None come out, though many go in."
In horror/thriller/fantasy movies or literature, holidays, outings, or traveling in woodsy locations never seem to bode all that well. This trope is Older Than Dirt, with the wilderness being viewed as dangerous for much of human history.
When people go deep into the woods, horrible things ensue. They are inhabited by inbred hillbillies, barbarian tribes, psychopathic killers, wicked fairy folk, monsters, and dangerous animals of every sort. Malevolent eyes gaze from every shadow. Perhaps even the trees themselves attack them. The woods could be cursed. There are strange noises in both the day and the night. People disappear. People go insane.
Rarely do horror and thriller movies of this flavor end happily; often with everyone ends up dead, although there may be a final girl. This has almost gotten to the point at which such movies almost have Foregone Conclusions. Other genres like the Rescue series are more hopeful with the rescue team racing against time to find the person.
The darker equivalent of the Horrible Camping Trip; for a doomed wilderness expedition, see River of Insanity; sometimes may overlap with Wild Wilderness but with much darker overtones. See also The Lost Woods, for when forests are portrayed as enchanted, mysterious, and full of strange things, which may or may not overlap with this trope. Subtrope of Deadly Road Trip. See also Hungry Jungle and Swamps Are Evil. Closely related to Nature Is Not Nice, where the wilderness, in general, is inhospitable for human beings.
- 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.
- "Morozko": The old woman sends her stepdaughter in the woods to die. However, the woodlands are home to Father Frost, who is willing to be benevolent and helpful... as long as you are not a rude disrespectful ass, so incurring its wrath.
- Many stories feature a Wicked Stepmother and/or Abusive Parents sending their children specifically to the woods to die, whether of starvation or in hopes they'll be eaten. However, in some tales the woods actually hide more benevolent/neutral creatures who help the protagonists.
- This is explicitly the theme of the old (early 1900s) play, "Babes In The Wood", with a wicked relative leaving the children to die in the woods so that said 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.
- In 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 forest infamous for being the second-most popular spot for suicides in the world. It's infested with Ghost types and the souls of those who have died in the forest.
- In the Agatha & Sam Gaiden sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines the title characters have to venture in the Drowning Woods at the base of Mt. Silver when Agatha's younger brother runs off on his own. Like the above example, it's also based on Aokigahara and infested with evil Ghost-types.
- In Popped, Rainbow Dash and Applejack venture into a dense forest in an effort to find a missing Pinkie Pie. Things don't exactly end well for either of them.
- In A Minor Miscalculation, Satsuki is eventually forced to track down the berserk-form Ryuko in the middle of Aokigahara. The setting gives her great anxiety even before Ryuko springs out and nearly kills her.
- In Antichrist, a couple retreats to a cabin in the woods after their baby falls out of the window while they are having sex. There, the wife goes Ax-Crazy, hits her husband in the testicles and attaches a millstone to his leg, and then cuts her clitoris off. He's forced to kill her and burn her corpse. Something to do with a fox, a deer, and a bird. Also a more subtle, disturbing, and creepy take on the trope, as it manifests as evil acorns, forest animal stillbirths, and waking up with ticks all over your hand even before the genital mutilation.
- In The Blair Witch Project, the evil in the woods of Burkittsville is never explicitly shown or explained, but it involves a dead child killer, the ghosts of the children he killed, and a witch or hairy creature that can mimic the voice of her victims. Things don't go well for a trio of film students who get lost in the woods.
- The Burning: Cropsy's main killing spree starts when the campers go on an overnight canoe trip and are camping in the deep woods.
- In Cabin Fever, the kids go on a trip to a cabin in the woods and contract a flesh-eating disease. Hilarity Ensues.
- Invoked in The Cabin in the Woods which focuses on this trope and — as its name points out — the cabin in the woods.
- The titular Dead Lands are described as a forbidden, scary place.
- The horror flick Dead Night takes place around a cabin inside the snowy Oregon woods wherein a Humanoid Abomination is plotting something sinister. Predictably, people die.
- In Deliverance, four yuppies go on a canoeing trip in the backwoods of Georgia and run afoul of the local hillbillies. One of them gets raped, another dies when going over a waterfall, and the three left alive have to defend themselves from a sniper up on a cliff.
