10 Best Desert Set Horror Films

They say it's a dry heat.

Desert Set

5. Rubber (2010)

Screen Shot At Pm

If you’re tire-d of the same old desert horror shticks, good news: the French made a film about a murderous, animated tire with psychokinetic powers. Somewhere in the Southern California desert, Robert the tire comes to life and wrecks havoc on anyone unfortunate enough to tread (haha) across his path. Robert should be so lucky to have come alive in a desert! It’s flat, dry, good for rolling, and full of all manner of critters to explode. To boot: the desert is the best theater for absurdism; it’s lonely, beautiful, and sparkling with a kind of loopy, dehydrated magic. It’s desolate and odd; a home for abandoned things and an arena to see who makes it out in one piece. (Meg Shields)

4. Duel (1971)


Freeways suck. You know it, I know it, Steven Spielberg knows it. And if they suck today, they sucked even harder in 1971. No iPhone. No Spotify. Only a fuzzy radio filled with blargh transmissions mostly consisting of local whackjobs happy to rant into the void. In Duel, by the time Dennis Weaver crosses paths with the maniac truck driver you’re actually thankful. The desert car ride is the pits and requires a psycho to shatter the boredom. He may be screaming, but you can guarantee Weaver is also a little pleased to have his doldrums interrupted.

Duel makes great use of the empty swath of desert the highway cuts through. Two drivers on the road, alone to torture each other as they see fit. Help may be at the next pitstop, or Weaver might only find more obstacles to maneuver amongst the obtuse humans that dare to make residence in America’s wasteland. The road is infinite, and the driver is alone to save their bacon. A person is roadkill until they understand that terrifying freedom. (Brad Gullickson)

3. Tremors (1990)

Growing up, Tremors was a mainstay in my SyFy-channel-loving household. I didn’t question the giant worm-centric horror comedy then, but as an adult, I realize there’s a lot to unpack here. First, there’s the Kevin Bacon of it all. He’s a flippy-haired handyman named Valentine McKee, and he runs around looking at lumps of sand on the ground like only a talented, award-winning actor can. There’s also the Jaws-parodying poster, the fact that country singer Reba McEntire is a main cast member, and a deadpan Fred Ward assessing the worms as extraterrestrial by saying, “No way these are local boys.” All of this adds up to one goofy, entertaining desert-set flick that became the springboard for a series of direct-to-video sequels, most of which leave behind the charm of rural Perfection, Nevada. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

2. Near Dark (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire Western is a gift for the genre, an endlessly cool, unapologetically bloody desert-set adventure. Adrian Pasdar’s Caleb is the new vampire on the block, but it’s Bill Paxton’s Severen who possesses the psychotic, scene-stealing charisma that propels the film forward. People who have grown up in small towns will recognize the hallmarks of rural life in Near Dark, from wide-open roads to smoky dive bars to stray tractor-trailers. Everything here screams off the beaten path, and it’s the perfect setting for a movie which imagines an underbelly much more exciting than anything that would happen in a real-life podunk town. Near Dark gets bonus points for influencing every hot, edgy vampire who’s ever come since, from Buffy to True Blood and beyond. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

1. Revenge (2017)

One of the reasons Revenge stands out within its genre is because Jen (Matilda Lutz) doesn’t just want justice, she wants to survive. And her arena isn’t doing her any favors. Revenge’s Moroccan desert is uncompromising. It’s sharp, isolated, and there’s nowhere to hide; an arid means of taking characters out of their known reality and into a silent, striking nightmare where the lines between hunter and hunted are a little blurry. But, like many a dusty desert creature before her, Jen’s determined to adapt, pull through, and use her surroundings to her advantage. Those trophy hunting assholes never stood a chance. (Meg Shields)

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My name is Chris Coffel and I usually write about Nicolas Cage. When I'm not writing about Nicolas Cage I'm usually thinking about writing about Nicolas Cage.