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Deadly Road Trip

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Sun, surf, sand...and slaughter

Start with a Road Trip Plot; it could be for work, play, study or research. Add a traveler, maybe a couple or a group of friends, or for extra trope points a group of friends who are couples. They're driving far from home to someplace remote and rural, a foreign country, or both for quadruple trope points. So now they're someplace new and exciting and different... where they will be off guard; where they don't know the roads and can easily get lost; no one knows them or will notice if they disappear; they have trouble communicating with the locals or it's in the Wild Wilderness, so there are no locals with whom to invoke Safety in Muggles; and when they pull out their phones, there's a Sudden Lack of Signal, so and there will be no help from home if they get stranded, have a car breakdown, get robbed, kidnapped or killed. And so they are.

Cue the Closed Circle trapping them in danger and keeping help away, once the trap is sprung any of a hundred Dramatic and Horrific developments can pounce on these unwary tourists.

Point is, they're a long way from home, and because they don't know the area or aren't as cautious as they should be, it leads to horrible things happening. And there's no help coming, so if they want to survive, they need to figure it out themselves.

The use of this trope in horror and drama is particularly scary because it's Truth in Television (well, minus the mutant zombie hillbilly cannibals. We hope). Criminals in other countries look for tourists in particular as they tend to have a lot of spending money, poor language skills, and no local ties who may get worried if they go missing.

This sort of thing can happen on a Vacation Episode and in Don't Go in the Woods, and when a space ship answers a Distress Call from a drifting Ghost Ship or people simply take a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque into a Wretched Hive town. This is one of the reasons why Short Cuts Make Long Delays. Also comparable with Hell Hotel. If the danger the vacationers get into is similar to their "day job", this scenario can be a form of Busman's Holiday.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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  • American Express had a series of ad campaigns in the 70s and 80s for American Express Traveler's Checks: "Never leave home without them" — and every commercial was about somebody getting robbed while on vacation somewhere.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bondage Queen Kate features an inter-planetary crime syndicate that kidnaps female tourists who travel to the desert planet Dune, to force them into sexual slavery.

  • According to Dave Barry, using turn signals in Miami amounts to informing Miami drivers that you are a tourist, and that they may therefore help themselves to your cash, electronics, and medically valuable organs. Similarly, he recounts three German tourists in the New York City subway system who politely asked to get off, he believes they probably got let out in the Bronx where they were sold for parts.
  • In his one-man live show as James Thurber, William Windom had a bit where he read the English phrases helpfully translated for the tourist in Europe. These include phrases like "Help", "I need a doctor/hospital", "I have been robbed of my luggage/wallet/camera", and the like.

    Comic Books 
  • Copperhead's second arc features a villain version. Zolo's gang attacks the town and takes the sheriff's deputy captive, then speeds for their stronghold. Bronson repulses the initial attack and gathers a posse to hunt the fleeing gang down one by one.