- Desolation (2017): Abby, her son Sam, and her friend Jen all go hiking in the woods to spread Abby's dead husband's ashes from the top of a mountain. After that, they get stalked by a quiet hiker that Sam spotted across the lake from them earlier.
- In Dog Soldiers, a bunch of British marines on a training exercise in the forest get attacked by a pack of werewolves and are forced to hole up in a cottage, which turns out to be owned by one of the werewolves themselves.
- Don't Go in the Woods, about a group of campers who venture into the woods and come face to face with a deranged killer. More Hilarity Ensues. This time unintentionally.
- Eden Lake has a young couple go to the English countryside, where they're set upon by a deranged band of children and teenagers. It turns out their parents in the nearby town are even more deranged.
- The first people killed by the Cannibal Clan in Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain are an American couple camping in the woods. Later the Crusty Caretaker Gary keeps telling the students to not go in the woods after dark, and to keep to the paths. His concern seems a trifle misplaced as the cannibals have no issue with leaving the woods in search of victims.
- The Evil Dead (1981), where a group of college students go to a cabin in the woods and accidentally unleash demons from a Tome of Eldritch Lore. Hilarity Ensues, including tree rape, Demonic Possession and, eventually, Time Travel.
- In The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow the woods of northern Ontario are where a Secret Circle of Secrets/Mystery Cult get up to the dirty business of worshiping ancient death-goddesses, and its heavily implied that Human Sacrifice is a part of that worship, as an Occult Detective examines a seemingly innocuous photo of a group on a camping trip.
- Feral (2017) is about six teenagers who go on a camping trip, and then have to hide with some guy in his house from some kind of vicious creature who's really the man's infected son.
- The Field Guide to Evil: "Beware the Melonheads" is based on legends of a Cannibal Tribe of children with enlarged craniums supposed to dwell in the north woods of America. A family rents a cabin deep in the woods to relax and refresh their family ties. When the young son says he has met a strange boy in the woods, the parents dismiss it as his imagination. And then the son goes missing...
- The Final Terror is set in a forest where a killer with a messy hair chases campers.
- Crazy cannibal hermit hunts people for food in The Forest (1982). There are also ghosts.
- Two-thirds of the Friday the 13th installments, where generations of teenagers visit the infamous forestbound Camp Crystal Lake and/or its environs, and come up against the vengeful, hulking zombie of a drowned boy named Jason Voorhees (or his equally vengeful mother, or some random copycat killer). They're always being warned. They always ignore the warnings. They always lose the use of vital organs.
- Grizzly Rage: Four college students drive into the woods and quickly get targeted by a vengeful mutated bear.
- Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers ends with Michael Myers chasing the protagonists into an eerie, foggy woodlands with a car. When he crashes the car, he gets out completely unscathed and proceeds to stalk the victims through the forest with a butcher knife.
- In House of Wax (2005), a bunch of teenagers (including Paris Hilton) driving on their way to a holiday (or some such) wind up in a seemingly deserted town in the middle of a forest, and fall prey to a pair of serial killers who turn all who come there into wax statues.
- Just Before Dawn is a typical Slasher Movie where a bunch of twenty-somethings camp out deep in the woods and meet death. What isn't so typical is the fact that there are actually two killers.
- Most of the action in Lemon Tree Passage takes place in dense bush at night, when the protagonists go searching for their missing friends and become easy prey for the malevolent force looking to pick them off.
- In Lesbian Vampire Killers, two down-on-their-luck young men go to the forests of Britain for a holiday and end up holed up in a cottage under siege by — you guessed it — Lesbian Vampires.
- Letter Never Sent is about four geologists who travel deep into the Siberian wilderness to hunt for diamonds, only to be caught in a harrowing struggle for survival after the forest catches fire.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park hits this in the third act when the characters have to cross the Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor territories to reach the old camp in the center of the island. Ironically, the moment the trope is played the most straight is when one of them leaves the group to go to the toilet and gets killed by a Zerg Rush of Compsognathus.
- In Madman, most of the "killer prowling for his prey" scenes happen in the forest surrounding the camp where the main cast work as counselors.
- The original Mother's Day features a trio of women going on a camping trip, only to be abducted by a family of psychopaths.
