Travel at your own risk: 10 horror movies on the road to watch before you ignore the gas station attendant’s spooky warnings

Like it or not, the holiday season is upon us and for many that means travelling. Going with family or friends to celebrate the holidays together, whether across the country or even a few cities away, can be an opportunity to hit the road. A classic American pastime.

Forget the hassle of air travel; plane ticket, baggage check, going through airport security, tiny bathrooms and an annoying kid kicking the back of your chair. Hit the road in the comfort of your own vehicle! See the sites along the way, stop at your leisure, pick up hitchhikers, get stabbed to death at a rest stop – Wait, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea…

Either way, here’s a list of 10 road trip horror movies gone wrong that will make you reconsider that overpriced, overbooked flight.

ten. tower of joy (2001)

I like tower of joy. When it came out on home video, I bought it and brought it to every sleepover. Yeah, I was THAT kid. I forced all my friends to watch it because I was obsessed with this story and I was sure Rusty Nail was the next big horror villain. He should have been. The concept is excellent. Three friends are driving home for summer vacation, they pull a prank and it goes horribly wrong. They spend the rest of their trip in fear that their unknown stalker will catch up with them and do what he did to the motel man in room 17 (you’ll have to watch to see), or worse….

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A game of cat and mouse on the highway is dangerous enough without the cat being a massively intimidating 1985 Peterbilt 359EXHD tractor-trailer with a total psycho inside. So if you decide to take this road trip home, be sure to leave that CB radio behind.

9. Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Jeepers Creepers is another movie I fell in love with in 2001. Trish Jenner (Gina Philips) drives her 1960 Chevy Impala home for spring break and her brother darry (Justin Long) accompanies. The car is a classic. And by classic, I mean OLD. So when the car won’t start reliably and the cigarette lighter is broken (can’t charge your early 2000s cellphone…), that’s to be expected. They drive along some rural Florida back roads, so it’s not unusual for long portions of the trip to be desolate and rustic.

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Getting dogged aggressively by a dude in a 1941 Chevy COE that’s bloated and looks like it’s straight out of hell is scary, but passing the driver further down the road as he dumps bodies in a hole is a higher level. The Jennifer the siblings find themselves running from a killer, and not an ordinary killer. Jeepers Creepers is a bit of a surprise creature feature and has also spawned several sequels, but the only one I’d recommend checking out is Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)who also happens to qualify for this list.


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8. The Hitcher (1986)

Everyone knows not to pick up hitchhikers, and this movie reminds us why. The 70s was the last decade in which it was seen as somewhat safe, and if anyone was still considering it in the 80s, The Hitcher get that idea out of their heads. In one of his scariest performances, Rutger Hauer plays a totally unhinged creep, and the exact person you’re afraid every hitchhiker will turn out to be.

Our main character, Jim (C. Thomas Howell), delivers a car from Chicago to San Diego and he feels a little lonely on the way. Why not take a hitchhiker for a business? Well here’s why Jim: The harnesser isn’t afraid of death or jail, he’s suicidal and he’s about to challenge you to stop him. We quickly discover that even children are not safe from this killer and by the time the action heats up, not even the police can help. Not that you need to remember to avoid hitchhikers, but DON’T LET SCARY STRANGERS IN YOUR CAR.

seven. The houses built in October (2014)

What’s more fun than a Halloween road trip to America’s spookiest haunted attractions? The documentary makers of this film are on the hunt for the ultimate haunted house: the blue skeleton. Seems like a great idea until they start being stalked by actors from seedy small town haunts.

When you’re traveling on the road, nowhere do you feel completely safe, and this film does a great job of emphasizing that sense of vulnerability. It is unclear what is a light Halloween prank and what is a serious threat. The feeling of unease permeates the mood of the entire film, aided by the use of found pictures cinematography. The houses built in October is a perfect watch for Halloween and a perfect reminder of the dangers of the road.

