Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Photo: Universal Pictures
The bad news: You probably won’t be going on vacation this year. The ongoing pandemic and quarantine mean that you probably aren’t allowed to go anywhere fun this summer.
The good news, though, is that vacations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Imagine one right now: a trip away, in your fantasies, probably involves you sitting in a pool, reading a novel, and logging off for a full week. In reality, though, it’s all traffic jams, airport security, and screaming kids. Add the stress of an ongoing pandemic to that, and it’s just not worth it.
And as the following films show, those aren’t the only risks. To help you feel more at ease with your lost vacation time this summer, we’ve put together a list of movies that showcase the absolute worst-case scenarios for trips of all kinds: accidents, deaths, dinosaurs, and torture abound.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Maybe nothing can put you off planes, road trips, islands, or beaches. But if nothing else, you can at least be dissuaded from taking any invitations to isolated cabins in rural areas, because pandemic or no, that never goes well. In The Evil Dead, a group of students go on vacation in a cabin that is absolutely teeming with demonic energy. It is infested from the get-go. If you took the creepies and ghoulies out of this cabin, it would simply fall apart and there would be nothing but a pile of wood, and actually, that would be better.
When two dumbass members of the group find a Sumerian version of the Book of the Dead in the cellar, alongside an archaeologist’s tape recorder, they do the smart thing and play the tape, thus resurrecting a demon entity. Everything goes to shit, obviously, and from there it’s a lot of murder and demon activity and possession. It’s just relentlessly chaotic and traumatic in a way vacations probably shouldn’t be, so to spare yourself the trouble, just don’t go anywhere.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
It is (probably) a fact at this point that no one entity has made more cash off the back of badly executed vacations than the National Lampoon series. Vacations: European ones, Vegas ones, Christmas ones, summer ones, it’s hard to keep track of just how many bad trips Chevy Chase can go on before he calls it quits. In the first of the Vacation installments, Clark Griswold (Chase) wants to spend more time with his wife and kids (always the first mistake) and suggests a trip to a theme park in California. If you thought you might be safer on the ground, you’d be wrong: Griswold insists on driving across the entire country. They crash, they get stuck, a family member dies (classic). It’s a whole mess, and it’s just not worth it.
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
If your boss invites you on vacation, do not go. There are no free rides, no good bosses, and no positive way for this to end. In Weekend at Bernie’s, which has perhaps been referenced more times than it has been watched, two colleagues (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) discover insurance fraud at their company. When they inform their CEO, he offers them a trip to his beach house for Labor Day, but is actually planning to have them killed. Instead — surprise! — Bernie is murdered by the hitman.
When guests rock up for a yearly party, they don’t realize that Bernie is dead. Sensing an opportunity to get some use out of the fancy house, Larry and Richard pretend that Bernie is still alive, keeping his sunglasses on and entering into escalating ridiculous scenarios to keep up the pretense. Do you really have the energy for all that?
Thelma & Louise (1991)
The first true female road movie, Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise quickly makes clear the reasons why women don’t tend to go on trips alone. Best friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) decide to get away from their boring lives with a weekend getaway in the mountains. After a stranger assaults Thelma, good friend Louise does him in, but things escalate to a point where they have to decide whether to give themselves up or run forever.
Of course, you can’t run forever, and eventually, they drive off a cliff. Thelma & Louise offered a nuanced conversation on assault long before we were having them regularly, and there are arguments to be made that dying was better than losing their freedom. Still, though, that’s not a decision you’ll have to make if you just stay put and avoid the crime spree in the first place.
Jurassic Park (1993)
It’s been a while since you’ve been anywhere but your garden, right? You’re probably dying for a getaway, even if it’s work-related, huh? How does a nice, dinosaur-infested vacation on Maui sound? Jurassic Park isn’t necessarily a vacation for anyone, but it is a good fable for the dangers of taking up just any old rich dude on his offers of free board on his island: chances are, he wants you to be a witness to some moral quandaries.
In Jurassic Park, that moral quandary is whether or not human beings have the right to play god: can, and should, humans bring back long-extinct animals from the dead? If they do, what happens next? In the case of Jurassic Park, the answer is a lot of carnage, fear, and rain. Plus, the worse you behave, the worse the punishment you endure at the hands of nature. The moral is: don’t bring back dinosaurs from the dead, and don’t go on any vacations before considering every outcome.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Right now, you can’t even see your own grandparents, let alone take them on a cross-country trip. In black comedy Little Miss Sunshine, starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, and Toni Collette, the Hoover family are flat broke and fighting constantly. When daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) gets offered the chance to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, the entire family reluctantly agrees to go, including colorblind wannabe pilot (Paul Dano), recently suicidal uncle (Steve Carrell), and the grandfather (Alan Arkin), who has been training her himself. The trip itself is a disaster: screaming, drugs, car failure. The death of a relative leads to the theft of a corpse. Olive loses her competition, rendering the trip pointless. You could argue that the wholesome unity that the family finds through their distress makes the trip a success. But is it really worth the drama?
