The Outback

World-famous travel spots in the bush — the arid central and northern areas of Australia that lack urban centers — include Uluru and Alice Springs. But before organizing a walkabout here, you may want to watch Australian cowboys blast one another’s heads off and suffer from cannibalistic massacres.

In The Proposition, photography by Benoit Delhomme makes the Outback look quite literally like the underworld: putrid, hot, dangerous, and soaked in blood. Outlaws and sheriffs alike murder each other on a quest to “civilize” a saloon town; the Aboriginal population is both the enemy and the servant of a repulsive post-colonial British presence. While the film is a period piece, set in the 19th century, and a total fiction, it may be wise to reconsider your trip to Australia this summer. Unless, of course, you’re John Locke from Lost.

Brazil

How about backpacking up the Brazilian coast? Personally, I think that’s a great idea, but I recommend you young, Clarks-wearing Bard students watch 2006’s Turistas first. In John Stockwell’s horror flick, Alex (played by Josh Duhamel), Bea (Olivia Wilde), and Amy (Beau Garrett) have a similar idea. Even better, they meet some locals and some peers who tell them about an ‘untainted’ (read: pretty, but remote) beach just kilometers from the local bar.

After a few beers and some blurry-eyed tangoing, the three turistas wake up sans passports, money, and clothes. Their bad fortune leads them away from their intended backpacker itinerary and into a fight for their lives with the local villagers (spoiler alert: some lose). I’m not suggesting you and your buddies would be so careless as to drink open-capped drinks, dance suggestively, or walk alone on a foreign beach in the dead of night. But if you think one of you might be, it might behoove you to rethink Brazil.

Paris

Whatever attractive reputation the City of Lights once had takes a beating in the meme-inspiring Liam Neeson thriller Taken (2008). The title says it all: Neeson’s character’s young daughter (Maggie Grace) takes a plane to France with her buddy, and they are both kidnapped within hours of stepping onto le tarmac. Worse, their captors are Albanian sex-slavers who are so dangerous and prolific that they revenge-kidnap Neeson in Taken 2, even after he beats and murders his way to his daughter.

Thailand

Just because France and Oz are out doesn’t mean you should plan a trip somewhere in the middle, especially not if you were thinking Thailand. The Belon family, the real-life subjects of the Oscar-nominated 2012 disaster movie The Impossible, probably thought it was a good decision, until their hotel was eviscerated by the 2004 tsunami.

Separated and smashed up, the mother and father — Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor — go from happy-go-lucky to nearly dead while trying to protect their three sickly young children. With miraculous luck, all five survive. Not so lucky are the half-thousand other people at the resort who director Juan Antonio Bayona strategically places in the film: spiked on palm trees, drowned by mud, et cetera.

Hollywood

You definitely want to see the Walk of Stars, where the world’s finest entertainers have been immortalized in stone plaques. Or maybe a visit to the TLC (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre, where the young celebs of the Harry Potter film franchise placed their hands and feet into moist cement. If this interests you, I have to assume you’ve not seen the 2013 Sundance festival feature Lovelace, about none other than eponymous pornography star Linda.

Linda Lovelace, nee Boorman, decided in the early 1970s to travel to Hollywood to live with her manipulative husband, Chuck Traynor. In film time, it takes Linda’s trip all of 11 minutes to devolve from fantasy vacation to porno shoot. Like you might be planning, she happened to be invited to the Chinese Theatre — to watch herself perform sex acts on actor Harry Reems in their movie Deep Throat. But go ahead and ignore Lovelace, and enjoy your vacation to lovely Hollywood. What glamour! What fun!

Siberia

Surely in a place as remote as Siberia you’re less likely to run into gun-toting cowboys or sex-obsessed maniacs. First, think again. Second, take a quick look at Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian (2008). A British-Spanish-Lithuanian-German co-production, Anderson’s movie paints a nasty picture of the trip from Beijing to Moscow across Siberia, where an American couple is finishing a Christian missionary tour. Without so much as saying bad words, the protagonists are forced to fend for their lives against narcotics officers, mysterious globe-trotting Spaniards, deceitful Lithuanian station attendants, and the elements.

Your country house

So you’ve heard enough, I suspect, and just want to go somewhere simple, like your vacation home by the lake. Not so fast — Michael Haneke thinks there might be two white-gloved, psychopathic neighbors waiting there to smash your heads open. Haneke wrote and directed one film — Funny Games (1997) — and its shot-for-shot replica — Funny Games (U.S) (2007) — to warn against just such a choice.

When George and Ann take their kids up to the family cabin for a little R&R, they become hostages in their own second house to model-esque teenagers (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet). Watching Funny Games, one gets the impression — as you should — that just staying home and facing the doldrums of cubicle work could have saved the family all this grief and pain. But their restless legs got the best of them, and they traveled. Don’t make the same mistake.

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