I love vacation horror. Call me a sadist, but the idea of a happy family outing turning into a bloody shitshow makes my little black heart squeal with excitement. So when I heard about Genre Blast Film’s Worst Laid Plans a year ago, I kept a close eye on the film’s progress. The more I heard, the more I wanted to see it. Not only is Worst Laid Plans about hellish family vacations, but it’s also an anthology, and the stories come from Grindhouse Press. What more could a gal ask for? And now, it’s finally time to check this bad boy out. Will it live up to the hype or bring disappointment?
Three tales of vacation-themed horror adapted from the bestselling book by Grindhouse Press.
There are three separate tales told in Worst Laid Plans: “Deep In The Heart” directed by John Hale III (10/31 Part 2 2019 – our review), “You’ve Been Saved” directed by Christopher G. Moore (Zombie World 2 2018), and “Taylor Family Vacation ‘93” directed by Jeremy Herbert (The Thing About Beecher’s Gate 2018 – our review). All of them surround people wanting to get away from it all by taking a trip to a different locale.
Right from the beginning, Worst Laid Plans captivated my attention. The intro credit title cards are shown over these beautiful, simple yet creepy postcard images that actually tie in to the stories about to be told. I love them a just little too much.
The first story, “Deep In The Heart,” follows Michael (Christopher Trinidade: God Friended Me TV series) and his parents, Bill (Greg Harpold: Mothman 2007) and Michelle (Jennifer Trudrung: Halloween Kills 2021), as they stop for a limestone cave tour on their way through Texas. Michelle is all about it, but the tension between husband and son is putting a real crimp in her plans. It seems gun-toting Texan Bill has a bit of a problem with Michael after he quit college and came out of the closet. This setup created the perfect rigidness for the family as they climb beneath the earth into the claustrophobic underground cavern.
I recently toured a limestone cave in Kentucky, so this story struck a real cord with me. remembering the feel of the thick weight of the layered dirt above my head is freaky enough, but adding to that the newfound images of evolved, eyeless creatures that could still find me even when the lights go off had me twitching in my seat. Plus, there’s the slimy, albinoid creature and a nasty arm removal… the recipe for a fantastic little horror short!
There’s a spiritual context in “You’ve Been Saved,” but not necessarily the religious kind. Although, I guess that depends on who you ask. Chris (Brian Ashton Smith: Cobra Kai TV series) and his friend, Ethan (Malcolm Mills: A Peculiar Thud 2017), are on their way to Las Vegas when they see a frightened young girl (Emi Curia: Within the Skin 2022) and her domineering, Bible quote-wearing partner (Nick Cramer: Bent Wookie TV series) at an out of the way greasy spoon. Fingering the cross around his neck, Chris wants to help the girl, but Ethan just wants to get to the desert and party.
I thought this Worst Laid Plans story was going to go the Bad Christian vs Good Christian route, but I was so wrong. This twist goes far beyond that. And the special FX are stunning in this short. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that who—and what—Chris discovers in the camper blew me away with its detail and design. Between all this and the Hello, My Name Is Chris sticker, Miskatonic University t-shirt, and the Honk If You’ve Been Saved… bumper sticker, this story is tight, clever, and surprising.
Last but certainly not least is “Taylor Family Vacation ‘93.” This story is a lot darker and less straightforward than the first two. The Taylor family—Daniel (Morgan McLeod: The Thing About Beecher’s Gate 2018), Amy (Marissa Gatsios), and Josh (Keegan Badillo)—are vacationing in Florida back at a time when the internet was just a dream and people had to record their memories with bulky, expensive camcorders on VHS tapes the size of paperback novels. There’s a tension between Amy and Daniel that spawns from her irritation at his constant videotaping and rewatching the videos. Daniel tries to lighten the situation by joking around with Josh, but Amy just gets more and more angry at him. When Daniel sees something weird on the videotape one night, things start to spiral out of control.
The last tale in Worst Laid Plans is not only chilling, it’s heartbreaking and off putting… but in a good way. It makes me question not only my own memories but also the pictures and videos I’ve recorded in my life to keep them all straight. If we can’t depend on those seemingly hard and fast things, then what can we cling to? I really felt this story to my core. In just a few minutes, my entire thought process changed. The breakdown of this family left me feeling drawn and empty. It’s not very often that I can say that about such a short piece of cinema, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Co-produced by Samantha Kolesnik (Friendsgiving 2018) and Nathan Ludwig (PMS: Pre-teen Monster Syndrome 2015), Worst Laid Plans is an excellent addition to the world of horror anthologies. There is nothing to complain about here. I love the entire film. Do yourself a favor and check it out when you get a chance.