    Film — Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: Considering the handful of zombies shown in Hawaiian shirts alongside the Confederate soldiers and pirates, it's implied that this trope happened to them. Lena later confesses she often lured tourists to the island in recent years for the cat creatures to feast on during the full moon — Mystery Inc. were meant to be their next victims.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Altitude is the airborne equivalent. A group of friends are attacked by an Eldritch Abomination while taking trip in one of their parent's planes.
  • This is pretty much the premise of the French movie Banzai with Coluche. The protagonist is an employee at an insurance company specialized in bringing back tourists encountering a mishap or medical emergency. The most outstanding example is certainly when a friend of the protagonist is seized by a triad in Hong Kong and repeatedly thrown from about one-story high into hard stone (if you wonder, this is Played for Laughs). The mobsters don't want to kill him, but to take advantage of the urgent repatriation to smuggle some drugs.
  • The Joss Whedon movie The Cabin in the Woods examines the horror aspects of this trope, noting that it is necessary to put the vacationers in an isolated place to get them to do wildly incautious things. And then monsters attack.
  • Evidence revolves around a group of people on a bus to Las Vegas that crashes in the desert, leaving them stranded and ready to be picked off by the masked killer.
  • The Grindhouse film Death Proof. A couple girls go joyriding when a Serial Killer with an old muscle car decides to hunt them down for kicks. Inverted in the second half of the movie, when the new set of protagonists are able to defend themselves pretty well, and kill the bad guy.
  • Guys and Dolls (1955). In the opening sequence, a man in a tourist group is pick-pocketed by a local while he's distracted.
  • The Hills Have Eyes has a family on a road trip through the desert, being stalked by a Cannibal Clan.
  • Hostel: A very, very gory version.
  • In Bruges is an inversion. Two hitmen are sent to relax in Bruges by their boss who wants the younger hitman to have a nice holiday before whacking him for accidentally killing a child during a hit. Since the older hitman refuses to kill the younger one the danger follows them to Bruges.
  • In Fear has a couple driving through the backwoods of Ireland to attend a music festival, planning to stop at a secluded hotel for the night. They soon find themselves lost due to contradictory directions and as night falls, they realize they're being stalked by a masked man that preys on their fears before picking them off.
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park: The first victims shown in the movie are tourists lounging on the beach of a dinosaur-filled island. They picked the wrong island.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate is about a family taking their first vacation, who run afoul of a bizarre cult.
  • Monsters has a journalist tasked with bringing back his employer's daughter from Mexico. After it has been overrun by monsters.
  • Played straight and then subverted in A Perfect Getaway, where a honeymooning couple tries to enjoy their vacation amidst troubling tales of serial murder. Paranoia and self-preservation run high, and anyone could be waiting to slit their throat while they sleep. Except the main characters were the serial killers from the start.
  • Likewise, Pumpkinhead tells this story from the perspective of the hillbilly. After a group of city kids come into town and kill his son in a dirt-biking accident, local shopkeep Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) summons a demon to get revenge on them.
  • The Ruins (The Film of the Book of the same name). Two American couples on vacation in Mexico discover a pyramid infested with deadly parasitic vines.
  • Scooby-Doo has Mystery Inc. investigate the Spooky Island theme park, a popular spring break destination, because the vacationing college students leave the island with totally different personalities from when they arrived. It turns out they have been possessed by demons, who need human bodies to go out in the daytime, in order to take over the world.
  • Sightseers inverts this, with the main characters going on a caravan holiday together and using it to murder a string of strangers.
  • A yachting holiday goes horrifically wrong for a young couple and their best friend in Siren (2010).
  • Taken: Poor Kimmy, being kidnapped and almost forced into prostitution, all within hours of her arriving in France.
  • Most Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies start with a group of friends who happen to be driving through the area where Leatherface lives for some reason or another.
  • Train: In Eastern Europe, a group of US college athletes participating in a wrestling championship are separated from the rest of their group and miss their train. Accepting an invitation to board another train, they fall into the hands of a gang of organ thieves.
  • In Transsiberian the protagonists are going through Siberia on a train which itself is a Closed Circle, but above that they frequently make stops in locations that are also Closed Circles. All of which frames the lies and smuggling and corrupt (?) police who are growing more and more suspicious of the innocent (?) protagonists.
  • Tucker & Dale vs. Evil plays this trope straight... from the perspective of the hillbillies. A group of teens and a pair of hillbillies go camping in the same general area and the former confuses the latter for Serial Killers, inverting the usual set up for the trope.
  • Invoked, albeit in a foreign language, in the title of Turistas.
  • Unknown (2011): Another Liam Neeson action movie,in which his character nearly loses everything in his life on a trip to Berlin.

  • Discworld: What hasn't happened to Twoflower and Rincewind?
    • Inverted in Witches Abroad, as the vampire who tries to apply this trope to the witches winds up smacked in the face by window shutters and a garlic sausage, then eaten by Greebo. The witches' vacation is not disrupted in the slightest; as they never noticed it was there.
  • Happens in the Michael Palmer novel The Fifth Vial, which is about an illegal organ harvesting program in Brazil.
  • In The Rise and Fall of the Sky Valley Cult the protagonists take one, and wind up in the mist- 1stenshrouded town of child cultists. Which leads to them trying to escape, and having to take another deadly road trip out of the eponymous valley.