- In Night of the Demon, Holden breaks into Karswell's estate house late at night looking for crucial information and is found out. Karwsell suggests he leave by the front door and out the drive, but Holden insists he'll go back through the woods he came through. As he leaves Karswell sighs "I told him not to go through the woods...he just wouldn't listen!" Holden encounters...something in the dark...
- In Pan's Labyrinth, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War a little girl whose mother is married to a fascist captain goes with her mother and stepfather to a retreat in the forest, where she gets wound up in (possibly imaginary) antics involving the fauns and fairies who live about the estate, discovering the secret to her past in the process. [[spoiler: Ultimately subverted in that the forest-dwelling fey creatures are good, despite being incredibly creepy.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock, more of a Mind Screw than most such movies. A teacher and group of students venture into the Australian wilderness on a picnic. Something out there claims the girls one by one, and they're never seen again. Sort of an Older Than They Think take on The Blair Witch Project.
- In Preservation, a woman, her husband, and her brother-in-law go on a hunting trip in a state forest: ignoring the signs saying that the park is closed. Overnight, all of their gear is stolen and the trio find themselves being stalked by a group of maniacs bent on Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
- Main cast of Prophecy are stuck in a forest in Maine (actually Canada) which is home to a killer bear that has been mutated by pollution from a local paper mill.
- The Redwood Massacre is about a bunch of teenagers going to spend the weekend at an infamous murder site, only to end up at the mercy of a Sackhead Slasher.
- In Rovdyr, four friends (for given values of friendship) plan a weekend hiking trip in the woods of Norway's far north. On the way there, they are abducted and knocked unconscious. When they wake up, they discover that have dumped deep in the woods and are now the prey for someone who is Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
- Rust Creek: A Kentucky college student makes the mistake of taking a detour through some forested back roads and getting lost. She runs afoul of some Hillbilly Horrors who take advantage of the fact that they are miles from civilization.
- The plot of Shrooms follows a group of American students and their English guide who are stalked by a Serial Killer while out in the woods looking for psilocybin mushrooms in an isolated Irish forest. The killer might be real, a ghost, or just the product of their mushroom-induced hallucinations.
- Simon Says involves a typical scenario of a group of teens deliberately looking for a remote location with bad history. Two strange guys tell them a story of a couple of twins, one of whom goes Axe-Crazy and kills the other twin and their parents. The teens then meet a creepy long-nosed store owner (obviously, the same Axe-Crazy twin) and head to the woods. Needless to say, the guy starts attacking them. There is another group of campers (adults, this time) who are killed by him in-between killing the teens.
- Sleepaway Camp. Set primarily in a summer camp in Upstate New York, but at one point bunch of kids and a counselor venture into the woods. Most of the kids never came back.
- Strange Magic: The fairies and elves are warned to not go into the dark forest or they'll be locked away forever by the Bog King.
- There's Nothing Out There, complete with Lampshade Hangings a-plenty. There's even a scene where a van load of kids from a different movie show up.
"Isn't this the camp by the lake?"
"No! This is the cottage by the pond!"
- Ticks has ticks mutated by herbal steroids swarming a forest.
- In Timber Falls, a couple goes camping in the mountains and falls prey to a pair of deranged fundamentalist religious maniacs.
- Tucker & Dale vs. Evil parodies the trope: The preppy college kids camping in the woods think the hillbillies inhabiting in a rundown shack in the wilds belong here; in fact, it's their 'holiday home', they're fixing it up, and most of the confusion stems mainly from the college kids being prejudiced, elitist Wrong Genre Savvy snobs who misinterpret the motives of the in-fact quite friendly and harmless (if not incredibly bright) hillbillies. It doesn't stop a lot of them dying in hilariously gory ways, however. Tucker and Dale even believe that the kids are part of some deranged murder-suicide pact.
- The Village had this, with people being warned to stay out of the woods because of the monsters. When the girl protagonist goes to get help, she gets chased by them. They turn out to be not real, but she only finds that out later.
- In The Virgin Spring, two young Swedish women enter the spooky forest. They encounter a creepy old man in a cabin who might be Odin. Then one of them is raped and murdered by a pair of shepherds.
- The Watcher in the Woods, where a summer in the forest turns into an encounter with a wandering spirit and forces from another dimension.
- Welp involves a Belgian Cub Scout troop going into French woods, where one of the Scouts begins to suspect a feral boy is stalking them. He's right to a degree, but it's actually a whole lot worse...
