"Beware, beware, the Forest of Sin
None come out, though many go in."
In horror/thriller/fantasy movies; holidays or outings in woodsy locations never seem to bode all that well. This trope is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book
, with the wilderness being viewed as dangerous for much of human history.
Two or more people, often a group of teenagers, go for a casual hike or a vacation at a secluded retreat in the deciduous wilderness of North America or Europe
. Horrible things ensue. The soon-to-be-not-so-happy campers get stalked through the trees by psychopathic killers
; they run afoul of tribes of inbred hillbillies
; ghosts, werewolves, witches, druids, fairies and other such beings toy with them; perhaps even the trees themselves attack them
; they hear strange noises in the night
; people disappear; people go insane
Rarely do movies of this flavor end happily
; often with everyone ending up dead, though there may be a Final Girl
. This has almost gotten to the point at which such movies almost have Foregone Conclusions
equivalent of the Horrible Camping Trip
, for a doomed wilderness expedition, see River of Insanity
, sometimes may overlap with Wild Wilderness
at some point but with much darker overtones. Contrast The Lost Woods
, which may even be hostile, but is not actively horrific. Subtrope of Deadly Road Trip
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- In "Hansel and Gretel", a people-eating witch waits in the woods.
- In Little Red Riding Hood, a people-eating wolf waits in the woods.
- Many stories feature a Wicked Stepmother/Abusive Parents sending their children specifically to the woods to die, whether of starvation or in hopes they'll be eaten. Though in some tales, such as Jack Frost, the woods actually hide more benevolent/neutral creatures who help the protagonists.
- This is explicitly the theme of the old (early-1900's) play, "Babes In The Wood", with a wicked relative leaving the children to die in the woods so the relative can inherit the children's estate. In the original, the children die and the birds come and cover them with leaves. After the appeal of this light tragedy wore off, there were many subverted versions made where the children survive somehow.
- We Are All Pokémon Trainers Tagg lives next door to an area known as the Sea of Trees, which happens to be based on Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest. It's infested with Ghost types and the souls of those who have died in the forest.
- J. R. R. Tolkien:
- Mirkwood, haunted by a weakened shade of Sauron and a swarm of giant spiders.
- Old Man Willow
- Who is part of the Old Forest, which is intelligent and actively hostile, as a result of being one of the last survivors (along with Mirkwood and Fangorn) of the old-growth forests that once covered most of the continent.
- Fangorn Forest had a pretty bad reputation, probably due to the Ents' (a race of ultimately benevolent, though still dangerous, tree-people) proclivity for taking down anything that might be a threat. Even Aragorn was wary of it. It's mostly due to the Huorns, trees that have woken up or Ents that have almost turned into trees (the process seems to go both ways). They aren't very intelligent, but they can move - as fast as bullet train if needed - and aggressively pursuit anything they perceive as threat if there are no Ents around to herd them.
- A recurring theme in the works of Algernon Blackwood.
- In Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, some of Helen's earliest victims are driven to madness after going in the woods with her. (She is the daughter of the pagan nature deity Pan, who is depicted as a very dark force.)
"Ah, mother, mother, why did you let me go in the forest with Helen?"
- In Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, the title character gets lost in the forests of Lovecraft Country.
- In the Warrior Cats series, kittypets (house cats) are terrified of the woods, and tell stories about the savage wildcats that eat bones and the dangerous animals that live out there. Most feel that if you go into the woods, you won't come out, but some of them do like to explore there from time to time, and some actually join the Clans of cats that live out there.
- The Forest in Septimus Heap is filled with carnivorous trees, wolverines, and nasty witches and not a place to enter without caution. Septimus and Nicko get almost killed in Flyte in this Forest.
- The Low Countries in Queste are also implied to be dangerous.
- The Sword of Shannara: We don't recommend heading into the Black Oaks. There's wolves in there. Ironically, in trying to avoid it, the main characters stumble into the wraith-haunted Mist Marsh.
- Lois Lowry's Autumn Street is a children's book, not a horror story. But this trope definitely applies to Charles near the end.
- The woods of Ithor in Galaxy of Fear: Spore. Tash and Zak find out their ball has gone in there, and for once it's Zak who's inclined to be cautious and Tash who just goes in.
