Summer is all about hot days in the sun, road trips, swimming at the beach, and hanging out with friends. But what if a drink by the pool or a splash in the lake turned deadly? Summer horror movies answer this question with camp counselors and vacationers facing everything from masked monsters to viral infections.
Horror movies aren’t just for Halloween. There are plenty of summer-themed frights to watch after a long day at the beach. Many have gone on to become classics of the genre, spawning numerous franchises, remakes, and reboots. Others weren’t smash hits but have achieved cult status among horror fans.
10 Club Dread Is A Campy Whodunit On An Island Resort
Broken Lizard’s third feature movie, Club Dread, was a critical and commercial failure. Coming off their sleeper hit, Super Troopers, the comedy troupe completely changed direction with this horror spoof. Despite its lack of success, Club Dread provides plenty of summer fun.
Set on an island resort, employees are killed off one by one as they attempt to uncover the perpetrator’s identity. In the meantime, they must keep the resort’s guests blissfully unaware with plenty of beach parties and booze. The late Bill Paxton’s performance as the stoned musician and resort owner, Coconut Pete (don’t call him Jimmy Buffett!), carries this goofy parody of camp slashers.
9 Piranha Is The Genetically Mutated Cousin Of Jaws
Piranha is an animal-attack horror film produced in the wake of Jaws. When genetically-altered piranhas are accidentally let loose from an old military base in the mountains, it’s up to Paul – a drunken hermit – and Maggie – a missing-persons investigator – to prevent them from reaching a summer camp at the end of the river .
This cult B-movie from director Joe Dante never stops moving with plenty of action and tension. At times, the piranha effects are hilariously bad, but that only adds to the fun of this summer horror film. Piranha is perfect for fans of Jaws who are tired of re-watching the Steven Spielberg classic every July.
8 Cabin Fever Is A Summer Vacation Turned Viral
Eli Roth’s gross-out directorial debut, cabin fever, sees a group of friends ravaged by the outbreak of a highly contagious disease. After coming into contact with a sick man in the woods, the infection spreads rapidly among the party, sowing distrust and panic.
Cabin Fever put a fresh spin on a summer horror trope when it was released in 2002. For example, there’s no masked slasher killing partying teens in the forest. The unseen contagion is more terrifying than any lumbering madman. In today’s COVID-affected world, Cabin Fever is primed for a fresh viewing over the summer break.
7 The Wicker Man (1973) Celebrates Summer In The Old Ways
Brightly lit and very bizarre, 1973’s The Wicker Man stands apart in the horror genre. The trail of a missing girl leads to an insular island community practicing ancient pagan religion. Starring Christopher Lee as the community’s leader, Lord Summerisle, this well-received film was the basis of a “so-bad-it’s-good” remake in 2006.
The Wicker Man has seen a resurgence following the success of the A24 film Midsommar, which it greatly influenced. Summer is a central theme as villagers engage in pagan traditions that revolve around the season, such as the May Pole dance. as a result, The Wicker Man is a watershed moment for summer-themed and folk horror.
6 Crawl Is A Monster Thriller In A Florida Hurricane
Genre director Alexandre Aja (High Tension) cuts right to the chase in crawl. There’s not much story here: in an intense Florida hurricane, college student Haley Keller checks in on her father. She finds him in the crawlspace, along with enormous alligators that are blocking the exit.
Despite crawl lacking in plot, it has thrills in spades. Essentially, this movie is a monster movie without the big budget or King Kong-sized creature. Intense and even scarier because of its real-world plausibility, crawl is a wonderful summer popcorn flick.
5 Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil Is A Horror Comedy Of Errors
Two good ol’ boys have finally fulfilled their dream of owning a vacation cabin. Nine college students on a camping trip just want to party in the woods. An awkward encounter between the two sets up Tucker & Dale vs. evil. This dark comedy is a clever take on summer horror clichés, including a high body count and lots of laughs.
Misconceived as evil hillbillies, Tucker and Dale’s bumbling attempts to help the college kids are as heartwarming as they are funny. The film’s violent deaths are offset by how comically they’re presented. As a result, this sidesplitting horror comedy is great for a summer movie night with friends.
4 Evil Dead (2013) Returns To A Cabin In The Woods
Rather than an idyllic summer cabin trip, Evil Dead (2013) tells a darker story than previous entries in this long-running franchise. Mia Allen (portrayed by Jane Levy) struggles with drug addiction. Her close friends and brother have arranged a getaway at the old family cabin to make sure she kicks the habit for good. After awakening an evil force in the woods, the group are possessed and start to brutally murder each other.
Bursting with shocking visuals and gore, Evil Dead excels with mostly practical effects. Though not for the squeamish, this bloody reboot’s rural cabin theme lends it total summer vibes.
3 X Is A Steamy And Stylish Modern Slasher
Like so many summer horror movies, X begins with a van full of attractive people on a road trip. This particular group travels to a remote location to make an adult film, and this is where things inevitably go wrong. X is director Ti West’s love letter to 1970s cinema and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in particular.
X is hot and sticky and full of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Filmed in a retro style straight out of the ’70s, this slasher balances genre convention with modern ideas. Everything about X screams “summer,” and it will surely be remembered as a modern classic of horror.
2 Friday The 13th Is The Original Summer Camp Fear Fest
Friday the 13th (1980) is the quintessential summer camp horror film. The story of Jason Voorhees is introduced in this film, which spawned a long-running franchise based on the iconic hockey-masked killer. While Jason wasn’t present as the villain until Friday the 13th Part 2the first movie enjoyed the most critical and commercial success of them all.
This landmark of the horror genre is essential for summer viewing. Friday the 13th laid the foundation for slashers for decades to come and popularized the trope of horny teens getting killed.
1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Is The Pinnacle Of Summer Horror
A road trip in the heart of Texas turns into a nightmare for friends who run afoul of a cannibalistic family in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Director Tobe Hooper’s groundbreaking 1974 film is one of the most controversial in cinema history, and it remains a heavy influence on the horror genre today.
Sweaty, grimy, and totally ’70s, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the ultimate summer horror movie. The deep-south heat is almost a physical presence in every scene. With a style that is nigh-unmatched in horror, this one goes down as an all-time classic.
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