- In The Windmill Massacre, the tourists have to trek through the woods to reach the mill after their bus breaks down (and falls into a canal). Most of the deaths occur in the woods rather than the mill.
- The Wizard of Oz has the spooky forest around the Witch's castle, with a sign famously reading "I'd turn back if I were you!"
- Wrong Turn has a group of teenagers (and a former medical student) run into inbred cannibal hillbillies in the woods. The setting was also carried into the first two sequels, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End and Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead.
- You Might Be the Killer is set at a remote woodlands camp, 25 miles from the nearest town, which comes under attack by a slasher villain.
- The Ritual features four friends taking a hike in Sweden to honor the memory of a fifth recently deceased friend. They decide to take a shortcut through a forest. Unfortunately, said forest is home to an ancient Nordic god monster, possibly a daughter of Loki, and a village of people that worship her and give her human sacrifices.
- In Pig Hunt, the protagonists' pursuit into the woods takes them through fields of marijuana and into the muddy landscape of Big Wallow, involving weaponry, the violent Tibbs brothers, tortured animals, a kukri-toting hippie, vengeful rednecks, and throat-slitting young women who grow pot by day and worship the giant boar at night.
- J. R. R. Tolkien:
- Mirkwood, haunted by a weakened shade of Sauron and a swarm of giant spiders. There are Wood-Elves living there, but they come across as far more sinister than many of the other elves in Middle-Earth.
- The Old Forest on the borders of the Shire, 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, the rest having largely been destroyed by Sauron's armies and by human expansion during the Second Age. It's full of thorny bushes that let people deeper into the forest but close up when they try to leave, it's actively tried to expand into settled land in the past, and in its depths waits Old Man Willow...
- 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 pursue anything they perceive as a threat if there are no Ents around to herd them.
- In the First Age there was the Forest Elf realm of Doriath. Technically, it was one of the safest places at the time in Middle-Earth due to a magical barrier created by its Queen Melian, meaning evil creatures couldn't enter. However, the barrier meant people who weren't invited would often get lost in the woods and die. Similar to Babes in the Wood, the twin princes Eluréd and Elurín are abandoned in the woods by the servants of Celegorm when the sons of Fëanor sacked Doriath and their father King Dior was killed. Fëanor's eldest son Maedhros repented and tried to find them but was unable to. It is left unclear what happened to them, though there is a story that says the birds and beasts led them to safety.
- The woods of Brethil in The Children of Húrin are dangerous due to the large band of outlaws living there, the Gaurwaith (Sindarin for Wolf-Men). When he joined them, Turin made the wood dangerous for orcs by turning the outlaws into La Résistance.
- 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?"
- Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest. The students are not allowed in for their own protection as the forest is host to a wide array of dangerous magical peoples and creatures, such as the proud violent centaurs who consider the forest theirs to the exclusion of wizardkind and for whom "betrayals" like teaching human children are to be met with a painful execution and the maneating Acromantula.
- In The Monster Bed, the narrator warns the reader against the Withering Wood, claiming that an assortment of fearsome creatures live there (gnomes, trolls, fairies, pixies, and Dennis and his mother).
- In the poem by Jacob Streilein There's a Man in the Woods an unjustly slandered teacher becomes the very thing the child behind his downfall said he was responsible for. "Do you hear that, Sid...? There's a man... in the woods!"
- 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.
- Septimus Heap:
- The Forest 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.
- In Queste, the forests of the Low Countries 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.
"It's so peaceful, I'm sure there's nothing dangerous here."
The sentence had barely left her mouth when a bunch of vines wrapped themselves around Zak and pulled him into the air.
- 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; it's eventually revealed in-story that this mass-disappearance was a huge ambush by the Urgals who inhabit the Spine, leading to a total rout of the soldiers, and the Urgals are a bit miffed that no one knew this.
- 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.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire the prologue of the first book and several chapters of the later ones take place in the Haunted Forest just North of the Wall. Already dangerous due to the bitterly cold climate and the tribes of hostile barbarians living there, the woods beyond the wall become even more dangerous due to the arrival of Others and their army of the dead.
- The Wind in the Willows: Mole impulsively decides to visit Mr. Badger's house by himself after Rat evasively discourages the idea several times — he finds out the hard way that the Wild Wood is not a safe place for small creatures to travel alone.
