8 “Hicksploitation” Movies That’ll Have You On the Run

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Aaah, the great American outdoors. It can sure be beautiful, but beware: the further afield you get, the harder it is to find help. Help with what, you may ask? Just ask the boys from Deliverance!

If you’ve never heard the term “Hicksploitation” (or “Hixploitation”), the criteria for this peculiar bunch of movies is simple: they’re usually pretty creepy, with some shit going down in the woods or the middle of nowhere at the hands of some seriously (stereotyped) parochial individuals. Here is our list of shameless examples:

1. Deliverance
The tune of Dueling Banjos still gives most people the creeps, bringing to mind the severely inbred and dangerous hillbillies in John Boorman’s shocking adventure thriller. Billy Redden, an “authentic local” cast to play the eerie banjo player in the movie, later worked along the river where the movie was shot, giving “Deliverance tours.” Still more eerily, more than 30 people have died there since the movie was made.

2. Fargo
Fargo has, to date, elicited more re-quotes, mis-quotes and just plain quotes than any other Coen Brothers film, and for good reason: “Oh, I just think I’m gonna barf…!” “I’m cooperatin’ here!!” “He was kinda funny-lookin’ …He wasn’t circumcised!” “You’re darn tootin’!” Plus, North Dakota, immortalized on celluloid!

3. Raising Arizona
As the dumb-sexy hick H.I. McDunnough (pronounced “hi” or “hah”), Nicolas Cage proved his comic chops and then some in this movie, paired with a down home, country-talkin’ Holly Hunter and Coen Brothers favorite John Goodman as an ex-con.

4. The Descent
Taking the idea of inbreeding to a whole new level, the pesky baddies in this movie are what you would get if you put a bunch of hicks in a pitch black underground chasm with just enough water and insects to survive for, oh, 20 some-odd years, and then threw a bunch of unsuspecting rock climbers into the mix. A particularly frightening and unsettling entry.

5. The River Wild
This could be considered a slightly tamer family version of Deliverance, but not that much tamer. Kevin Bacon and especially, for the purposes of this list, John C. Reilly, suffice as white-trash villains, and while Reilly is basically a tame dumbass with a gun, Bacon manages to be quite terrifying in this movie, matching the steel will of Meryl Streep in one of her best departures from Oscar-fodder territory.

6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Perhaps the first creepy hick family, the original Chainsaw Massacre can be looked at as the story of a rather insular clan that just wants to sit down to a nice meal. And if you happen to be in the vicinity, you simply must stay for the main course, even if they have to handcuff you to the chair—or hang you on a meat hook!

7. Winter’s Bone
Before The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence turned serious heads in this restrained and effective portrait of a young woman trying to get to the bottom of her father’s shady dealings while keeping her family intact. Along with Lawrence, John Hawkes was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as Teardrop, a foreboding backwoods meth addict who wasn’t entirely unlike his equally creepy backwoods cult leader Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Seems like Hawkes might have a hick typecasting situation on his hands.

8. Wrong Turn
This delightfully formulaic horror movie from the early ’00s starred a young and hardy Eliza Dushku along with Jeremy Sisto as they get caught up with the wrong kind of folk in very rural West Virginia. Although there was not much original or surprising about this one, it worked very well, and brought to mind that old backwoods saying: “Gosh darn it, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!”