If Hollywood ran a travel agency, they’d really suck at it. Think of all the places around the world that they have trashed for sake of a good (or even tired) plot point.
With this week’s release of The Ruins, about a bunch of kids that are infested with evil weeds while visiting a Mayan temple in Mexico, we are reminded of the other places that Hollywood has warned us about in the past. You won’t see this stuff on a AAA brochure.
10. Antarctica, as depicted in The March of the Penguins (2005)
Not that the Antarctan Department of Travel and Tourism is making a big push for this any time, but films like Penguins (and, for that matter, Eight Below) remind us that it is as cold as balls on the bottom of the world, and only the majestic Emperor penguins can handle it. (Of course, if you believe Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, this might soon be a new tropical paradise.)
9. Kazakhstan, as depicted in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
It was a funny movie, and most people with a brain realize that Sacha Baron Cohen was satirizing Americans more than he was people from Kazakhstan. But do we really want to take a chance running into Urkin, the town rapist?
8. Colombia, as depicted in Romancing the Stone (1984) and Collateral Damage (2002)
We’ve all heard that South America is a hotbed of rebel fighting and war atrocities. I’m sure there’s some great places to visit, but if you’re a romance writer trying to find her kidnapped sister or a firefighter bent on revenge, you might want to avoid the place.
7. Texas, as depicted in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
In reality, we know that Ed Gein (whom Leatherface was based on) was from Wisconsin, but the motion picture persona of the chainsaw-wielding psychopath left people terrified to stray from the interstate while driving through the Lone Star State.
6. Brazil, as depicted in Turistas (2006)
Need a kidney? Or a spleen? Why not try the lucrative world of human organ trafficking? Whether or not you believe this concept to be an urban legend, would you blindly follow someone into the jungle of Brazil and not worry they might take your liver?
5. Burma, as depicted in Rambo (2008)
Shock cinema and high-octane action met this January on the movie screen. Sylvester Stallone’s restart of his successful Rambo series came on strong with a tortuous look at the war zone in Burma. The scariest thing is that these atrocities happen every day.
4. New Mexico, as depicted in The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
I’ve driven through the dusty roads, off the beaten path in New Mexico, and when the sun is setting and there’s not another car in sight, you can’t help but think mutants might just come out of the hills for a rape-and-murder rampage.
3. Mexico City, as depicted in Man on Fire (2004) and Secuestro Express (2005)
As we reach the top of the list, more and more of these dangers are real and less of them are manufactured by Hollywood. Kidnapping in Mexico City is a real and dangerous thing. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but if you’re a drunk gringo, stumbling around with your wallet hanging out, you just might make yourself a target.
2. Slovakia, as depicted in Hostel (2005)
This travel terror actually made news when Hostel made it big at the box office. I don’t know if the film impacted the Slovakian tourism market, but it definitely caused some waves between director Eli Roth and the Slovakian parliament. Incidentally, Roth has said he got the idea of people purchasing humans for fun torture from a real web site, but it wasn’t from Slovakia.
1. Sierra Leone, as depicted in Blood Diamond (2006) and Tears of the Sun (2003)
For a while, there were plenty of movies (including The Constant Gardener and Tsotsi) coming out that basically told us to stay away from Africa completely. But it is the civil war and military unrest in Sierra Leone that is really taking place that makes this country the number one choice to avoid in your world tour vacation.
Paris and New York, as depicted in Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998) – Let’s face it, if Earth is going to be hit with an asteroid or comet, these are the first cities it’s going to take out.
Mexico, as depicted in The Ruins (2008) – We haven’t seen this movie because they didn’t do advanced screenings for critics, but I’m sure it ain’t pretty what goes down.