immediately. Roth has become famous for some intensely gory scenes especially in his Hostel films. But no scene is more cringe-worthy than the shaving scene in the bathtub. It’ll make you wince and cringe and clench. Cabin Fever is a bit of a cautionary tale and it has very little humour to lighten the mood. However it does have an odd and humorous notion that will make you hungry for pancakes.

9. Wolf Creek (McLean, 2005)

Wolf Creek, Australian Horror,

Written and directed by Greg McLean, Wolf Creek is The Blair Witch Project of the Australian outback. The film follows three backpackers who find themselves held captive and subsequently hunted by a serial killer in the woods. The film has been marketed as being “based on true events”. In fact, the release of this film was delayed while the real life case was in court. Lots of films claim their stories are based on real life events, this one actually is. If you read about the case involving three backpackers in the Aussie wilderness in 2001, you will read horrifying details that are basically shot for shot retold in this movie. The killer’s name is Bradley John Murdoch. Wolf Creek takes full advantage of the woods and creates an atmosphere of dread and despair.

8. A Bay Of Blood (Bava, 1971)

A Bay of Blood - Mario Bava

Mario Bava’s 1971 “slasher film” takes place in some beautiful and picturesque Italian wooded area. We meet a young couple vying for ownership of a property on a remote bay after an heiress is mysteriously killed at her estate. The couple arrive on the property in the midst of a bloodbath in which just about anyone coming in contact with the area is dying in mysterious ways. A Bay of Blood (sometimes titled Twitch of the Death Nerve) predates all of the Hollywood slasher films to come out later in the same decade and into the 80s. The film is a terrific mystery mixed with some fantastic gore highlighted by Tom Savini-esque makeup. While a lot of this takes place indoors, the property is ominously surrounded by the woods and this adds to the atmosphere and the tension.

7. I Spit On Your Grave (Monroe, 2010)

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I Spit on Your Grave is a remake of the infamous 1978 film of the same name (or as it was originally titled Day of the Woman). The original became a cult classic for its brutality and debatable sense of morality. Of course by the time the 2010 remake came around this type of film was being released by the dozen every month and audiences were pretty numb to the whole concept of revenge/torture by then. So while it doesn’t have the shock element the original had going for it, this time around it’s a much better film and this is what we as an audience are being upgraded to.

Sara Butler is terrific in the lead role as a young writer who goes to a (what else?) secluded cabin deep in the woods. She is then raped and killed (or so the villains think) and the horrible men in this scenario are free to go on with their miserable lives. But of course, Jennifer is not dead and she exacts her brand of comeuppance. The woods play a vital and important role in this film as she uses it to her advantage to stalk, hunt, terrorise and ultimately kill her abusers.

6. Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981)

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Sam Raimi’s classic film about a cabin in the woods that contains an ancient book where if you utter the words written inside, you unleash the Evil Dead is art comedy, part horror. There are some truly gruesome scenes and one incredibly controversial and shocking one involving a tree. Raimi managed to secure $50,000 (Halloween was made for $350,000 and Friday the 13th for $500,000) to make this film and he basically used his friends in the starring roles. But in spite of the paltry budget and the lack of any real acting or directing experience, The Evil Dead is iconic. The fact it has often been parodied and imitated is further indication of its success.

5. Eden Lake (Watkins, 2008)

Not going to lie, Eden Lake disturbed me for weeks after I saw it. There is some raw and incredibly cruel violence in this movie and it does a good job of making you want the bad guys to meet a grisly and horrible death. Critics called this British horror film intelligent and well-paced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bloody.

A romantic weekend at a remote lake house in the woods quickly turns into a fight for survival. Michael Fassbender (before he was a star) and Kelly Reilly get off on the wrong foot with a gang of local thugs. It becomes a fight for survival and the woods in this one plays a huge role in the movie. There’s a tire scene that takes place in the woods that had me covering my eyes.

4. Last House On The Left (Craven, 1972)

Last House On The Left, Wes Craven, horror - Top 10 Films

This film is 46 years old and it’s still, without question, the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen. Inspired by the 1960 Swedish film The Virgin Spring, The Last House On The Left was the directorial debut of Wes Craven. The film follows two teenage girls who travel to New York for a concert, and ultimately get held captive by a gang of psychos.

