Movies to scare you before travelling

With all the news about the Wuhan coronavirus, I have become a little anxious about my upcoming trip to Asia. So far, there are two confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Vietnam, with further global spread anticipated as Lunar New Year approaches and more international travel ensues. Hopefully the massive quarantines happening in central China will help control spread of the virus, but it will probably be a few months more before this thing finally settles.

Last night, Mr. Chuckles and I decided to freak ourselves out by watching the movie Contagion. Starring a few big names including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law, this movie was released a couple years after the H1N1 (Swine Flu) pandemic and was about a group of healthcare workers, government officials, and everyday people dealing with a mystery virus that starts spreading around the world after Gwyneth Paltrow’s character contracts it while travelling in Hong Kong.

Mr. Chuckles and I have a quirky hobby of watching creepy movies right before our travels. I don’t know why we do this, but over the last couple years, I have come up with a list of films that can serve to scare the bejeezus out of you before you head off on your next trip, or at least provide you with some gripping pre-travel entertainment.

Movie: Gorillas in the Mist | Destination: Rwanda

Mr. Chuckles suggested this one to me before I went off on my second trip to East Africa, where I participated in a medical mission in Tanzania and then spent a few days in Uganda for safari and gorilla trekking. Gorillas in the Mist is an old movie starring Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey, a renowned scientist who spent the last chapter of her career in Rwanda studying mountain gorillas. She was mysteriously murdered in 1985, found dead in her cabin at a camp near Virunga Mountain. Spooky. I still went ahead with my gorilla trek after seeing this movie and ended up in a harrowing experience of my own, but fortunately survived to tell the tale.

Movie: The Ghost and the Darkness | Destination: Kenya

The Ghost and the Darkness stars Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, as an old hunter and bridge engineer, respectively, who are in Kenya during construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway and end up on a hunt for two killer lions that have been attacking the railway workers. It is apparently a fictionalized account of the Tsavo Man-Eaters, a pair of real lions that were responsible for the deaths of several railway construction workers back in 1898. This movie was another recommendation from Mr. Chuckles to spook me prior to my trip to Africa, when I had initially been considering a visit to Kenya for safari (plans later changed to visit Uganda, though not because of this movie). Although intended to be creepy, the movie overall came off quite cheesy so the scare impact was considerably diminished. I never ended up seeing any lions on my trip.

Movie: Jungle | Destination: Amazon Rainforest

We watched this one before we headed off on our trip to Peru, where we had planned a one week stay in the Amazon. Released in 2017 and starring Harry Potter alumnus Daniel Radcliffe, Jungle tells the true story of Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg, who travelled to an uncharted region of the Bolivian Amazon in the 1980s and was lost for nearly 3 weeks. It’s a pretty incredible story of survival but it was definitely freaky to imagine getting trapped in the jungle, alone. Luckily we were very well cared for during our trip with Amazonia Expeditions and did not encounter any seedy characters trying to lure us into unexplored territory.

Movie: Zodiac | Destination: San Francisco

I don’t think I ever watched this one all the way through, but Mr. Chuckles has seen it several times. Set in late 1960s/early 1970s San Francisco, Zodiac tells the story of a cartoonist (depicted by Jake Gyllenhaal) who becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer. It is based around the infamous true case of the serial killer who terrorized northern California for several years and has never been identified. Apparently, you can go on Zodiac Killer tours in San Francisco, but I much preferred our excursions to more wholesome locations, such as the houses featured in Full House and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Movie: The Killing Fields | Destination: Cambodia

This movie is probably more aptly described as chilling rather than scary, and a valuable one to watch in order to learn a little about Cambodia’s dark history. The Killing Fields depicts the true story of New York Times journalist Sydney Schanberg and interpreter Dith Pran, who were trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s bloody ‘Year Zero’ cleansing campaign. This is probably the most well known and critically acclaimed dramatization of this period in Cambodian history. The actor who portrayed Dith Pran (Dr. Haing S. Ngor) also had a very fascinating background and it’s worth doing some reading about him too. Out of the films I’ve included on this list, I would say this is the most important one to watch.

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