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Friday, March 5, 2021

Terrifying Terrain: ‘The Canyonlands’ and 8 Wilderness-Set Horror Movies

The great outdoors remains one of the most prominent and utilized settings in horror, especially for slashers. Many of them employ a similar setup. A group of inexperienced friends from the city opts for an idyllic getaway in the wilderness only to run afoul of something nasty and homicidal. Surviving becomes tricky when lost in the wilds, far removed from civilization. How different films approach that setup brings the fun. Some rely solely on nature to do its worst, some opt for the supernatural, and some introduce a new slasher villain with a significant vendetta. The Canyonlands blends the latter, delivering a supernatural slasher set against a Moab Mountain backdrop.

In this slasher, an adventurer guide hesitantly accepts a job to take five contest winners on a rafting trip down the Colorado River in Utah. The adventure quickly takes a deadly turn when the group camps off the river for the night. They find out that they’re not the only ones out in the remote canyonlands, and it doesn’t want them to leave.

The Canyonlands marks the feature debut by writer/director Brendan Devane. Scored by Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger from Umphrey’s McGee, the slasher stars Stephanie Barkley, Marqus Bobesich, Jesse Buck-Brennan, Ari Anderson, Dennis Connors, and Lauren Capkanis.

The Canyonlands will be available on VOD on March 9, 2021 (iTunes pre-order). For its release, we’re taking a look at some of horror’s most stunning wilderness settings.


An urban couple gets in over their heads when they wind up lost in nature during a camping trip. Their inexperience proves even more dangerous when they realize they’ve ventured into the territory of an aggressive black bear. Adam MacDonald’s wilderness set horror movie emphasizes nature. The focus is on the gorgeous yet hostile environment and the mounting tensions between its leads for much of its runtime. None of it will prepare for the brutal bloodletting in the final act.

The Blair Witch Project

This classic is one of cinema’s most formative “lost in the woods” horror movies that kicked off a massive wave of found footage. Three film students set off into the Maryland woods searching for the truth behind the Blair Witch legend. They never return, and only the footage left behind provides clues on their disappearance. This supernatural tale bides its time to unfurl, relying on nature to create dread as the lost trio moves deeper into the forest. Desperation sends them spiraling, making them all the more vulnerable to an evil presence.


Maurice Luijten is Sam in Welp/CUB (Jonas Govaerts/Potemkino 2014). CUB

A group of twelve-year-old Cub Scouts is learning the basics of nature survival in the mountains, but they’re prone to bullying and scare tactics. Based on campfire stories, lead Sam thinks there’s a werewolf lurking nearby. When they get lost, Sam stumbles upon a feral boy he believes to be that werewolf. The boy isn’t alone, though, and Sam’s new friendship triggers deadly consequences.

The Descent

Neil Marshall trades the woods for an unexplored cave system in this claustrophobic chiller. Six experienced cave spelunkers get plunged into the fight of their lives when their expedition derails, and they’re trapped. Then they discover that they’ve unwittingly entered the den of strange humanoid predators. It’s primal, bloody, and intense.

Lake Bodom

Four friends head to Lake Bodom and set up camp. They intend to recreate the 1960 Lake Bodom murders, in which a group of teens was stabbed to death while asleep in their tent. The friends’ plan to reconstruct the murders becomes far too real when they’re confronted with an actual killer. It’s a thrilling modern slasher that ensures its breathtaking lakeside setting is just as important of a character as its leads.

The Ritual

Six months after a tragedy, four friends embark on a hiking trip in the Kungsleden to commemorate their fallen friend. Injuries and emotional baggage threaten to derail a peaceful but arduous journey. That’s before they realize they’re being stalked by something not quite human. The European woodlands hold strange secrets for the unwitting men, including one memorable creature of myth.


Hal Holbrook stars in this wilderness set slasher. Five doctors set out for their isolated trek nestled deep in the Canadian wild. It’s meant to let off steam from their otherwise stressful lives, but the expedition runs afoul of lousy luck straightaway. Shoes go missing, and accidents occur. As they make their way upriver, the men discover a crazed hunter is stalking them. While borrowing from DeliveranceRituals forges a distinct path rooted in the slasher.

Wolf Creek

A trio of friends set out from Western Australia to backpack across the country, soaking in the natural beauty while deepening their bonds. They make a stop at Wolf Creek National Park to visit the preserved meteorite impact crater but find they’re unable to leave after their recently purchased car won’t start. Enter Mick Taylor, a friendly local that offers a tow. Mick’s friendliness hides a sadistic streak, and the trio finds themselves at the mercy of a torture-inflicting maniac. This vicious horror movie that made the Outback a killer’s playground launched a franchise and TV series.

The Canyonlands is available on VOD on March 9, 2021 (iTunes).


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