- Heralds of Valdemar:
- The Kingdom of Valdemar has the Forest of Sorrows; subverted in that though it certainly is dangerous... that's only if you have evil or cruel intent. A toddler would be safe in there but a group of bandits would get torn to pieces.
- The Palegis forest has the Tayledras invoking this for many reasons. Including the fact it is actually a very dangerous place to be.
- The Doctor Who novel The Way Through The Woods has a forest that the locals try to avoid, even building roads that go kilometers out of their way to avoid it, because an alien werefox crashed his spaceship there thousands of years ago, and the damaged vessel caused time (and space) distortions, meaning people that go in never come out. They just end up going in circles until they die. Of course, the human population doesn't know most of this, they just know that no-one who went in ever came out.
- How to Survive a Horror Movie has this as a Running Gag; it claims that going into the woods is basically the equivalent of painting a target on your back.
- The Wood in Uprooted is an out-of-place thing that corrupts or kills all who enter. People or animals who return tend to lose their minds, become violent, and possibly mutate. Worse, it's sentient, able to use its corruption to manipulate events far beyond its borders. Naturally, people avoid it like the plague.
- The page quote comes from the final book by Roald Dahl, The Minpins, with some woods known as the Forest of Sin. Truth be told, the only really threatening thing in the forest is the fiery Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher, and it becomes much more calm once hes been dealt with.
- Doctor Who: In "It Takes You Away", blind girl Hanne warns the Doctor and her companions about a mysterious monster in the woods near her cottage, which took her father away. Terrifying roaring sounds back up her argument. It turns out to be invoked by Hanne's missing father, Erik, who set up a speaker system outside to play the roars on a loop to keep his daughter from, well, going in the woods while he was on the other side of a dimensional portal.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Under the Bed", many generations of parents told their children not to play in the woods outside Buford. It turns out that there is a child-snatching monster living in them.
- 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 20s 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...
- 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.
- Taken: In "Acid Tests", Louise Rankin frequently tells her daughter Wendy not to go into the woods because of the Half-Human Hybrid Lester. Ironically, when Wendy does wander into the woods in search of her dog Champ, Lester tends to her after she falls out of a tree and breaks her leg.
- The aptly-named Ghostwood Forest around the town of Twin Peaks, which contains a portal to the hellish Black Lodge, and is creeping with vaguely-defined evil and terrifying demonic owls.
- 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.
- Kamen Rider Gaim
- The Helheim forest in perpetually is very dangerous, infested with Inves monsters and fruits that turn unfortunate saps into monsters if eaten. It's best to travel in groups when going through this world. And also, there is a ruined city in there.
- 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:
- "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
- The music video of Voracity by Japanese pop-rock band Myth & Roid shows a rabbit mask-wearing Humanoid Abomination haunting creepy woods. Later, it starts pursuing a little girl that entered the place in manner reminiscent of Ju-on and does something to her when it catches up.
- 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!"
- The Fallen Gods has the Shoiken Grove that grows around the Tower of Sorcery in Palanthis. Its said to be cursed, as everyone who enters is never seen again. They're populated by living shadow monsters, and even if the adventurers manage to reach the Tower there are even worse horrors awaiting them.
- TANIS takes place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The titular Eldritch Location is said to be located somewhere within those woods and has a pronounced effect on those who go into it or even get too close. Many of the tales told during episodes feature men and women turning homicidal and/or suicidal after exposure to it, ranging from random fur trappers in the nineteenth century to Charles Manson.
- Jim Gaffigan: If you ever get up to go to the bathroom at night while you're camping, you might as well say to your friends "Nice knowin' ya! You want to get killed with me, or do you want the Serial Killer to get you when you come looking for me?"
- Eddie Izzard did a similar routine once.
"Let's go camping in the Forest of Death and Blood!"
- Norm MacDonald has a bit where he notes that nothing good ever happens in the woods and that no missing girl ever comes bounding out of the woods perfectly fine.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Forests are the home of green dragons, manipulative bastards who deceive foes and reveal their true colors to lesser beings. Other inhabitants include larger and more dangerous versions of real-world animals such as dire bears, dire wolves, and dire boars.
