It's summer in the northern hemisphere, so you might be dreaming about going on a road trip, renting a quiet spot in the woods, or summer camp. Here are 13 great horror movies that will make you think twice about those sunny activities. Or at least make you feel better about not being able to go on vacation.
1. Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th was made to capitalize on the success of Halloween, but it inspired its own sub-genre of horror movies: the summer camp slasher. The movie starts with two counselors ditching their duties to go have sex. While they are off getting it on, a young boy drowns. The year after this, two counselors are murdered. It seems that someone or something is trying to keep the camp closed. And wouldn't you know, 20 years later it re-opens and all but one counselor is brutally murdered ... by a mysterious force! In gory detail! Don't miss this classic of the "summer camp is evil" genre.
The beach is almost synonymous with summer and can be the most relaxing place to spend a July afternoon. In one of the first-ever summer blockbusters, Jaws, the audience is given one 25-foot-long reason to avoid the beach. The story chronicles the terror of a beach community, as it is preyed upon by a monstrous great white shark, while Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss try to reel it in. Expect severed limbs, done 1970s style. This is a great movie if you plan to stay far away from the beach this summer.
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Road trips, the rustic country life, a swimming hole — the trip taken in this movie sounds like the perfect summer getaway. Unless of course you factor in the crazed family of cannibals, one of whom wears a mask made of (presumably) human skin. A group of friends on a road trip decide it's a great idea to wander into a house where furniture is made out of human bones and certain doom is around every corner. Slowly, each member is picked off as the audience wonders who will survive, and what will be left of them. This is one of the movies that inspired film scholar Carol Clover to invent the idea of the "final girl."
4. The Evil Dead
The old cabin in the woods. A place to relax and get away for a quick summer vacation. A place to breathe in the fresh country air. Not so much when you have a copy of The Book of the Dead lying around. The original 1981 horror classic sparked two sequels and a reboot, all of which make for awesome summer viewing before you head to the woods. Blood sprays everywhere, limbs are chopped off, and people return from the dead as the characters battle Deadites while trying to escape the forest. The original films are also pretty hilarious as the director's affinity for The Three Stooges comes across loud and clear. Gallon for gallon these movies offer the most blood drenched fun for your summer viewing pleasure.
5. Jeepers Creepers
Coming home from college for the summer can be great — or monstrous. This horror film finds a brother and sister on their way home from college, where a mysterious and terrifying truck tries to run them off the road. They manage to escape, only to see the man in the truck dumping what appeared to be a body down a drain. They stop to investigate, which instigates a chase through Florida back roads — and an impressive body count.
A summer tradition for college students everywhere is a backpacking trip through Europe. It might sound expensive, but you can usually save a few bucks by staying in one of those many hostels scattered across the continent. And that is exactly what the characters in Hostel do, but definitely wished they hadn't. It turns out that the people in the fake Central European country aren't that crazy about Americans — unless they can sell them to rich guys who like to torture college kids for fun. This is the movie that defined the torture porn genre, and it's a nauseating masterpiece.
7. I Know What You Did Last Summer
This movie takes place over the course of two summers and has a bonus 4th of July parade. Some high school kids get wasted out in the woods and hit a stranger on the drunken drive home. They dump the body in a lake and hightail it out of there, thinking nobody will ever know what they did. Dead wrong. Somebody does know what they did last summer, and that person spends the rest of the movie tracking these kids down and punishing them in creatively horrible ways.
8. Wrong Turn
A nice hike through nature is usually a great way to get some exercise and clear the mind. Unless of course one is being chased by a group of redneck cannibals. In this movie the characters take a, um, wrong turn, and end up being pursued and picked off one by one in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Wrong Turn is a great movie to watch right before your next adventure in nature.
9. The Hills Have Eyes
Why not rent a camper this season for a drive across the country with your family in tow? Just don't run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, because that's how you get eaten by atomic hill mutants. The Carter family is stranded and attacked by a family of starving hill people, who abscond with their baby. A quest to rescue the baby ensues, with lots of crazy mutant action — including canary guzzling! With every car or mini-van equipped with TV screen these days, this movie would be a great way to pass the time on your next family road trip.
10. Sleepaway Camp
While this may seem like another typical tale of summer camp murder, and its generic title screams mediocre slasher film, it is quite assuredly not. Two youths and their father are in a terrible boating accident at the beginning of this film, and eight years later the lone surviving child is sent to summer camp to learn how to socialize. Chaos and bloodshed ensue as we learn that the mentally scarred Angela is not who she seems. This is a great slasher with a twist.
11. Blood Beach
The terror isn't in the water — it's on the beach! In this tale, something beneath the sand is swallowing sunbathers whole. Police are in a race against time to destroy the creature before all of the beach bums are eaten. As long as you forget about things like logic, like why people keep coming to this beach, and enjoy lines like "It's an okay place to visit, but I wouldn't want to die there" (as delivered by Burt Young of Rocky fame), this movie is a great summer time horror schlock fest.
12. The Burning
It's kind of a wonder that any parent sent their children to summer camp in the '80s. In this film several campers play a prank on their camp counselor name Cropsy, which leaves him in the burn unit for five years. Once out, he wants revenge. Not necessarily on the boys who hurt him in the first place, but on summer camps in general. At Camp Stonewater (presumably the first camp Cropsy could find in his rage-filled rampage) camp counselors are busy having, or not having, sex with each other, while Cropsy stalks through the camp killing everybody. Good times!
13. Cabin Fever
Back to a nice cabin vacation, but with a slight twist. This summer movie is full of blood and some pretty shocking gore, but it's not the quite the slasher movie you'd expect. Inspired by the slasher films of the '80s, the killer in this movie is a hideous virus that infects a groups of vacationers turns them into bloody piles of skin and bone as they succumb to the deadly disease. It's no surprise that Hostel director Eli Roth also helmed this film, as both movies share the same penchant for ruining a nice summer vacation in the most gruesome way possible.
Bonus: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Cabin in the Woods
It would be an absolute shame not to mention Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Cabin in the Woods in this list. These movies, both horror-comedy, are great twists on "the kids go to a cabin" trope and a lot of fun to watch. Anyone who likes the movies on this list should totally check them out.