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
While I have seen Snakes on a Plane, maybe even twice, I did have to look up the plot to write this, so convinced was I that it did not have one. Essentially, a man is being escorted on a plane from Hawaii to LAX to testify against a gang boss. The gang boss, not thrilled, arranges for a crate of venomous snakes to be placed in the cargo hold and for the passengers’ leis to be sprayed with a pheromone that will ignite the snakes’ bloodlust.
That is a lot of effort to go to to kill one man, and cynical minds might think that it’s almost as if the entire plot was written based off the one-line premise of “snakes … on a plane.” Putting aside that, and the impossibility of getting a load of snakes on a plane post-9/11, it still poses some risks. You could go all the way to Hawaii for a paradise-island vacation, think you’re safe on the trip back home, only to be brutally murdered by a malevolent snake before you reach LAX. Snakes on a Plane didn’t do to air travel what Jaws did to beaches, but if a pandemic isn’t enough to keep you off an airplane, maybe this will do it.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Going on a blissful retreat to Hawaii, paradise on earth, never seems to end the way anyone is expecting. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) runs there in a tornado of self pity and flagellation after a humiliating breakup with his girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). While on his trip, Peter runs into Sarah and her new rockstar boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), which really only makes things worse. From there, the trip is a series of mishaps, downs, and sad realizations. Imagine spending upwards of hundreds of dollars on a paradise vacation, only to run into your ex and a new boyfriend with an inexplicably grating accent? You’re safer staying home — and if your ex is showing up there, you’ve got bigger problems.
The Hangover (2009)
While bros quoting Zach Galifianakis basically ruined The Hangover in 2009, it is still pretty enjoyable in and of itself, even if you find yourself preempting most of the lines. As we all well know by now, the film follows three friends on a bachelor party in the aftermath of a big night out as they work backwards to figure out what happened. The conclusion — that they were accidentally roofied — is less hilarious in 2020 than if you were a teenage boy in 2009. However, it’s still a lesson in the myriad ways that an innocent vacation can go wrong. Even if you’re as careful as can be, like Alan, you can still end up getting lost, taking the wrong drugs, getting obliterated, getting attacked by a tiger … the possibilities are endless.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Things are tight, financially, for most people who aren’t grubby billionaires right now. That makes it harder for anyone to get away on vacation, but what you probably shouldn’t do is emulate the behavior of any character in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. After a bunch of college students fail to make it to spring break (my heart bleeds), they opt to rob a local restaurant instead of like, washing cars. Once they make it to Florida, things only get worse. It’s a real after-school special for the consequences of drugs, crime and threesomes — it’s a slippery slope, starting with just wanting to get on vacation and ending in murder, jail, and chaos. Just! Stay! Home!
Possibly because it’s British, Sightseers is criminally underrated. A dark comedy directed by Ben Wheatley, Sightseers will put you off even a short trip. It follows a couple, Tina and Chris, on a countryside caravan vacation (very normal in the U.K., exactly as boring as it sounds). After Chris kills a man with his car over a littering disagreement, he gets a taste for blood and murders basically anyone he’s annoyed by or jealous of along the way. If that wasn’t enough, Tina gets carried away doing some murders too, which leads to some more fighting between them and an eventual suicide pact gone awry. It’s very bleak, very violent, and while it’s funny to watch, it’s more than enough to dissuade you from getting in a caravan and going to the middle of nowhere. You don’t really know your partner until you’re trapped alone in a small space together, and Sightseers is a quarantine step too far.
No matter how bored you are, no matter how desperate for some kind of getaway from your life, if anyone offers you the opportunity to go to a remote Swedish village, just say no. In fact, remote villages of any kind are usually a no-no — they’ve always got some kind of weird rituals that they’ll expect you to partake in. In Ari Aster’s Midsommar, a traumatized student is invited to attend a midsummer celebration with her friends at another friend’s commune. The group members take mushrooms (another no-no, especially if you’re already traumatized) and start to witness some pretty horrific things taking place for real. There’s no point upsetting you with the details, but it’s nasty, and it makes a strong case around European jaunts anytime soon.