- Pretty much every forest in the Old World is filled with brigands, wolves, goblins, giant spiders, mutants, beast men, minotaurs, cockatrices, chimeras, or even worse things. The forest of Athel Loren is in some ways the least scary because the xenophobic Wood Elves will just shoot you full of arrows — 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, especially once the dryads get their hands on you.
- There is a forest in the Empire called the Witches' Woods, which is inhabited by Wood Elves. No one is allowed to enter the woods on pain of death, not even the province's Elector Count. No one knows what's in the forest, but best guess is Wood Elves that will turn trespassers into target practice.
- The indie game Summerland has the Sea of Leaves, a supernatural forest that spontaneously covered the world one day. Travel through it from the few communities left is extremely ill-advised since the psychic Call it emanates causes any human who hasn't suffered massive emotional trauma to degenerate into one of the mad hermits or the savage, feral cannibals that already live in it.
- A Walk in the Woods: The forest the kids are camping in is inhabited by a monster and his inhuman children. The kids need to find each other and get out of the woods before they become more of the monster's children.
- Fever Cabin is set in a forest full of zombies. The Player Character is in an old hunting cabin therein, trying to survive five nights until a group of survivors comes to get them.
- Flesh Birds: The birds in the forest have become a ravenous swarm that attack, murder, and eat any human they come across because some "hippies" turned them on you and your coworkers when you wouldn't leave the forest.
- 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.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: It is extremely inadvisable to go into the Lost Woods unless you are a Kokiri child with a guardian fairy, if you don't you want to become one of the undead monsters that roam the forest. Oddly, it's implied by Saria that she and Link used to play in the woods before he received his fairy. This may either be attributed to him being guided by Saria or simply that he's the bearer of a portion of the Triforce.
- Oakwood is set in an abandoned camp that has dinosaurs wandering around eating any campers that go there.
- 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...
- Raw Footage has you exploring a forest said to be inhabited by a mysterious creature. You're trying to get video evidence that it exists, only everyone else who tried the same before you wound up dead.
- 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 haunted by a psychotic killer and infested with wendigos. It doesn't end well for any of them.
- 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.
- Silverpine Forest is pretty much the same. Sandwiched neatly between the Werewolf kingdom of Gilneas and the Zombie kingdom of Tirisfal, you can't take two steps away from the road without blundering into something that's been horribly mutated or cursed.
- In Night in the Woods, the titular woods are home to an incorporeal, teleporting, kidnapping entity that begins to stalk Mae once she becomes aware of it, and is later shown to be a member of a murderous cult that was empowered by their eldritch god.
- The forest in Wick is haunted by five murderous ghostly children. In-game collectibles imply their supernatural abilities predate their deaths and that two of them may have never been human to begin with.
- In Fallout 4's Far Harbor expansion, the Island's woodlands are shrouded in a radioactive Fog of Doom and home to baddies such as Mutant Wolves, Fog Crawlers, Trappers, and the Children of the Atom.
- The Forest of Drizzling Rain is home to a deadly youkai and the ghosts of her victims.
- The primary setting of White Noise Online is a dark forest.
- The Slumbering Weald in Pokémon Sword and Shield is a vast, eerie-looking forest shrouded in huge amounts of fog. Residents of Postwick generally avoid going in there for good reason, and the first time you and Hop head in there to rescue a Wooloo, both of you get lost in the dense fog. But that's not even the scary part — the scary part is when you encounter the legendary mascot as soon as you wind up lost, and end up going into a Hopeless Boss Fight against a beast that you know absolutely nothing about. And all this happens right after you get your starter.
- Spirits Of Anglerwood Forest: The children of Anglerwood Forest are told by their parents not to go in the woods at night. Stories are told around the area of children that encounter strange creatures or go missing in the woods. By the end, we know that something corrupted Ezra and took his spirit into the woods. After that, corrupted Ezra made the woods a much more dangerous place to be.
- STALKER has the Red Forest. Based on the real Red Forest in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (which turned to this color after the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster killed the trees), the area is a place where even stalkers in large and well-armed groups fear to go, and the only permanent inhabitant is Forester. Radiation hotspots and anomalies are numerous, large packs of mutants (including a respawning Boss in Mook Clothing) roam the area, the safe roads are controlled by Monolith and, once one goes through all of that, they find themselves straight into the area of effect of the Brain Scorcher, turning them into Zombies or Monolith soldiers.
