With summer winding down, it’s hard not to reflect on what this particular year wasn’t. While fall is the season most synonymous with horror movies, it turns out that the longest, warmest, brightest months of the year are also notorious for being, well, notorious. Something in the summer air just brings out the slashers and giant monsters.
From murder-fish to cannibals to perpetually blood-soaked summer camps, here are some of the most horrible summers given to us by horror movies.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
A covered-up hit-and-run leads to threatening notes, suspicions, dead bodies, and somehow making the Gorton’s fisherman terrifying. Plus, I Know What You Did Last Summer easily boasts the prettiest cast to be methodically hunted and slasher-ed to death on this list.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Bryanston Distributing Company
“For them, an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare …”
Let’s be honest, the 1970s were not a great time for road trips. And that’s before you factor in skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding madmen just trying to do right by their creepy, people-eating families. Visceral, claustrophobic, and depraved, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre changed the horror-movie game irrevocably.
Jell-O that eats your bones may not seem like the scariest thing in the world, but Steve McQueen might argue otherwise. Released in 1958 as a drive-in teensploitation B-movie, The Blob proved to be a surprise hit then and is still a resilient cult favorite even now. An ‘80s remake upped the horror factor considerably. Everything from Dungeons & Dragons’ gelatinous cube, to James Gunn’s Slither, to Steve McQueen’s career clearly owes the original Blob a debt.
Swedish folk festivals probably aren’t anyone’s first choice of setting for a deeply unsettling horror movie, but, my goodness, would you be wrong. A surprise hit in 2019, Midsommar won critical acclaim, as well as applause from the likes of Nicolas Cage and Jordan Peele—two guys who know a thing or two about horror films.
New World Pictures
Directed by Gremlins’ Joe Dante, produced by B-movie king Roger Corman, and made specifically to capitalize on the success of Jaws the year before, Piranha is exactly what you’d expect from that pedigree. And the world is better for it. The flick gets bonus points for threatening a summer camp inside of their killer animal movie.
Universal Studios actually considered filing an injunction to keep Piranha from being released, fearing it was too similar to both Jaws and Jaws 2. However, Steven Spielberg publicly endorsed the movie so Universal dropped the lawsuit.
United Film Distribution Company
Often overshadowed by the Friday the 13th franchise, Sleepaway Camp has become a cult hit. It has a franchise history at least as long as other, better-remembered series. And while your mileage on the “shocking” (and problematic) twist ending may vary, the movie’s commitment to increasingly creative kills certainly paved the way for later slasher films.
Plus, fun fact: Bruce Springsteen’s sister played the lead in the sequels.
Your backyard picnic might have been ruined by ants, but at least they weren’t giant, atomic, and destroying the entire Southwest. While Them! might be best remembered as sci-fi schlock, its horror pedigree is strong. The movie opens with the chilling image of a catatonic little girl stumbling through the desert. It later includes an ant feasting on a human ribcage. Never mind that it was Warner Bros’ highest-grossing film for 1954 and even earned an Academy Award nomination for special effects. Not bad for a big-bug B-movie.
There’s nothing like continued shark attacks to sour the summer mood. While always a good idea for a rewatch, 1975’s Jaws shouldn’t be at all relevant right now. But, thanks to certain governors’ continued devotion to keeping the bars and beaches open, here we are. Honestly, we wouldn’t have guessed there was anyone left on the planet who hadn’t seen the film and its portrait of a cravenly misguided mayor at least once by now.
Friday the 13th
What Jaws did for sharks and open water, Friday the 13th did for summer camps and horny teenagers—and, later, hockey masks. A blatant cash-grab meant to follow in the bloodied footsteps of Halloween, the film instead single-handedly invented the slasher summer camp trope, and gave us one of the best jump-scares in the history of cinema. Even if the franchise did eventually swap out the suspense for gore and ditch Camp Crystal Lake for, uh, outer space. Talk about scary.
Featured Image: A24