     Live-Action TV  
  • CSI example, this time from Las Vegas, involved a particularly dead-eyed gang of juvenile delinquents who beat up tourists For the Evulz, knowing that as juveniles they would face relatively short sentences if caught.
  • A CSI: NY example ("She's Not There") involves a girl who befriends other girls out of state (pretending to be a few years younger than she actually is) and convinces them to come on a trip to New York with her, where they're drugged and forced into prostitution.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Faceless Ones", Chameleon Tours is a front for faceless aliens who are abducting young British tourists and stealing their identities as the first step in their conquest of the Earth.
    • In "Voyage of the Damned", the Doctor ends up on a spaceship replica of the RMS Titanic which serves as an intergalactic cruise. The Doctor, being the only one really familiar with Earth history, is seemingly the only one who is aware of the irony of naming a cruise ship after the Titanic. When the ship collides with three meteors, most of the passengers die on impact, with many others getting picked off by the Host robots. The Doctor attempts to save as many of the tourists on the cruise as he can and get to the control room to stop the ship from crashing to Earth. All but two of the six don't make it. It later turns out the ship's designer modeled it after the infamous Titanic on purpose, since he planned to crash the ship from the start to frame his company's board of directors after they fired him.
  • Doom Patrol (2019): Cliff, Rita, Vic, and Jane go on vacation to a past-its-prime rural resort with the intention of healing from recent troubles. Unfortunately for them, the only other lodgers at the resort are a pair of aliens tasked with murdering Rita. The leader starts to have a change of heart, only for his assistant to kill his boss and all four Doom Patrol members.
  • Pushing Daisies begins with Charlotte Charles getting murdered while on a cruise, her first trip away from home, getting her dubbed in the news as "Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles". Downplayed in part because she knew she was part of a shady deal set up by the travel agent, and in part because she doesn't stay dead.

  • Fathom has a rare undersea version, where three friends scuba diving off the coast of Bermuda run afoul of a school of deadly sea nymphs.

    Video Games 
  • In Fishing Vacation, the player character and their friend decide to go on a road trip to a remote cabin owned by the friend's uncle, intending to spend three days relaxing and fishing. The trip ends up being anything but relaxing thanks to the friend's crazy uncle and an ocean goddess, though there is plenty of fishing. There's only one ending where the player character, at the very least, is confirmed to die, while in the other endings the protagonists narrowly escape (though not completely unaffected in some routes).
  • The four protagonists of Mermaid Swamp were on a road trip when their car breaks down in the cursed swamp, where they soon come to realize they're all in grave danger in some form or another. Whether the letter of the trope is played straight depends upon the actions of the player; some characters end up suffering A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • The Davis family from Modern Warfare 3. They're on vacation in London. You take control of Mr. Davis about thirty seconds before he, his wife, and his daughter all die in a terrorist attack.

    Web Video 
  • Mr. Gibbs: Whenever Ledger and co. go anywhere, they'll end up running from some Monster of the Week, and can never seem to catch a break. Ledger even comments on this at one point.
    Ledger: When there is a ghost town, there's gonna be ghosts, and there's gonna be something that's gonna chase us around and murder us. That always happens, it happens every week. I don't know why we go anywhere.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, the first time Homer visits New York City his camera is stolen. He reports this to a cop, who steals his suitcase. Almost immediately afterwards, a pickpocket steals his wallet, and a passing pigeon steals his hot dog. This is a fairly accurate depiction of New York in the 1970s.
    • In another Simpsons when they went to Brazil Homer ignored the warnings, got into a gypsy cab, and was kidnapped & held for ransom.

    Real Life 
  • Apart from tourists being possible victims of crime, in Real Life they have also been the targets of politically motivated terrorism, as when Islamic extremists murdered a number of visitors to Luxor in Egypt a few years ago.
  • The Bali Bombings - Terrorists bombed areas where Western tourists (mostly Australians) frequented.
  • Drug dealers trying to sell to tourists in a country that takes a harsh stance on it, like Indonesia. (This has formed a familiar story, both in the news and fiction, of Western tourists on holiday somewhere in South-East Asia who accidentally or deliberately become involved in drug smuggling, leading to imprisonment in a hellish jail and/or capital punishment.)
  • Florida has very relaxed gun laws that make most crime a risk to the criminal. To get around this, Miami has become infamous for criminals targeting people going out of the airport, as they won't be armed.
  • Popular urban legend: Couple goes to a foreign country on vacation; while they're out having dinner, their room is robbed, the burglars only leaving two things: their cameras, and their toothbrushes. They use up the rest of the roll of film and continue using the toothbrushes, until finally they get their pictures back, and discover a bunch of them are of the burglar with their toothbrushes up his ass.
  • Proving this trope to be Older Than Feudalism, there are travel books dating back to the Roman Empire warning about your likelihood of being robbed and murdered while traveling, with plenty of horror stories to scare you into listening.
  • Another popular urban legend is that gangs on the west coast of the US, particularly Los Angeles, will drive at night without their headlights on. If any one blinks theirs to tell them their lights are off, they have to kill them as part of an initiation. The myth so prevalent that California's Highway Patrol had to make an official statement about it.
  • Many of the passengers on the RMS Titanic were on holiday when the ship sank.