- Elon gives Myari this warning in Ears for Elves after she's wandered into the dark, dangerous forest without him.
Elon: Why must you always put yourself at risk like this? We all know how dangerous the forest is!
- The staple and prevalent background scare in Stand Still, Stay Silent. Enhanced by the fridge horror of the fact it's not just the woods outside the settlement walls — it's the entire known world. If the scene showing the landscape during the train ride isn't a dead ringer for this trope, nothing is.
- One need not be human to be endangered by entering the forest of Kellwood in Charby the Vampirate, though most humans seen in it are summarily killed and eaten by the monsters therein and the fact that it is ''much'' larger than it looks on human maps or when flying over it or walking around it would make it an easy place to become hopelessly lost.
- There are a number of human-eating monsters in the forests of The Dreamwalker Chronicles, and while some of the supernatural entities encountered are benevolent the one that attempts to help the main trio while they're in the woods ends up being killed himself.
- 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 the Operator 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 is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan-game/creepypasta that uses the Everfree Forest (see Western Animation below) as the key to the storyline. In a nutshell, Apple Bloom wanders into the Everfree until she discovers a Town with a Dark Secret hiding in its depths. In detail? Apple Bloom follows a mysterious filly to Sunny Town, a town in the depths of the Everfree where no adult pony has a Cutie Mark. Determined to find the filly who led her there, Apple Bloom eventually finds a creepy house on the outskirts of town... where she finds the charred bones of a filly in the fireplace. Fleeing back to the town, she finds the ponies have become creepy, undead monsters, who admit to killing the filly for getting her Cutie Mark and declare they will "protect" Apple Bloom from a similar fate. Apple Bloom just barely manages to flee with the aid of Ruby, the Cute Ghost Girl who inadvertently lured her here. What makes things worse is that the story is minimalistic; we have no idea what happened (beyond the gruesomely obvious) or how Sunny Town ended up the way it did... which may be part of the reason why the game is so scary.
- 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.
- In The Onion article -- 52615 Report: Leading Cause Of Death Still Venturing Beyond The Pines, disregarding this trope and venturing into the forest — whether by losing your way on a foggy night, looking for a shortcut despite repeated warnings not to, or just waking up in the middle of the night and heading straight for the forest — turns out to be the leading cause of death among Americans.
"The report, which analyzed the nations mortality data from the past decade, found that wandering past the tree line and entering the shadowy depths that lie therein results in approximately 650,000 deaths each year."
- The various forests of Remnant in RWBY are home to the creatures of Grimm, who will attack any human they can find. While it makes it handy for aspiring Hunters to go out and train, the forests are so infested that human civilization has barely expanded beyond a few small states, and going out into the woods alone and unarmed is basically a death sentence, as Yang and Ruby almost found out the hard way when they were children.
- One episode of Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel) covers mysterious killings and disappearances in American and Canadian national parks. And suffice to say, don't go into the woods unless you want to end up like these people. This trend is continued in a later episode, where sightings of Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti living deep in the forest are mentioned, complete with the deaths of several hunters, loggers, factory workers, and outdoorsmen.
- Everyone on The Call of Warr, save Vid, is afraid of the woods — the trees specifically because they heard voices coming from the trees and couldn't find their way out. The small town they reach is completely surrounded by trees, so they consider themselves trapped until rescue. When Gravesite decides they should go into the woods to find Durkin, even Prince, who was previously mocking Glintz-Terry's fear of trees, is horrified and opposed to the plan.
- 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 an 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 preferring to avoid it when possible. Turns out, the forest isn't so bad... it just happens to be an Eldritch Location for them only, because the plants and animals fend by themselves without pony aid, and the weather is not under the control of the pegasus ponies; which clashes directly with the rest of the pony-ordered, cheerfully civilized Equestria. It is of note, though, that Everfree Forest does contain a lot of genuine danger in the form of dangerous creatures such as manticores, cockatrices and Ursas, as well as assorted nasty stuff like Poison Joke — a plant which causes humorous afflictions on those who come in contact with it based on its own warped sense of humor — and tends to offer some exotic new danger every time it's visited. It's just not as unnatural as the ponies believe. Zecora, meanwhile, lives quite happily in the forest.
- 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.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil has "The Forest of Certain Death" from "Diaz Family Vacation", a Mewni landmark which is just as bad as it sounds.
