5 horror movies set in the desert

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Horror movies can take place in any type of environment, from the classic haunted house to the outer reaches of space. However, it’s often useful to tell a scary story in a place that would already be dangerous, unpleasant, and gruesome, even without any tunnel horror moving through the sand.

When most people think of a horror movie set in the desert, they probably imagine the stories of adventurers battling mummies in Egypt. While the sands of Giza certainly have a long history of scary tales, almost a third of planet Earth is desert and each region has its own horrors.

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Tremors

One of the quintessential films of American horror cinema, this 1990 monster flick sickens a mess of giant worm monsters in a small desert town in Nevada. SS screenwriters Wilson and Brent Maddock initially pitched the film as a group of people trying to escape the wrath of land sharks. Director Ron Underwood developed the concept into a slightly more realistic creature, leading to the iconic Graboids. This simple cult classic spawned a franchise, with five direct-to-video sequels under its belt. However, none of these follow-ups live up to the original. The story of a group of simple people trying to survive their encounter with the horror of the tunnels is funny, scary, charming and timeless. Even 32 years later, Tremors is about as much fun as a horror movie can get.


Carriers

This movie was made in 2006, but it’s a little unpleasant on the nose when viewed in 2022. This grim tale of a global viral outbreak is far more extreme than the ongoing pandemic humanity finds itself in, but the images of people wearing masks wielding bleach struck differently. Carriers follows a handful of people who desperately cling to a strict set of rules in the wake of an apocalyptic plague. All hope is lost, so the film’s heroes set to work escaping to a beach that once brought them loneliness. Unfortunately, they encounter one problem after another as they attempt to navigate a desert highway. The real horror of the film isn’t the disease, it’s the complete collapse of basic humanity it causes, leaving everyone to figure out what they’ll do when pushed to the brink. It’s a dark film with an air of heavy cynicism about it, but for those who can stomach it, it’s also a well-crafted experience.


dust devil

Richard Stanley has one of the strangest career trajectories of any filmmaker in the business. It started with a few well-received shorts. He raised the capital to do a few passion projects, both of which became cult classics. Then he moved on to the big-budget HG Wells adaptation that went so horribly wrong that the lost version he tried to make became the basis for a hit documentary. More than two decades passed before he returned to lead color out of spacea widely acclaimed Lovecraft adaptation he later revealed would be the first in a trilogy. dust devil is the second of his early cult classics and the last film he directed before The island of Doctor Moreau. dust devil adds a supernatural twist to the story of a series of murders in Namibia. It’s a compelling film with some really effective horror elements that show what Stanley might have been like without New Line Cinema and Val Kilmer.


Southbound

Anthology horror movies have a solid and rich tradition of some excellent entries topping the mountain of terrible. Southbound brings together directors to tell interconnected stories that take place on the same desolate stretch of desert highway. With talents like Roxanne Benjamin, who directed the best part of XXand David Bruckner, who directed the best part of V/H/S, Southbound is a reference in the genre. Only, the stories aren’t separate shorts, they’re incomplete fragments of clearly larger stories. It’s a riveting and engaging way to string five haunting, well-executed horror stories together. This 2015 movie comes with a tight 90 minute runtime, the biggest problem with it is that it will leave every audience asking for more.


The pyramid

Found images aren’t finished as a gimmick, they’re just not as boring as they used to be. If modern filmmakers need a handy “what not to do” guide, look no further than this 2014 disaster. The pyramid is the first feature film by Grégory Levasseur, whose career includes many great films and many major failures. It’s the latter. The pyramid follows a handful of documentarians in search of a hidden secret within one of Egypt’s iconic monuments, only to uncover a nightmare hidden within. Anyone who came across John Erick Dowdle As above, so below could experience a real deja vu, despite the movies being released less than four months apart. The pyramid isn’t a great movie, but it’s worth watching, just for the wild choices it makes in its later acts. It’s a lot funnier than scary, but the big swings he takes at some of his ideas make him interesting.

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