Summer vacations gone bad

If Hollywood has it right, trips are filled with zombies, killers and insufferable families

ppemberton@thetribunenews.com, slinn@thetribunenews.comJune 26, 2014 

Nothing ruins a nice vacation like a giant man-eating shark.

COURTESY PHOTO

Don’t pack your bags just yet. While summer vacation often represents an opportunity to explore new places far and near, it’s also an opportunity for things to go horribly wrong. Venture too far from home, Hollywood tells us, and you’ll have to contend with vicious animals, psychotic killers and — perhaps worst of all — relatives.

However, if you’re dead-set against the staycation, we’ve scoured several films about summer vacations so you’ll know to avoid the following:

A CABIN IN THE WOODS 

Few locations inspire as much dread as a remote, rickety shack in the middle of the wilderness, especially if you’re a nubile college student with a penchant for skinny-dipping and moonlit strolls. 

Stay the night, and you’re likely to be confronted by a flesh- eating virus (“Cabin Fever”), a chainsaw-wielding cannibal (“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”), soul-swallowing Sumerian demons (“The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead II”) — or, worse still, a pair of well-meaning hillbillies (“Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil”). 

THE BEACH

Ah, to feel the sand between your toes and the cool energy of an ocean wave on a hot summer day. Sounds great — unless there’s an apex predator the size of a dinosaur lurking under the surface. 

When a girl goes skinny-dipping in “Jaws,” she becomes the first victim of a great white shark that’s about to make things really difficult for the Amity Chamber of Commerce. 

When police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) eventually disintegrates the shark — not exactly in his job description, by the way — the townspeople breathe a collective sigh of relief … until four years later, when another shaaaaaak paves the way for the first “Jaws” sequel. Sharks also spoil the vacation fun of a couple of divers left behind in “Open Water.”

SUMMER CAMP 

In filmdom, bad things never seem to happen to kids who go to summer Bible camp. But the horny high-schoolers from “Friday the 13th” — who see camp as an opportunity to explore anatomy beyond the classroom — are going to learn a lesson about premarital sex. If they had just committed themselves to abstinence, they wouldn’t have crossed paths with Jason Voorhees, a once-drowned boy with a serious ax to grind. 

FAMILY OUTINGS 

Sometimes you have to take your work home with you. That’s what happens to uptight psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss), who flips out when his patient Bob (Bill Murray) shows up at his family’s lakeside vacation home in “What About Bob?” 

In “The Great Outdoors,” easygoing dad Chet (John Candy)’s plans to spend time with his family at a lake resort are spoiled by another unwelcome guest, his brother-in-law (Dan Aykroyd). Then he encounters an even more annoying tag along — a bald bear with a grudge.

OVERSEAS 

Overseas travel always carries a certain amount of risk. But the danger can be far worse than sunburn, stolen wallets or uncomfortable stomach ailments.

American college students run afoul of European businessmen in the “Hostel” movies, a gruesomely gory series so sadistic it inspired the phrase “torture porn.” In “Turistas,” a group of backpackers in Brazil fall prey to an underground organ-harvesting ring. 

Traveling to Thailand, meanwhile, is bad news in “The Beach,” in which a student (Leonardo DiCaprio) stumbles upon a massive marijuana plantation guarded by AK-47-toting farmers, and “Brokedown Palace,” about two girls (Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsdale) who are duped into acting as drug mules.

THE SOUTH 

When four buddies set off to canoe down a river in rural Georgia, good times await in the movie “Deliverance” — until the Atlanta buddies are accosted by a pair of shotgun-wielding hillbillies. In a scene that would forever shadow actor Ned Beatty, his character is forced to “squeal like a pig” as he’s violently raped. Mayhem, death and confusion follow, learning them city boys a lesson about country folk. Because of this movie, the beginning of “Dueling Banjos” still reminds us to be wary of backwoods types in need of a dental plan. 

AMUSEMENT PARKS 

In “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” an All-American family road trip turns into the hilarious trip from hell. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his clan drive from Chicago to a Los Angeles amusement park, braving countless mishaps along the way, only to find that Walley World is closed for repairs. 

Their disappointment — and Clark’s violent reaction — can only be rivaled by the emotions on display in “Zombieland,” when college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and his friends arrive at Los Angeles amusement park Pacific Playland to discover their supposed sanctuary has been overrun by brain-craving, flesh-eating zombies.

A WALK THROUGH THE WOODS

In “Stand by Me,” four boys embark upon a summer journey to find a dead kid and wind up finding themselves (and, yeah — also the dead kid). But during their days-long journey into the wilderness, they also encounter a killer train, blood-sucking leeches and a knife-wielding bully nicknamed Eyeball. While the narrator (Richard Dreyfuss) remembers it as his best summer, nobody ever got a leech on his privates while playing backyard baseball. 

 

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