- In Over the Garden Wall, Wirt and Greg encounter a number of strange threats in the forests of the Unknown, including The Beast.
- In the Halloween Episode of Kaeloo, Kaeloo warns Stumpy not to go into the forest. Stumpy ignores her, finds a cemetery which for whatever reason was inside the forest, and ends up accidentally causing a Zombie Apocalypse by raising the dead.
- The forests of Amphibia, which are all filled with giant insects, birds, reptiles, and fire breathing beavers. All which are dangerous to the frogs as most of them are big enough to eat them.
- The Roman General Quinctilius Varus was warned by several German chieftains not to lead his army into the Teutoburg Forest as the warlord Arminius was planning an ambush. Varus did it anyway, and the entire army was destroyed.
- During the Peloponnesian War, the 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.
- Place names like Höllental (Hell Valley, leading up to Himmelsreich, or Realm of Heaven), Notschrei (Scream of Distress), and Siehdichfür (Be Aware) do of course help this.
- And it is a local tradition to dress up as devils, witches, monsters, etc. in spring to party WILD and also scare winter away. Aversion for anyone who likes that kind of stuff.
- In some parts of California, hiking off-trail is ill-advised as you may stumble into a drug cartel operation (usually pot) and/or their booby traps. Or you might just stumble across somebody who already did... members of the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service take these warnings very seriously.
- 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.
- One word: Siberia. Miles and miles and miles of endless forests in all directions, on a stretch of land big enough to cover all Lower 48 States plus Europe. Also consider this: it has the world's largest population of wolves, bears, wolverines, lynxes, boars and only gods know what else. Oh, and it's also the coldest place on Earth outside of Antarctica.
- Siberia consists of taiga, which is the Northern coniferous forest with spruces, pines, and birches dominant, and tundra, which is semi-desert permafrost where only the hardiest vegetation can survive. Even the Mongols dared not to venture into the taiga, let alone the tundra.
- Interestingly, Siberia can provide the woods-wise settler everything he needs: safety, shelter, game, fish, berries, mushrooms, and arable land. In the 1970s, Soviet surveyors, using helicopters, found previously unknown villages, complete with Orthodox churches, in Siberia. The inhabitants were religious people who had run away from the Communist regime in the 1920s to Siberia and lived there without any contact with the outside world — unknown to the Stalinist era regime, or WWII- and Khrushchev-era politicians.
- 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 were arrested on suspicion of poaching, and hanged without a trial by the baron (Enguerrand IV, Lord of Coucy) who owned the woods. Thankfully, King Louis IX arrested the baron and was inches from hanging him, only freeing him after stripping him of virtually all power and levying a hefty fine.
- 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 jaegers and rangers.
- ... And played perfectly straight by the invading Russian soldiers whom said Finns were fighting during the Winter War. The Finnish Army had an overwhelming terrain advantage, and their snipers — including Simo Hayha a.k.a. 'the White Death' — mowed down those poor devils by the hundreds.
- In Scandinavia, the proverb was that "water joins, but forests part". In Norway, much communication went by water, and dense forests were avoided. A case in point is the population of upper Hallingdal (a mountainous area in central Norway). The upper parts were populated first, and as time went by, people spread downwards. The reason for this was the forest at the bottom of the valley, said to be a den of robbers. People crossed over the mountains (which were bare), to be on the safe side.
- During Russia's Time of Troubles, the invading Polish Army was searching the countryside in pursuit of Tsar Michael I of Russia when they learned that he was hiding in a particular monastery in the woods. A local named Ivan Susanin offered a Polish detachment to guide them there, but being a supporter of Michael, instead took them so deep into the woods that none (not even Susanin) came out alive. (Actually, while Susanin is a historical figure, the wood story is most probably fiction.)
- In some zones of Mexico (particularly the states of Michoacán and Veracruz, which have the quite unlucky combination of thick forests and heavy cartel activity), it is ill-advised to travel at night through forest highways, especially if you don't know the road. Although there are safer federal highways, other, more remote roads can be very dangerous. They are dark and often neglected, and you risk falling victim to muggers playing a Wounded Gazelle Gambit (when they're not blocking the road), or worse, getting mistaken by local cartels for undercover rivals. Either way, it wouldn't end well.