What follows is rather vicious; they rape the girls repeatedly, drive them out to the woods, rape them some more, and then kill them. The woods in this case adds to the feeling of hopelessness. The girls have no chance of escape and you feel it and know it. There isn’t going to be a happy ending for the two young girls.

3. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (Zito, 1984)

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I could obviously have the original Friday the 13th on here but for my money, The Final Chapter is the best one in the series. Sean Cunningham created a terrific film that became stuff of legend, but director Joseph Zito did it better.

He took all that was right with the first three films and then upped the ante considerably. The two cabins in the woods are right across from one another and the forest in this one plays an ominous role. Characters travel at night in the dark, alone, through the woods, down to the lake or they camp out in hopes of finding and killing Jason. The Final Chapter uses the woods better than any of the other films in the series and this adds to the ambience and the horror.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)

Marilyn Burns, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Top 10 Films, Horror, Tobe Hooper,

Marilyn Burns attempts to escape the clutches of brutal killers in Tobe Hooper’s brilliant The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

It has been called “sick”, “perverse”, “grisly”, and “the movie that redefined horror.” It bewildered audiences worldwide and set a new standard in movie terror forever. In 1974, director Tobe Hooper unleashed this visionary tale about a group of five young friends who face a nightmare of anguish at the hands of a depraved Texas clan.

Today it remains unsurpassed as a landmark of outlaw filmmaking and unmatched in its impact as perhaps the most frightening motion picture ever made. Part of what makes this such a tough film to sit through is that it is raw and it is outside of the Hollywood machine. It’s guerrilla filmmaking at its finest.

While a lot of this takes place at the Sawyer farm, it’s also surrounded by a thick and heavy wooded area and the first time we see and hear the chainsaw is when our heroine and her brother are stuck deep in those woods. It’s one of the most horrifying and visceral introductions to a now iconic piece of horror movie history.

1. The Blair Witch Project (Sánchez/Myrick, 1999)

The Blair Witch Project, Top 10 Films, Found Footage Horror

Although, it has been parodied mercilessly over the years, we shouldn’t forget that upon the initial release of The Blair Witch Project, it was an utterly creepy little journey. The found footage horror film follows three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams) who disappeared while hiking in Burkittsville, Maryland while filming a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch.

About 90% of the film takes place in the woods. Creepy and unexplainable things happen. Our three filmmakers get lost in the woods. Their food supply is running low and at night they hear babies crying and twigs snapping near their tent. Then one of them goes missing. It’s a film that makes you feel the desperation and frustration the three of them feel. As one of the characters says, “This is America, you can’t get lost in the woods” and yet they do. It’s a draining and exhausting film experience.

Other films that could have made the list: Sleepaway Camp, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, The Burning, Wrong Turn.

Written & Compiled by Dan Grant

Your turn? What are your fave horror films set in the woods?

About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Callum Reply

    I love a good scary movie set in the woods. That top 5 is great… such powerful films.

    I recently watched Cold Ground – an excellent found footage film on Amazon Prime – which was another good addition to this theme. For me, you can’t beat Blair Witch. The remake/sequel thing they did was good in patches but not nearly as effective as the original. There’s some other good found footage films set in woodland too – Willow Creek is one that I remember. Wasn’t Cannibal Holocaust also set in woodland, or was that a jungle?

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Cold Ground, hmm, I’ll have to find that one. As for Cannibal Holocaust, I think that was mostly jungle.

      I agree with you about the remake of Blair Witch, good but not as good as the original.

  2. Richard Duggan Reply

    Chalk me up as another fan of Willow Creek.

    Kudos for picking the remake of I Spit on your Grave for this list. That’s a really good film.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Thanks Richard. I’m always happy to read that someone thinks the remake of I Spit on Your Grave being a good movie. It’s one of my favourite horror remakes because it is unflinching in its violence and Sara Butler as the lead, is so incredibly strong in the role.