6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Every horror fan knows this one and many consider it one of the best horror movies ever made because the feeling you get while watching this one is unique. It makes you feel dirty and sweaty, and will almost spray air freshener. People often call 1970s movies gritty, but this one takes it to another level.

Our main characters are on a road trip to check out an old homestead. They pick up a hitchhiker on the way (it’s the 70s, man of peace and love, everyone is cool, right?) and it gets really weird, really fast. He’s the most normal person in his whole family and his brother, Leatherface, starts throwing dishes one by one until family dinner time. Surprise! Our youngest daughter is the guest of honour. This is Most likely a worst-case scenario for what could go wrong when you take a little detour on your road trip…but let me tell you about a few other movies that are actually much worse worst-case scenarios.

5. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

house of 1000 corpses

Equally serious, Rob Zombie’s first major film features a group of young adults on a road trip on a mission. But (of course) on a remote country road, they make the eternally stupid decision to pick up a hitchhiker. The difference here is that the hitchhiker is Sherri Moon Zombie and, I’m not going to lie, I would definitely consider taking her too. She looks very funny and she is very cute, and prime! she takes the gang home to meet her family. Unfortunately, his family and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) the family has a lot in common, and this Halloween road trip ends in more of a ride than a treat.

4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The hills Have Eyes could be up there with one of the worst things that can happen to a family on a road trip. It’s really no surprise when all my horror friends have recommended it for this list. Nevada’s deserted, winding desert roads are the perfect place to get lost and never be found. Especially if there’s nothing left of you to find…

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Wes Craven came out of the park with this, his second major film project, and quoted The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as one of his influences in making the film. It definitely has that kind of gritty, gritty 1970s feel that Tobe Hooper brought to the horror table and I’m all for it. This film is a major benchmark for the genre and one that I (and seemingly everyone) would recommend checking out before embarking on that road trip with the family and their delicious, helpless baby.

3. Highway to Hell (1991)

It might be one of the most creative and fun films on this list. It’s almost more fantasy than horror, but hear me out. The two protagonists of this story are on a road trip to Las Vegas to escape when they accidentally go into the jurisdiction of a demon cop who is looking for cute girls to run away to hell.

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The pretty girl in this scenario is Kristy Swanson (buffy the vampire slayer), and her boyfriend ventures to hell to get her back (don’t you?). In Hell we encounter most of the horror elements of the film and they range from cool and funny to downright terrifying. While I don’t think you’ll accidentally encounter a demonic cop on your road trip, remember to really listen to what this gas station attendant is telling you when he sternly warns you about the road less travelled. Maybe it’s less crowded for a damn good reason.

2. Uncle Peckerhead (2020)

Suppose you don’t hit the road to visit family, maybe you and the band are finally going on that tour you always talked about! Well, don’t worry, there’s an uplifting horror tale about it too. Uncle Peckerhead is a horror-comedy that asks “if the roadie driving the tour van turned into a murderous demon every night, would it be worth finishing the tour without caring?” and the answer is kind of yes, let’s just ignore that little hiccup. Uncle Peckerhead is a great character and his demon form is gruesome, but it’s what he does to his victims that makes the movie scary. With a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes as a major endorsement, Uncle Peckerhead definitely worth a visit.

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1. High Voltage (2003)

May the horror gods bless the New French Extremism movement for bringing us films like High tension. It’s an absolutely brutal, bloody, gnarly slasher flick and it all starts with a road trip to visit family. Intense violence ensues, and then our heroine is back on the road, on a mission to save her best daughter. This one hits on all the basic elements of road trip horror you’d assume to be purely American: car chase (complete with a cool accident), carnage at a gas station, and a girl being chased down the street with a concrete saw. Just a reminder that even road trips in France are risky.

What are your favorite road trip horrors? Have you ever encountered a creepy gas station employee who warned you to stay on the main roads? Share your survival stories with us at Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord!

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Martin E. Berry