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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

‘The Canyonlands’ and 8 of Horror’s Most Unforgiving Environments

A setting is integral to creating mood and atmosphere in horror. More than that, backgrounds contribute to shaping the narrative. How a character interacts with their environment can play a dramatic role in their survival. Among horror’s most prominent settings, nature is the harshest. Nothing is as unforgiving as mother nature, and the wilderness adds brutal complications for the protagonists. Fighting off a monster, ghost, or psychopath becomes so much harder when battling the elements as well, especially for inexperienced protagonists ill-prepared to cope with nature.

That promises to be the case in The Canyonlands.

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 is available now on VOD. For its release, we’re taking a look at eight of horror’s most unforgiving environments.

A Lonely Place to Die

Five friends embark on a trip to the Scottish Highlands for hiking and mountaineering. It gets off to a harrowing start, and that’s before they stumble upon a young kidnapped girl. Her kidnappers don’t take too kindly to the intrusion, and a dangerous cat and mouse game ensues. From rock climbing to treacherous rivers below, everything about this environment is unforgiving. It lends to some intense sequences.


Low IMDb Ratings

Things get deadly when a documentary crew gets accosted by a snake hunter on the Amazon river. Evading a giant anaconda snake and a ruthless hunter would be enough for anyone, but the Amazon and its surrounding jungle offer no shortage of ways to die. That quickly becomes clear when the crew’s leader gets stung by a large wasp that made its way into his scuba regulator during a dive. Or when the boat gets trapped thanks to debris blocking the river passage.

Cold Prey

This slasher is nestled in a secluded area deep within the snowy mountains. A group of friends decides to venture off the beaten path for their snowboarding getaway, but that choice turns fatal when a leg break causes them to seek shelter at an abandoned lodge. They discover its home to a masked maniac. The isolated winter location presents many obstacles for survival, including a lack of cell service and perilous ravines.


A daughter and her injured father face off against territorial alligators in the crawlspace beneath the house. Compounding the life-or-death situation is a raging Category 5 hurricane, causing rapid floodwaters. It’s a series of highly suspenseful obstacles for the pair and the family dog, and they didn’t even have to leave the house- nature found them.


Breaking the rules seldom pays off in the genre. When a trio of friends talks a ski lift operator into giving them a free pass up the mountain for one last run down before closing, they’re forgotten in a mishap. Stranded and abandoned on a mountain resort now closed for the week, the friends face frostbite, hypothermia, starvation, and a pack of hungry wolves down below. With no help in sight, these characters must take drastic measures to survive.

The Lodge

At first, nothing seems particularly unforgiving about the comfy winter lodge at the center of this film. What’s meant to be a relaxing holiday getaway for family bonding turns into something far more harrowing when dad gets called away on business. A stepmom’s plans to thaw icy tensions with two angry children derail after a power outage leaves them without heat or water. Then stepmom’s sanity starts to crumble. It’s a chilling reminder of just how close the threat of nature lurks, waiting for one false step.


A remote Army outpost on the fringes of the western frontier proves particularly treacherous for those stationed there when a stranger arrives with a tale of his caravan murdered by a rogue guide. When a group sets out into the wilderness to verify the claims, they realize far too late they’ve let a dangerous person into their den. The remote location in a cold, mountainous region makes it difficult for the protagonists to seek help. Outside of a murderous maniac, they also have to contend with frostbite and hunger.

The Ruins

Step one in horror survival: avoid uncharted areas at all costs. Friends on vacation in Mexico learn the hard way when they opt to visit an archeological dig deep in the jungle. They get trapped on a Mayan pyramid by hostile locals, who are quarantining them due to the carnivorous plant that inhabits the ruins. The sentient, gruesome nature of the vines makes for one of the most ruthless movie monsters. Still, the protagonists face severe dehydration, starvation, and an assortment of heat-related ailments under the blazing sun.

The Canyonlands is available now on VOD. 


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