Humans versus nature: Survival horror favorites

The Descent - Courtesy Shudder
The Descent - Courtesy Shudder /

I just recently watched Fall, which is currently streaming on STARZ, and I really liked it a lot. It got me thinking about other thrillers that feature characters in peril not from a knife-wielding killer, but rather from nature itself.

I came up with a short list of four films that fit that description, and I hope it may inspire some of our readers to check them out (if you haven’t already). Let’s start with the most recent movie on our list, Fall.

Fall opens with Hunter, Becky and Becky’s husband Dan mountain climbing. Dan falls to his death, and we see that one year later, Becky is still an emotional wreck, drinking heavily and pushing her father away when he tries to help. That night, she is preparing to end her life when Hunter shows up with a proposition. She wants the two of them to climb a decommissioned tv tower in the desert. She reasons that when they get to the top, Becky can release Dan’s ashes, and hopefully get on with her life.

The two women manage to successfully climb to the top of the 2,000 foot tower, but as they begin to climb back down, a large portion of the rusty ladder breaks away, leaving them stranded on a small platform.

During the course of the movie, Becky and Hunter hash out a secret, fight off buzzards and try in vain to be saved via a flare gun and a drone. I know that sounds super boring, but this is a tense, character driven story, and it works really well. Fall can currently be seen on Starz.

Every parent probably cringes when they hear the film title Frozen. But the Frozen we are covering does not feature Elsa or a goofy snowman. Instead, it stars Shawn Ashmore (The Following), Emma Bell (The Walking Dead) and Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead remake) as Joe, Dan and Parker, three friends visiting a ski resort. The lifts are about to close for the weekend due to some incoming weather, and they convince the ski lift operator to send them up one more time.

About halfway up, the ski lift stops, leaving our three friends trapped, with a blizzard on its way. As is nearly always the case in this type of film, they argue and talk things out, but they also suffer frostbite and hash out a disastrous plan of escape. In one of the most stomach churning scenes I have ever watched in a movie, one of them jumps from the ski lift chair, reasoning that the snow will cushion their fall…it doesn’t, and the wounded one is then attacked by wolves.

There were reports that several people fainted while watching Frozen at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and that was probably the scene that did it. Frozen can be streamed on Tubi.

The Descent is considered to be one of the best of this type of horror film, and I would agree with that assessment. Powered by an exceptionally strong cast of women, it opens with a group of friends white water rafting together. Afterwards, Sarah gets in the car with her husband and their little girl, and they are involved in an horrific accident in which Sarah’s husband and child are killed.

A year later, Juno and Sarah’s other friends persuade her to go spelunking in the Appalachian mountains. Unbeknownst to them, Juno has chosen an unexplored cave (just for the adventure of it), but as soon as they are all deep inside the cave, part of the passage collapses, and they are trapped.

The Descent
The Descent - Courtesy Shudder /

That’s when they found out Juno’s secret, and it’s really bad, because there is no map of this particular cave. Things get far worse when they find out the hard way that the cave is inhabited by weird humanlike creatures that are hungry.

The Descent is action-packed, very bloody and filled with likeable characters. And depending on which version of the film you watch, it features one of the bleakest endings of all time. The American theatrical release presented a somewhat more hopeful ending than the original British version. The Descent is currently streaming on Max.

47 Meters Down fits right in for those who love to watch shark films. Sisters Lisa and Kate decide it would be loads of fun to go underwater in a cage to observe sharks in their natural habitat, despite the fact that Lisa has never dived before. They lie to the boat captain, pretending to be experienced divers, and down they go.

At first they are able to communicate with the boat crew, but then things get bad – really bad. The winch boom keeping the cage relatively close to the surface of the water breaks, and the sisters end up at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by sharks. Kate is able to swim upwards enough to communicate with the boat again, but there are a lot sharks swimming around, so she retreats back to the cage with Lisa.

What follows is a suspenseful story, with Lisa ending up penned, her leg caught beneath the cage. The coast guard is en route, but can the sisters last long enough for them to arrive?

47 Meters down is available to watch on Starz.

It’s worth noting that The Descent and 47 Meters Down both had sequels, and a sequel to Fall is reportedly on its way. While Frozen did not receive the sequel treatment, Emma Bell reprised her role as Parker in Hatchet II.

Next. Explore Shudder's Sundance Film Festival: Horror Favorites collection. Explore Shudder's Sundance Film Festival: Horror Favorites Collection. dark