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In horror/thriller/fantasy movies; holidays or outings in woodsy locations never seem to bode all that well. This trope is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, with the wilderness being viewed as dangerous for much of human history.
Two or more people, often a group of teenagers, go for a casual hike or a vacation at a secluded retreat in the deciduous wilderness of North America or Europe. Horrible things ensue. The soon-to-be-not-so-happy campers get stalked through the trees by psychopathic killers; they run afoul of tribes of inbred hillbillies; ghosts, werewolves, witches, druids, fairies and other such beings toy with them; perhaps even the trees themselves attack them; they hear strange noises in the night; people disappear; people go insane.
Rarely do movies of this flavor end happily; often with everyone ending up dead, though there may be a Final Girl. This has almost gotten to the point at which such movies almost have Foregone Conclusions.
The Horror equivalent of the Horrible Camping Trip, for a doomed wilderness expedition, see River of Insanity, sometimes may overlap with Wild Wilderness at some point but with much darker overtones. Contrast The Lost Woods, which may even be hostile, but is not actively horrific.
- In "Hansel and Gretel", a people-eating witch waits in the woods.
- In Little Red Riding Hood, a people-eating wolf waits in the woods.
- Many stories feature a Wicked Stepmother/Abusive Parents sending their children specifically to the woods to die, whether of starvation or in hopes they'll be eaten. Though in some tales, such as Jack Frost, the woods actually hide more benevolent/neutral creatures who help the protagonists.
- In Antichrist, a couple retreats to a cabin in the woods after their baby falls out of the window while they are having sex. There, the wife goes Ax Crazy, hits her husband in the testicles and attaches a millstone to his leg, and then cuts her clitoris off. He's forced to kill her and burn her corpse. Something to do with a fox, a deer and a bird. Also a more subtle, disturbing and creepy take on the trope, as it manifests as evil acorns, forest animal stillbirths, and waking up with ticks all over your hand even before the genital mutilation.
- In The Blair Witch Project, the evil in the woods of Burkittsville is never explicitly shown or explained, but it involves a dead child-killer, the ghosts of the children he killed and a witch or hairy creature that can mimic the voice of her victims. Things don't go well for a trio of film students who get lost in the woods
- In Cabin Fever, the kids go on a trip to a cabin in the woods and contract a flesh-eating disease. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Deliverance, four yuppies go on a canoeing trip in the backwoods of Georgia and run afoul of the local hillbillies. One of them gets raped, another dies when going over a waterfall, and the three left alive have to defend themselves from a sniper up on a cliff.
- In Dog Soldiers, a bunch of British marines on a training exercise in the forest get attacked by a pack of werewolves and are forced to hole up in a cottage, which turns out to be owned by one of the werewolves themselves.
- Don't Go in the Woods, about a group of campers who venture into the woods and come face to face with a deranged killer. More Hilarity Ensues. This time unintentionally.
- Eden Lake has a young couple go to the English countryside, where they're set upon by a deranged band of children and teenagers. It turns out their parents in the nearby town are even more deranged.
- Evil Dead, where a group of college students go to a cabin in the woods and accidentally unleash demons from a Tome of Eldritch Lore. Hilarity Ensues, including tree rape, Demonic Possession and, eventually, even Time Travel.
- Two thirds of the Friday the 13 th installments, where generations of teenagers visit the infamous forestbound Camp Crystal Lake and come up against the vengeful, hulking zombie of a drowned boy named Jason Vorhees. They're always being warned. They always ignore the warnings. They always lose the use of vital organs.
- In House of Wax, a bunch of teenagers (including Paris Hilton) driving on their way to a holiday (or some such) wind up in a seemingly deserted town in the middle of a forest, and fall prey to a pair of serial killers who turn all who come there into wax statues.
- In Lesbian Vampire Killers, two down-on-their-luck young men go to the forests of Britain for a holiday and end up holed up in a cottage under siege by - you guessed it - Lesbian Vampires.
- In Pan's Labyrinth, during the height of the Spanish Civil War a little girl whose mother is married to a Spanish general goes with her mother and stepfather to a retreat in the forest, where she gets wound up in (possibly imaginary) antics involving the fauns and fairies who live about the estate; discovering the secret to her past in the process.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock, more of a Mind Screw than most such movies. A teacher and group of students venture into the Australian wilderness on a picnic. Something out there claims the girls one by one, and they're never seen again. Sort of an Older Than They Think take on The Blair Witch Project.
- Sleepaway Camp. Set primarily in a summer camp, but at one point bunch of kids and a counselor venture into the woods. The kids never came back.
- There's Nothing Out There, complete with Lampshade Hangings a-plenty. There's even a scene where a van load of kids from a different movie show up.
"Isn't this the camp by the lake?"
"No! This is the cottage by the pond!"
- In Timber Falls, a couple goes camping in the mountains and falls prey to a pair of deranged fundamentalist catholic maniacs.