- In Dave Barry's Twilight parody "Fangs of Endearment," one character tries to warn the protagonist (who, in a deliberate show of Genre Blindness, decides to grab the Idiot Ball instead) not to go into the woods, and describes how a lot of hikers have died mysterious violent deaths there recently:
"I mean, sure, we usually get two or three violent-dismemberment hiker deaths a week around here; that's going on as long as anybody can remember. But a hundred and fifty-eight dead in two days seems like a lot. Doc Smelkins examined all of the body pieces we were able to find, and he ruled out natural causes such as hookworm."
- In the short story "Young Goodman Brown", the protagonist goes into the woods, and he sees his wife Faith's pink ribbon. He meets up with a Louis Cypher, and sees that Faith has joined a Satanic cult, along with several other supposedly upstanding members of their Puritan community.
- The forest of the Spine in The Inheritance Cycle. It's said that "though the trees were tall and the sun shone brightly, few people could stay in the Spine for long without suffering an accident." It's also mentioned that, around a hundred years before the current storyline, King Galbatorix lost half his army in there.
- Forest in Messenger decides to kill people, seemingly at random — and that's on a good day. It becomes even more malevolent to reflect the personalities of Village's inhabitants.
Live Action TV
- Power Rangers Mystic Force: Invoked, where the people of Briarwood are superstitious about the nearby woods. It turns out that the woods is home to a number of inhuman mystical beings... but they turn out to be pretty friendly for the most part. Just what they were so afraid of is a good question subject to Wild Mass Guessing (there are several quite plausible possibilities, none stated in-show.)
- Though this was not ultimately kept in the series, the ads showed that the magical forest creatures were equally afraid to go into the city. The final episode has both sides overcome their mutual superstitious fears... which weren't actually in the series proper. Ah, Kalish...
- Revolution: In the pilot, Charlie and her brother have been repeatedly told not to go wandering because "it's not safe out there", despite being in their late teens/early 20's and obviously able to handle themselves. Justified Trope in that we don't know whether or not bandits or wild animals beyond the capability of Charlie's crossbow to take down are in the woods. And the militia appears to be just as bad of a threat, if not worse. The militia may have also imposed restrictions on how far ordinary citizens are allowed to range from their homesteads, just as medieval serfs (and plantation slaves in the pre-Civil War South) were bound to the estates of their masters. Get caught without a pass and you may wish the bear had eaten you first...
- The X-Files:
- Episode "Darkness Falls" is about Mulder and Scully's nice trip to the woods. Or so Mulder thought at first, Not only do they have to deal with eco-terrorists who sabotage their car, radio and other equipment, but they discover that certain mysterious and deadly bugs are responsible for loggers' deaths. They nearly don't make it out.
- In "Detour", Mulder and Scully face "moth men" — predatory creatures who are barely visible and who try to protect their space. Several people get lost in the woods, and the creatures also come back for those who have been in their territory. Mulder and Scully are stranded in the woods and discover a creepy pit with human bodies and injured people.
- Strange: In Dubik, an evil presence lurks within the trees in a forest in Eastern Europe - a forest from which wood ends up being shipped abroad.
- In the episode "Wendigo" of Supernatural, campers disappear in in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
- The aptly-named Ghostwood Forest around the town of Twin Peaks, which contain a portal to the hellish Black Lodge, and are creeping with vaguely-defined evil and terrifying demonic owls.
- A song from Finnish heavy-metal band, Teräsbetoni, is called "Älä mene metsään" ("Don't go in the woods").
- A song by the Swedish techno-bluegrass band Rednex, called "Is he alive" tells about a Humanoid Abomination that plays the fiddle and hides in a mine in the woods.
- Queens of the Stone Age's Someone's In The Wolf: "Once you're lost in twilight's blue, you don't find the way, the way finds you"
- "Mosquito Song" implies that the cannibals are waiting in the forest.
- The Kinks song "Wicked Annabella" warns:
Don't go into the woods tonight
'cause underneath the sticks and stones
are lots of little demons enslaved by Annabella
waitin' just to carry you home
- The plot of Rob Cantor's song "Shia LaBeouf" begins when the protagonist gets lost in the woods with a non-functioning phone. It's unfortunate that the eponymous "actual cannibal" lives there.
