Dead and Breakfast: The Scariest Vacation Settings in Horror Movie History

Whether it’s a poolside hang, a summer rental home or a charming winter getaway, these movies prove there’s always potential for terror

Vacation is supposed to be a time for rest and relaxation, but in The Rental it becomes a time for violence and vexation. Set in a lovely cliffside vacation home, Dave Franco’s directorial debut ushers viewers into a world of awe-inspiring views, posh perks and a lurking slasher. This means the couples at its center will be lucky to get out of this getaway alive. 

If The Rental has you hunting for more vacation-location horror, we’ve got you covered with a creepy selection that’s now on streaming. Whether it’s a beautiful beach, a cozy cabin, a rocking RV or an auspicious ocean liner, every dream vacation can be turned into a horror-packed nightmare. 

The Summer Rental House

Us (2019), Available on Cinemax

A vacation house can be a home away from home, or a home to horror. As follow-up to his universally heralded directorial debut Get Out, Jordan Peele offered audiences a trip they’d never forget. It’s a tale of two summers and the two girls forever changed by them. In the first, a child wanders off from her parents at a seaside carnival and into a shadowy hall of mirrors, where she suffers a soul-shatteringly scary realization. Years later, she and her family return to the location. But what should be a time of beach lounging, boating and joy turns savage when they meet their doppelgangers. 

Us delivers a slick style, rich in symbolism, that makes the film an eerie feast for the eyes and mind. Peele’s films have been celebrated for their political subtext, which explore class and race relations within America. He’s also been heralded for giving Black people a voice often denied in mainstream horror, and pulling together incredible casts that deal out riveting and terrifying performances. The onscreen family of Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o all won praise for their double-duty portrayals in Us. Nyong’o was even touted by critics as a should-be Oscar contender. On top of all this, the film boasts moments of invasion and violence that might make you second-guess the presumed safety of any vacation house. 

Honorable Mentions: The Beach House (2020), Funny Games (1997 or 2007), Gerald’s Game (2017), Into The Dark: Midnight Kiss (2019), Revenge (2017)

The Rustic Cabin

The Evil Dead (1981), Available on Netflix

Deep in the woods sits a small cabin, a place intended as a respite from the modern world. But in Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking horror movie, this peace is disturbed by ancient evil. Bruce Campbell stars as Ash Williams, a college student who treks to the woods for a weekend away with his friends in rural Tennessee. Their revelry goes awry when a mysterious cellar hatch springs open, inviting curiosity. You know what curiosity did to the cat, right? It gets her assaulted by wicked trees and fashioned into a possessed puppet of a nasty demon. 

The remote setting of a forest-surrounded cabin has a rich history in horror. Raimi’s take thrilled audiences with its unapologetic carnage and gruesome practical effects. Nowadays, the sprays of gore and stop-motion decay might seem goofy, but the gloop and grim of it all has delighted horror fans for decades. Made for just a few hundred thousand dollars, The Evil Dead went on to make millions, sparking a franchise that included the campy Evil Dead II, the time-travel romp Army Of Darkness, the gritty 2013 reboot Evil Dead and the 2015 spinoff series Ash vs Evil Dead. This first film also launched the careers of Raimi and Campbell, who are both modern-horror icons. Pus, a string of filmmakers have been inspired to follow in the horror-comedy footsteps of this freaky franchise.  

Honorable Mentions: Friday The 13th (1980), Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Always Shine (2016)

The RV

Sightseers (2013), Available on IFC Unlimited

Forget the static vacation settings of beach houses and cabins. Why feel trapped in one place when you could take your world of relaxation wherever you roam? An RV isn’t only a quaint way to cruise the country, see the sites and hunker down in comfort, it’s also the perfect vehicle with which to go on a scenic murder spree. Just ask the anti-heroes at the center of this serial-killer comedy. 

Ben Wheatley directs this British indie, which starred its screenwriters, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. The pair plays a newly minted couple that takes their caravan around England Heritage sites, exploring their sexual kinks and their lust for thrill kills along the way. They slaughter any who cross them, be it snooty campers, a snarling litterbug or a flirtatious bride-to-be out on a wild bachelorette party. Boasting graphic violence with a dedicatedly offbeat humor, Sightseers is a strange and unnerving trek through romance and wrath that might split your sides as it turns your stomach. 

Honorable Mentions: The Toybox (2018), Into The Dark: They Come Knocking (2019), XX (2017) 

The Cruise

Triangle (2009), Available on Amazon Prime Video

A day out boating can be a metaphorical live saver… or a literal life-ender. Single mom Jess (Melissa George) is eager for a relaxing boat trip with friends off the coast of Florida. However, the tides turn against them, capsizing their vessel. So, an approaching luxury ocean liner seems like superb luck. That is until they discover a slasher on board. 

Writer/director Christopher Smith brings a timely vision of doom to this vacation setting. Nautical horror takes the remoteness of a wood cabin to the high seas, throwing its characters off balance, sometimes literally. Trapped on a boat, Jess and her friends must fight for survival against a mysterious killer who seems to know their every move. What sets Triangle apart from its sisters in sea-set terror is a twist that makes a rewatch a requisite. 

