There’s nothing more frightening than being trapped alone with an unstoppable evil force. As a result, many horror filmmakers have set their stories primarily in a small, lonely cabin in the woods, where the protagonists have little chance of escaping from their uninvited guests, who range from knife-wielding murderers to supernatural entities.
It’s a cheap but effective tool in creating terror and suspense, as it keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, wondering how the heroes will survive. The cabin setting continues to be a staple of horror cinema with Peacock’s Sick and M. Night Shyamalan‘s Knock at the Cabin. And with the latter just about to hit theaters, now’s a good time to look back at some of the best cabin-based horror films to watch on the next getaway vacation.
7. It Comes at Night
This underrated horror film follows a family living alone in the woods as a contagious and deadly disease devastates the Earth. But everything changes when they welcome a stranger and his family into their house. Though critics praised this A24 film, general audiences didn’t take too kindly to it, which is likely due to the movie’s misleading marketing.
While there isn’t a supernatural monster creating havoc in this film, at least not one that’s visible, the story subverts expectations by making fear and paranoia the real monsters. It Comes at Night is a harrowing and suspenseful tale about two families who slowly tear each other apart as an invisible force threatens to infect them all. The film only became more relevant due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the chaos it wrought.
6. The Cabin in the Woods
This meta-horror film satirizes just about every classic horror trope in the book. The story follows five college students who stay at the titular cabin only to become subjects of a ritual overseen by a shadow organization.
The Cabin in the Woods deconstructs both the slasher and torture porn genres while incorporating every scary monster imaginable, including zombies, demons, aliens, ghosts, and of course, mermen. Writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard brought new life to what was a tired genre at the time with this film and made “cabin horror” relevant again.
Modern horror master Mike Flanagan presents a unique kind of thrillr with this underrated Netflix gem. Hush follows a deaf and mute writer who is hunted by a crossbow-wielding killer throughout her secluded cabin. Much like Don’t Breathe and A Quiet Place, this film crafts great scares and suspense using the protagonist’s inability to hear and speak.
The movie received massive praise from horror icons like author Stephen King and The Exorcist director William Friedkin. For those who are sick of watching the same old slasher flicks, Hush is a fresh and frightening film that will satisfy any horror fan looking for something completely different.
After author Paul Sheldon gets into a car accident in a snowstorm, his “number-one fan,” Annie Wilkes, rescues him, only to hold him captive and force him to rewrite his next manuscript. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Misery captures every celebrity’s worst nightmare as Kathy Bates delivers a harrowing performance as Sheldon’s captor.
Director Rob Reiner’s movie also keeps the audience invested as Sheldon fights to stay alive in Wilkes’ mountain home, all while spending most of the film in a bed or a wheelchair. It’s a cabin horror movie that draws its scares from the cold hard fact that the monster isn’t a demon, but rather a fan who takes her love for her idol way too far.
3. The Witch
Director Robert Eggers became one of horror’s rising stars with this feature from A24. After a Puritan family is banished from their community, they build their own farm in the forest, which they soon learn is inhabited by satanic forces. Unlike the other movies on this list, The Witch takes audiences back to the colonial era dominated by religious fear, but devoid of creature comforts.
This setting only intensifies the sense of fear and danger permeating the film as the family finds itself left with little chance of survival in its secluded new home. While Thomasin and her family become victims of the Devil and his servants, the movie’s true terror comes in how they slowly turn on each other in a literal witch hunt. It’s a slow burn, but The Witch is worth the wait.
2. The Evil Dead
This classic film from director Sam Raimi very much started the trend of cabin-based horror movies. When five friends stay at a creepy old house in the woods, they discover a tape translating the Necronomicon and inadvertently awaken an ancient Kandarian demon.
Despite its cheap effects and low-budget scares, The Evil Dead takes full advantage of its limited setting, building up a creepy and confining atmosphere with lots of creative camerawork. The cabin itself becomes like a living, breathing creature tormenting Ash and his friends, watching as they get picked off one by one.
1. Evil Dead II
Though Ash survived his first night with the Deadites in The Evil Dead, he still finds himself trapped in the woods with the Kandarian demon in the second film. Acting as a soft reboot of the original, this sequel (or “requel”) takes audiences back to the iconic cabin as Ash faces the Deadites once again, this time with both a shotgun and a chainsaw hand.
Evil Dead II goes above and beyond the first film in almost every conceivable aspect, especially gore. This sequel fully embraces the franchise’s B-movie aesthetic and transcends genres to create a terrifying, comedic, and action-packed splatterfest.