- "The Teddy Bears' Picnic"; especially the last verse:
If you go down in the woods today you better not go alone
It's lovely down in the woods today but safer to stay at home
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic
- An old joke: A man and a young boy are walking through a forest. The boy says "I'm scared". The man replies "You're scared? I'm the one who has to walk back on my own!"
- Pretty much every forest in the Warhammer World is filled with brigands, wolves, goblins, giant spiders, mutants, beastmen, minotaurs, cockatrices, chimeras, or even worse things. The forest of Athel Loren is in mainly ways the least scary, because the xenophobic Wood Elves will just shoot you full of arrows.
- That's really just if you're lucky. You're at least equally as likely to get lost on twisted, maddening paths that lead only where the forest wants them to lead, at which point all manner of suck will happen.
- Indie game The Path instructs you not to go into the woods, and because this is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, you know what's waiting there...
- But on the other hand, if you follow instructions and don't go in, nothing of note happens. So, even with a warning not to do it, and knowing what waits for you in there, you have no choice but to go in if you want a satisfying game-experience...
- The Ghoul's Forest Series of Game Mods reeks of this trope, you are chased through the forest by various ghosts dubbed ghouls, each ghoul kills you in a different manner and three of them scream you to death.
- World of Warcraft has the extremely creepy Duskwood region. The local NPCs ominously warn you to keep to the roads and only travel by day (though it doesn't make a lot of difference because ... well, how do you think the area got its name?)
- One of the loading screen tips advises you to keep to the roads if you want to avoid monsters. A sound piece of advice, actually, as monsters and other enemy NPCs usually prefer to wander off-road.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time it is best to not go into the woods unless you are a Kokiri child if you don't you want to become a monster.
- Slender, featuring the long-limbed gentle...-man? thing?- mentioned below, is a textbook example of why forests should be avoided.
- Until Dawn, drawing inspiration from the many slasher movies that have employed this trope, is about eight friends who take a winter getaway at a hotel deep in some mountainous, snow-covered woods. It doesn't end well for any of them.
- The Slender Man sure loves his pine forests, but he's not averse to other kinds of trees.
- A specific example is in Everyman HYBRID; in the episode entitled Joke's Over, Evan, Vince and Jeff see the Slender Man in the woods. Evan chases after him, with Vince and Jeff following. Slendy vanishes and they suddenly find a circle of black bags. Vince cuts one open... and there's a few pints of blood in there.
- Of course, if you do get on Slendy's radar, you might as well go into the woods. It's not as though you'll be safe anywhere else...
- Marble Hornets narrows it down a bit- while Slenders can show up just about anywhere, wandering into the woods in Rosswood Park is practically guaranteed to end in a run-in with him.
- SCP Foundation does it in SCP-899. It's a bad idea to go near it if you're an adult. It's even worse if you're a child. And if you're a teenager going through puberty [DATA EXPUNGED]. And this is before the SCP-899-1 manifestations appear...
- Nyx Crossing takes place in a forested area, which appears to be an Eldritch Location.
- The forest bordering Ink City is home to mindless ink monsters and other threats, and also holds the Fourth Wall. Assuming you make it that far, it's best just to leave the Wall alone... touching it leads to bad things. The City's first major Event involved a large group of residents venturing into the woods only to discover exactly WHY that was such a bad idea.
- Story Of The Blanks
- Invoked by There's a Man in the Woods, a poem/video/story about a small child who pretends that there is a man in the woods so that he can get all the honeysuckle to himself. Because the protagonist of the video, the principal of the school, knows that there isn't a man in the woods, but doesn't do anything about it other than try to get rid of the rumor, he ends up getting fired in a fit of mass hysteria as parents decide that he isn't doing enough to protect their precious children. In the end, the principal becomes the man in the woods and is implied to murder the child who started the rumors.
- In Demo Reel, the bad guys drop off Donnie in the deepest part of some very creepy woods and leave him to die. With what happens to him later, he probably ended up wishing he did.
- The locations page for Off The Page And Into Life reveals the Hanging Woods, which everyone avoids due to a town legend of a man that hanged himself there, and general creepiness. It's unknown if the woods are really dangerous or if it's all paranoia and rumors, mainly because no one's willing to go and check. At any rate, we do know that the reincarnation of The Big Bad Wolf himself lives there...