- Tucker and Dale vs. Evil parodies the trope: The preppy college kids camping in the woods think the hillbillies inhabiting in a rundown shack in the wilds belong here; in fact, it's their 'holiday home', they're fixing it up, and most of the confusion stems mainly from the college kids being prejudiced, elitist Wrong Genre Savvy snobs who misinterpret the motives of the in-fact quite friendly and harmless (if not incredibly bright) hillbillies. It doesn't stop a lot of them dying in hilariously gory ways, however.
- Tucker and Dale even believe that the kids are part of some deranged murder-suicide pact.
- The Watcher in the Woods, where a summer in the forest turns into an encounter with a wandering spirit and forces from another dimension. It's from Disney, and it's rated PG. Don't let that fool you.
- Wrong Turn, where a group of teenagers run into evil hillbillies in the woods.
- Scarecrows is set in a forest populated by, wouldn't you know it, Scary Scarecrows.
- Main cast of Prophecy are stuck on forest in Maine (actually Canada) which is home to a killer bear that has been mutated by pollution from a local paper mill.
- Ticks has mutated ticks swarming a forest.
- Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers ends with Michael Myers chasing the protagonists into an eerie, foggy woodlands with a car. When he crashes the car, he gets out completely unscathed and proceeds to stalk the victims through the forest with a butcher knife.
- In Night of the Demon, Holden breaks into Karswell's estate house late at night looking for crucial information, and is found out. Karwsell suggests he leave by the front door and out the drive, but Holden insists he'll go back through the woods he came through. As he leaves Karswell sighs "I did tell him not to go through the woods...he just wouldn't listen!" Holden encounters...something in the dark...
- The Final Terror is set in a forest where a killer with a messy hair chases campers.
- The Village had this, with people being warned to stay out of the woods because of the monsters. When the girl protagonist goes to get help, she gets chased by them. (They turn out to be not real, but she only finds that out later).
- Invoked in The Cabin in the Woods which focuses on this trope and as it's name points out the cabin in the woods.
- JRR Tolkien:
- Old Man Willow
- Who is part of the Old Forest, which is intelligent and actively hostile, as a result of being one of the last survivors (along with Mirkwood and Fangorn) of the old-growth forests that once covered most of the continent.
- Fangorn Forest had a pretty bad reputation, probably due to the Ents' proclivity for taking down anything that might be a threat. Even Aragorn was wary of it.
- It's mostly due to the Huorns, trees that have woken up or Ents that have almost turned into trees (the process seems to go both ways). They aren't very intelligent, but they can move - as fast as bullet train if needed - and aggressively pursuit anything they perceive as threat if there are no Ents around to herd them.
- A recurring theme in the works of Algernon Blackwood.
- In Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, some of Helen's earliest victims are driven to madness after going in the woods with her. (She is the daughter of the pagan nature deity Pan, who is depicted as a very dark force.)
"Ah, mother, mother, why did you let me go in the forest with Helen?"
- In Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, the title character gets lost in the forests of Lovecraft Country.
- In the Warrior Cats series, kittypets (house cats) are terrified of the woods, and tell stories about the savage wildcats that eat bones and the dangerous animals that live out there. Most feel that if you go into the woods, you won't come out, but some of them do like to explore there from time to time, and some actually join the Clans of cats that live out there.
- The Forest in Septimus Heap is filled with carnivorous trees, wolverines, and nasty witches and not a place to enter without caution. Septimus and Nicko get almost killed in Flyte in this Forest.
- The Low Countries in Queste are also implied to be dangerous.
- The Sword of Shannara: We don't recommend heading into the Black Oaks. There's wolves in there. Ironically, in trying to avoid it, the main characters stumble into the wraith-haunted Mist Marsh.
Live Action TV
- Invoked in Power Rangers Mystic Force, where the people of Briarwood are superstitious about the nearby woods. It turns out that the woods is home to a number of inhuman mystical beings... but they turn out to be pretty friendly for the most part. Just what they were so afraid of is a good question subject to Wild Mass Guessing (there are several quite plausible possibilities, none stated in-show.)
- A song from Finnish heavy-metal band, Terasbetoni, is called "Älä mene metsään" ("Don't go in the woods").
- A song by the Swedish techno-bluegrass band Rednex, called "Is he alive" tells about a Humanoid Abomination that plays the fiddle and hides in a mine in the woods.
- Queens of the Stone Age's Someone's In The Wolf: "Once you're lost in twilight's blue, you don't find the way, the way finds you"
- An old joke: A man and a young boy are walking through a forest. The boy says "I'm scared". The man replies "You're scared? I'm the one who has to walk back on my own!"
- Jim Gaffigan: If you ever get up to go the bathroom at night while you're camping, you might as well say to your friends "Nice knowin' ya! You want to get killed with me, or do you want the serial killer to get you when you come looking for me?"
- Eddie Izzard did a similar routine once.
"Let's go camping in the Forest of Death and Blood!"
- Pretty much every forest in the Warhammer World is filled with brigands, wolves, goblins, giant spiders, mutants, beastmen, minotaurs, cockatrices, chimeras, or even worse things. The forest of Athel Loren is in mainly ways the least scary, because the xenophobic Wood Elves will just shoot you full of arrows.