  3. CineGirl Reply

    A really good selection of films set in the woods. You’re right it has become a bit of a cliche and it’s easy to groan at the sight of another woodland-based horror movie. But it works.

    Blair Witch is definitely a favourite of mine and Evil Dead would be up there too. But I really like the way you’ve ordered these. Spot on.

    Love the inclusion of A Bay of Blood, Eden Lake and the excellent remake of I Spit On Your Grave.

    Personally, I would have added your honourable mention The Burning to the top 10 and I also really enjoyed Wrong Turn too.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Wrong Turn is certainly worthy of he list. The original is a great horror film and surprisingly, some of the direct to DVD sequels aren’t bad either. The Burning is all kinds of fun for sure.

  4. Roger Keen Reply

    Blair Witch – unbeatable! 🙂 Good choices Dan.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Thanks Roger. 🙂

  5. Rory Fish Reply

    I actually prefer Evil Dead 2 but here’s no denying the first film is great too. Mama had some good supernatural scenes set the woods even though a lot of the film isn’t set in woodland, and The Witch from 2015 was an incredible film which featured some cracking woodland photography towards the end. I remember Switchblade Romance (ake High tension) being particularly hard to watch (because of its violence) and that ended in woods.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Always good to read your thoughts Rory. The Witch is a good film and it certainly has it’s moments. I also thought The Forest (2016) made very nice use of the forest. Mama didn’t really do it for me, but I know most like it. And Evil Dead 2 is a lot of fun.

  6. Rita Feltrup Reply

    I liked The Witch too. There was a yeti movie I watched a few months ago that’s similar to Willow Creek called The Woods (I think) which was excellent. There’s another good found footage movie called Leaving D.C. that has a woodland setting which I also liked.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Leaving D.C…..added to my list of movies to check out.

  7. Dan
    Dan Reply

    Great selection of films Dan. If I was to add one to the list it would be Neil Marshall’s brilliant Dog Soldiers. I recently saw The Ritual which was another good British film set in the woods.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Thanks Dan. I’ve never seen Dog Soldiers, always wanted to. I’ll see if I can find that this weekend.

  8. ArchE Reply

    The Creep films are worth checking out. Found footage with a difference.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      I’ll have to find that one too. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Mark Fraser Reply

    Not wanting to sound too parochial here (because goodness knows whenever an Australian writer/artist goes on about his and his countryman’s affinity with the bush I just wanna puke), but Wolf Creek is way more desert/outback than woods. The hideout where John Jarrett has all of his stolen cars and belongings, for example, is set in an old mine on the outskirts of a desert. Other than that I like the rest …

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Good point Mark. I guess I love the film Wolf Creek to the point that I had to include it on here. It’s kind of the same with Texas Chainsaw, most of it is not in the woods, but it’s such a good flick that it had to be on here.

  10. Reggie Reply

    Frankenheimer’s Prophecy. Terrifying!

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Quick check on imdb and it has a giant bear monster…..sold. I’ll see if I can find this one this weekend.

  11. Dan Grant Reply

    I think I could have or should have included the original Wrong Turn. It’s a really effective film and the woods certainly play a huge role in the feel of it.

  12. Samantha Bowyer Reply

    Wonderful list. I love horror films set in the woods and the ones you’ve picked are some of my favourites. I would recommend seeing Dog Soldiers and I agree with one of the commenters that Prophecy is also worth seeing. The Descent, although largely in caves, also has woodland scenes and Willow Creek and some others about the yeti/bigfoot are great too. Nothing will beat The Blair Witch Project though.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      I’m a sucker for Bigfoot movies. So I will look for Willow Creek…..thanks for the recommendation.

      @Paul L…..yes I agree.

  13. Paul L Reply

    Cabin in the woods is awesome.

  14. Gospel According to Rev J Reply

    This is a good list. A “woods” film I really enjoy is 2010’s “Don’t Go Into The Woods”… And im honestly stunned it has a 2.7 on IMDB 29% on metacritic and 13% on rotten tomatoes when I looked just now. Great concept, interesting performances and the songs are amazing.

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