Honorable Mentions: Ghost Ship (2002), Donkey Punch (2008), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Harpoon (2019)

The Beach Vacay

Jaws (1975), Available on HBO Max

The beach turned bloody in this Steven Spielberg classic, which spawned untold imitators. Forty-five years since its history-making blockbuster debut, it’s still easy to see why Jaws made waves. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is set in the cozy community of Amity Island, where every summer tourists flock to the beaches with their spending dollars. So when a shark-mauled corpse washes ashore, the local mayor pushes for a cover-up. This comes much to the dismay of Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider), an ocean-fearing family man who suspects this monster of the deep will strike again. 

The power of Jaws isn’t just in the suspenseful score from John Williams, or Verna Fields’ masterful edit that teased the monster in tantalizing bites, or even the jaw-dropping gore Spielberg chums throughout. It’s these scary elements working in conjunction with Spielberg’s empathetic portrayal of the Amity community and the Brody family. Against the warm backdrop of family dinners, local accents and casual conversations about parenting and boating, the shark fin puncturing a perfect beach day stings all the more. When you’re sitting on the hot sand staring out at the ocean, it’s almost impossible not to remember that harrowing sequence and hear the throb of duh-dun duh-dun DUH-DUN! 

Honorable Mentions: Sweetheart (2019), The Shallows (2016), Jaws 2 (1978), The Lost Boys (1987)

The Tropical Paradise

A Perfect Getaway (2009), Available on Starz

With its breathtaking natural beauty and welcoming weather, tropical islands are a favorite hot spot for lovers. That makes the perfect hunting ground for a couple of merciless killers. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich star as a pair of honeymooners in Hawaii, giddy to go on a hike to a gorgeous, secluded beach. However, their plans for a perfect getaway are threatened when news hits of murderers at large on the island. Could it be the snarling hitchhikers (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton)? Or could it be the knife-carrying, Southern-fried couple (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez) who they can’t seem to shake? Striding deeper into the wilderness, they move deeper toward a dark and deadly climax.  

This under-seen thriller comes from writer/director David Twohy (The Arrival, Pitch Black). Don’t let the lack of buzz throw you: A Perfect Getaway sizzles with suspense and heat thanks to an intense cast of smoking-hot stars. Fans of Jovovich as the ass-kicking heroine of the Resident Evil franchise might be shocked to see her play a flustered damsel in distress. Olyphant lovers — be they from Deadwood, Scream 2 or Santa Clarita Diet — will relish his bonkers bravado and crazy-eyed glare. All the while, those who value a twisted whodunnit will revel, following along in this winding exploration of marriage, mistrust and murder.  

Honorable Mentions: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), Fantasy Island (2020), Lord of the Flies (1990), White Zombie (1932), I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

The Poolside Retreat

The Pool (2018), Now available on Shudder

Plenty of horror movies have set scenes of slaughter in the splashy setting of a swimming pool. However, this Thai thriller is unique in that it’s entirely set in and around a 20-foot deep high-dive pool. The story begins with Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan), who was serenely floating on a raft as the pool drained. After a long day of work, he drifts off for a nap that will doom him to trials and terror. When he awakes, he’s already sunk too low to climb out. Bringing added bite to his dilemma, a massive crocodile crawls in to become his unwelcome neighbor. 

Written and directed by Ping Lumpraploeng, The Pool is a creature-feature that offers one nail-biting escape attempt after another. Whether it’s trying to snatch the cellphone that buzzes precariously at the pool’s rim or ducking the crushing jaws of a scaly predator, Day’s adventure is snapping with thrills that had film festival audiences going wild. Weaving in Day’s dog and fiancé (Ratnamon Ratchiratham) in the peril, Lumpraploeng pulls in intense emotional stakes that make every near-miss escape hit all the harder. While the croc CGI gets a bit dodgy, the masterfully plotted acceleration of threat and dread makes The Pool a perturbing plunge into realistic horror. 

Honorable Mentions (pool scenes): Cat People (1942), The Strangers: Prey At Night (2018), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), It Follows (2014), Let The Right One In (2008)

The Winter Break

Rift (2017), Available on Amazon Prime Video

Winter cabins can be the perfect setting for truly chilling tales. In this excellent Icelandic offering, ex-boyfriends reunite in a far-flung cabin, prompted by a creepy phone call. Gunnar (Björn Stefánsson) finds Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson), drunk and depressed. But something more insidious is in the air: There are strange sounds, a lurking figure and a front door that opens as if for an invisible guest. Is this house haunted? Are they being stalked? Rift lures audiences into a realm of heartbreak and horror. 

Written and directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen, Rift (aka Rökkur) has a quiet sophistication that lulls audiences into both its gay-romance drama and its spine-tingly ghost story. The film was celebrated across the film festival circuit for its poignant performances, striking cinematography and slow-burn tension. It’s another film that’s final act will leave you hungering for a rewatch. Perhaps especially for one scene, one shot, one moment that is so simple yet successful in its scare that it may have you leaping under the covers at night. 

Honorable Mentions: The Lodge (2019), Dead Snow (2009), Dreamcatcher (2003), The Shining (1980)