- The Haunted Woods in Neopets gives off this vibe, although it's just as visible as any other realm.
- The dark forest sequence in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can be considered a subversion, given how all of what she thought were monsters turn out to just be cute little woodland critters, though not before briefly appearing to be horrible monsters.
- In one scene of Beauty and the Beast Maurice accidentally takes the wrong turn in a forest, heading down a ominous looking path rather than the brighter looking path. It's not long before his horse gets spooked and runs away, leaving him to be pursued by hungry wolves.
- Later, after leaving the Beast's castle when frightened and rushing into the woods, Belle encounters the same wolves who would've killed her had the Beast not shown up to save her.
- The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Picnic". To get to the picnic area, the class has to go around the Forest of Doom (Yes, that's what it's called). Gumball and Darwin misunderstand it as going through the Forest of Doom, so they do. They get lost and have to run from very, very bizarre predators like a teal deer with fangs and a rooster head and giant cyclopic bear with antlers.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The ponies of Equestria treat the Everfree Forest as an Eldritch Location; looking at it with fear, and preffering to avoid it when possible. Turns out, the forest is not so bad… it just happens to be an Eldritch Location for them only, because the plants and trees fend by themselves without pony aid, and the weather is not under the control of Pegasi; which clashes directly with the rest of the pony-ordered, cheerful civilized Equestria. It is of note, though, that Everfree Forest DOES have some dangerous creatures, such as manticores, and other assorted nasty stuff like Poison Joke, which although not lethal or painful, can really mess up your day; it's just not as dangerous as the ponies make you believe.
- The Headless Horseman sequence from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
- Since The Smurfs already live in the woods, they are warned in The Legend Of Smurfy Hollow not to go into Smurfy Hollow.
Truth In Television
- The Roman General Quinctilius Varus was warned by several German chieftains not to lead his army into the Teutoberg Forest as the warlord Arminius was planning an ambush. Varus did it anyway, and the entire army was destroyed.
- During the Peloponnesian War, Athenian general Demosthenes once led a group of heavy infantry into hilly ground held by his light-armed enemies. Predictably, using the high ground to their advantage, the missile troops ripped the Athenians to shreds. Demosthenes's surviving men fled into a nearby forest hoping the light infantry would not follow them there. They did not. Instead, they set it on fire.
- Aokigahara forest in Japan is most famous for the numerous suicides that have happened there. However, many people have also gotten lost and never returned.
- Aokigahara was a popular location for suicides long before, but the suicide fad really started to get going in 1960 when the forest appeared in a novel about a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers, who killed themselves. In the last decades the yearly average of suicides has grown increasingly, and the local authorities decided to no longer publish numbers when they hit 100 (discovered) cases in 2003.
- Schwarzwald, also known as the Black Forest, inspired many of the more violent German folk tales.
- In some parts of California, hiking off-trail is ill advised as you may stumble into a pot grower and/or their booby traps. Or you might just stumble across somebody who already did...
- In most large national parks, hiking off trail is ill advised (even for short distances) simply because the chance for you to get lost is huge, and several hikers have starved to death not a hundred feet from a major trail.
- In a similar vein, the Alaskan Tundra is very deceptive. What looks like a perfectly flat area may be full of animals, Everything Trying to Kill You. Many a hiker has had the misfortune to stumble upon an invisible bear.
- One word: Siberia. Miles and miles and miles of endless forests in all directions. Also consider this: it has the world's largest population of wolves, bears, wolverines, lynxes, boars, possibly remains of failed soviet experiments and only gods know what else. Oh and should I mention that it's also a coldest place on Earth outside of Antarctic?
- This trope was the rule of thumb in medieval Europe; you could be killed by wolves, bears, bandits... and if you went into the wrong woods, the local nobleman or even the crown. There is a story from 13th century France where three students of the Sorbonne got lost in a forest and killed a quail to survive...and were hanged by a baron who owned the woods and used it for hunting. Thankfully, King Louis IX arrested the baron and was inches from hanging him, only freeing him after stripping him of virtually all power.
- Subverted by the Finnish Army. They are forest specialists par excellence, and every conscript is taught to survive and find his way in the woods. The woods do provide excellent hideaways and bases for Finnish yeagers and rangers.