If you think horror movies are just crass entertainment, we’ll have you know you’re only 90% correct. The remaining 10% comes from common sense survival methods; that’s why even the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has a zombie survival kit. That’s also why, this Halloween, we prepared for our future trips by closely learning from a range of horror films.
#1 Your Cell Phone Signal Can Fail No Matter How Improbable it is
Despite the fact that 4G coverage is now so widespread we can download Angry Birds from the top of Mount Everest, horror movie characters will somehow find a spot that’s not connected.
In The Hills Have Eyes, a movie about a bunch of people who get preyed on by mutant cannibals in a desert, one of the characters actually says: “97% nationwide coverage, and we find ourselves in that 3%.”
Even if there is cellphone coverage, the phone will invariably be stomped on, lost, get wet, or gathered by vampires and set on fire. Yes, that last one actually happens in 30 Days of Night, when vampires prey on an Alaskan town. That was a terrifying movie. (Because of the thought of having to spend 30 days in Alaska without a cell phone. A bloody death would be a welcome diversion).
Real life usefulness: Always make preparations for your phone not working, or getting lost. This writer once purchased international calls and data for my phone, only to arrive in Los Angeles at three in the morning and discover he had no connection—I still smell like the hobo I slept next to.
These days, we get around this issue by timing my arrival at around 11am when possible. Shops are open, so you can get a prepaid sim as soon as you land. Also, keep a backup phone in case of damage or theft. Crowded beach parties, alcohol, and delicate smartphones don’t mix well.
#2 Listen to the Stranger’s Warning
This is also common in Asian folk tales: there’s some creepy stranger, who warns people not to go to a particular house, or walk in a certain direction, or go to a beach party when you are 35 years old and out of shape. And the horror movie characters will ignore said advice. Every. Single. Time.
Remember The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? When the bloodied woman stumbles out and warns “you’re going the wrong way”? Those teenagers really should have listened. And in Cabin in the Woods, which is a satire of every horror movie, there’s even a man named Mordecai who is specifically hired by the evil company to play this role.
Real life usefulness: People generally don’t approach strangers with cryptic warnings, unless (1) something is truly wrong, or (2) you are standing too close to the Scientology booth. When someone goes out of their way to warn you against a particular activity or place, something big has motivated them to do so—it may not be a demon from hell, but it could be a rip-off tour guide or a hotel room that’s a germ pit.
Warnings are how we got by before TripAdvisor. Pay attention to them.
#3 Never Stay in a Motel
From Vacancy to Psycho, the “motel run by murderers” is a long-standing feature of horror movies. If you take a wrong turn and your car breaks down, or if you decide to spend the night in a motel with the wife/girlfriend you are feuding with, you will either (1) survive and become a better couple, or (2) only realise you still loved her after her brutal murder.
(Yes, we’re aware that’s patriarchal. We’ll be sure to use my overaged-travel-blogger-influence over a billion dollar industry to change that).
Whatever the case, motels in horror movies are all death pits. If some passing criminal doesn’t take you hostage, then the motel owner wants to drape your skin over his dining table.
Real life usefulness: Have you ever seen motel ratings on Yelp or TripAdvisor? There are good motels, but most of these places tend to be favourite hangouts for people conducting shady deals.
The same can be applied to extreme, low budget hotels. You probably think it shows your tough side, roughing it out in a one-star hotel—but the security concerns are real. Your luggage is not secure in such a room—nor is your passport, money, or the continued lice-free status of your hair.
We’ve actually had an iPad stolen from a budget hotel in Phuket, along with $1,700 and a USD 400 Cerruti belt.
If you think the best hotels and resorts are unaffordable, you’re wrong by the way. Check out The Luxe Nomad for some of the best accommodation deals around.
#4 Your Rental Car Will Break Down and Doom You
Your car will be sabotaged by a creepy mechanic in a backwoods town, or break down in a storm right next to a haunted house. If you are being chased by a knife-wielding maniac, the car won’t start. If it’s a Thai horror movie, the car won’t start and the ghost is in the back seat. In horror movies, people scream in cars only slightly more often than when I drive in real life.
Remember 28 Days Later, when they have to change a tyre right when the zombie horde is chasing them? Or House, when the car breakdown forces the couple to live in a murderer’s house? That’s why you never trust cars in horror movies.
Real life usefulness: If you’ve lived in a city all your life, you may not understand the full implications of a car breakdown. If your rental vehicle dies in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, it’s no big deal. But if you’re driving on a deserted country road in Thailand, and your car breaks down at midnight, you are in serious trouble. Forget serial killers and ghosts. Your issue is finding a way to get to some kind of accommodation, which may not be possible when your car won’t budge.
On a back road in Maine, you might be 50 kilometres away from the nearest service station, with a blizzard incoming (in which case death is a real possibility if no one comes along). Ditto if your car dies in the Australian outback, and you have no cell phone connection, radio, or food and water.
Understand that in some situations, it’s lethal when a rental car breaks down. It’s important to make sure you pack for such emergencies and have the right equipment to call for help. Otherwise, don’t drive. Take a domestic flight.