- That's really just if you're lucky. You're at least equally as likely to get lost on twisted, maddening paths that lead only where the forest wants them to lead, at which point all manner of suck will happen.
- Indie game The Path instructs you not to go into the woods, and because this is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, you know what's waiting there...
- But on the other hand, if you follow instructions and don't go in, nothing of note happens. So, even with a warning not to do it, and knowing what waits for you in there, you have no choice but to go in if you want a satisfying game-experience...
- The Ghoul's Forest Series of Game Mods reeks of this trope, you are chased through the forest by various ghosts dubbed ghouls, each ghoul kills you in a different manner and three of them scream you to death.
- World of Warcraft has the extremely creepy Duskwood region. The local NPCs ominously warn you to keep to the roads and only travel by day (though it doesn't make a lot of difference because ... well, how do you think the area got its name?)
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time it is best to not go into the woods unless you are a Kokiri child, unless you want to become a monster.
- Elon gives Myari this warning after she's wandered into the dark, dangerous forest without him.
Elon: Why must you always put yourself at risk like this? We all know how dangerous the forest is!
- The Slender Man sure loves his pine forests, but he's not averse to other kinds of trees.
- A specific example is in Everyman HYBRID; in the episode entitled Joke's Over, Evan, Vince and Jeff see the Slender Man in the woods. Evan chases after him, with Vince and Jeff following. Slendy vanishes and they suddenly find a circle of black bags. Vince cuts one open... and there's a few pints of blood in there.
- Of course, if you do get on Slendy's radar, you might as well go into the woods. It's not you'll be safe anywhere else...
- Well, if Marble Hornets is to be believed, the whole debacle did start in the woods. It's just that the locals did more than just "going in the woods."
- SCP Foundation does it in SCP-899. It's a bad idea to go near it if you're an adult. It's even worse if you're a child. And if you're a teenager going through puberty [DATA EXPUNGED]. And this is before the SCP-899-1 manifestations appear...
- Nyx Crossing takes place in a forested area, which appears to be an Eldritch Location.
- The forest bordering Ink City is home to mindless ink monsters and other threats, and also holds the Fourth Wall. Assuming you make it that far, it's best just to leave the Wall alone... touching it leads to bad things. The City's first major Event involved a large group of residents venturing into the woods only to discover exactly WHY that was such a bad idea.
- Story of the Blanks
- The dark forest sequence in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs can be considered a subversion, given how all of what she thought were monsters turn out to just be cute little woodland critters (though not before briefly appearing to be horrible monsters).
- In one scene of Beauty and the Beast Maurice accidentally takes the wrong turn in a forest, heading down a ominous looking path rather than the brighter looking path. It's not long before his horse gets spooked and runs away, leaving him to be pursued by hungry wolves.
- Later, after leaving the Beast's castle when frightened and rushing into the woods, Belle encounters the same wolves who would've killed her had the Beast not shown up to save her.
- The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Picnic". To get to the picnic area, the class has to go around the Forest of Doom (Yes, that's what it's called). Gumball and Darwin misunderstand it as going through the Forest of Doom, so they do. They get lost and running from predators.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: The ponies of Equestria treat the Everfree Forest as an Eldritch Location; looking at it with fear, and prefering to avoid it when possible. Turns out, the forest is not so bad... it just happens to be an Eldritch Location for them only, because the plants and trees fend by themselves without pony aid, and the weather is not under the control of Pegasi; which clashes directly with the rest of the pony-ordered, cheerful civilized Equestria. It is of note, though, that Everfree Forest DOES have some dangerous creatures, such as manticores, and other assorted nasty stuff like Poison Joke, which although not lethal or painful, can really mess up your day; it's just not as dangerous as the ponies make you believe.
- This makes one wonder if the Eldritch Location here isn't Equestria itself...
- The Headless Horseman sequence from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Truth In Television
- The Roman General Quinctilius Varus was warned by several German chieftains not to lead his army into the Teutoberg Forest as the warlord Arminius was planning an ambush. Varus did it anyway, and the entire army was destroyed.
- During the Peloponnesian War, Athenian general Demosthenes once led a group of heavy infantry into hilly ground held by his light-armed enemies. Predictably, using the high ground to their advantage, the missile troops ripped the Athenians to shreds. Demosthenes's surviving men fled into a nearby forest hoping the light infantry would not follow them there. They did not. Instead, they set it on fire.
- Aokigahara forest in Japan is most famous for the numerous suicides that have happened there. However, many people have also gotten lost and never returned.
- Aokigahara was a popular location for suicides long before, but the suicide fad really started to get going in 1960 when the forest appeared in a novel about a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers, who killed themselves. In the last decades the yearly average of suicides has grown increasingly, and the local authorities decided to no longer publish numbers when they hit 100 (discovered) cases in 2003.
- Schwarzwald, also known as the Black Forest, inspired many of the more violent German folk tales.
- In some parts of California, hiking off-trail is ill advised as you may stumble into a pot grower and/or their booby traps.
- In a similar vein, the Alaskan Tundra is very deceptive. What looks like a perfectly flat area may be full of animals, most of them will try to kill you. Many a hiker has had the misfortune to stumble upon a bear.