For most people, summer is a time for vacations, beaches, outdoor activities, and summer camp (at least before Covid). The same rings true for horror fans, only with the added spice of monsters, murder, and mayhem.
The summer slasher has since become a pastime for horror fans. There’s just something so fun about blending fun summer activities with a masked killer stalking people. So, in the spirit of summer, we thought it would be fun to count down our picks for the Top 10 Summer Slashers!
10. The Burning
This movie will unfortunately always be associated with launching the career of Harvey Weinstein (along with his brother Bob). However, the film itself is a lot of fun. We get early performances by a very young Jason Alexander, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance by Holly Hunter.
The Burning was somewhat based on the real life Cropsey urban legend and just perfectly captures the spirit of what a camp slasher should be. Plus, it has awesome makeup effects from the legendary Tom Savini, who even turned down working on Friday the 13th Part II just to do this movie. (Also, this won’t be the last we see of Savini on the list).
9. Stage Fright (2014)
Before you all leave hate comments for choosing the 2014 version over the 1987 classic, allow me to explain. Firstly, this isn’t technically a remake (nor is it remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic of the same name).
The 80’s classic is certainly enjoyable, but this version takes the musical camp setting and takes the next natural step by making the film itself a musical. In a fun and satirical way, it feels like a horror parody response to things like High School Musical and Glee, with a dash of Phantom of the Opera thrown in there.
It has some legitimately good rock songs, and even features Meat Loaf in a starring role. What more could you want?!
8. Uncle Sam
This remains among the last of the pre-Scream slashers. So rather than trying to be meta, it stylistically feels a lot like an 80’s slasher, released one decade too late. It oozes 4th of July imagery and themes, thus making it the perfect holiday horror film for the summer.
And it perfectly tows the line between trying to say something about PTSD in war, while also not taking itself too seriously as a slasher. Plus, Isaac Hayes and Robert Forster make it all the more fun.
7. Tourist Trap
While often overlooked by casual fans, this 1979 gem is every bit as good as Halloween or Friday the 13th. The opening scene with the mannequins is legitimately unsettling, topped only by the later scene where the molding process is described in detail, and we can only imagine how horrific the experience is.
Chuck Connors’ incredibly creepy performance cannot be overstated. Given his background as a baseball legend, it was probably all the more shocking for audiences in 1979 to see him being so terrifying.
6. I Know What You Did Last Summer
Although the original novel was more of a murder mystery, the film adaptation was pure slasher (much to the author’s dismay) that oozed of summer imagery. It has that sharp and witty teen dialogue that Kevin Williamson is known for.
And even thought it came out after Scream, he wrote this script first, so there aren’t any attempts here to replicate Scream’s meta approach. Many horror fans take sick pleasure in rooting for the killer, but here it feels all the more justified even the unspeakable crime the four main characters commit at the beginning.
Not just that, but the killer’s rain slicker costume is nothing short of badass. Also, who knew back in 1997 that in a movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Ryan Phillippe, a minor player like Johnny Galecki would end up being more popular and richer than all of them 15 years later due to Big Bang Theory?
5. The Final Girls
Instead of just referencing other films as most meta horror does, The Final Girls actually takes its characters and places them into a summer slasher.
It boasts a great cast, and a really creative sense of humor as it pokes fun at the genre it simultaneously celebrates. You can check out the full piece we did on this movie here.
4. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Technically, this movie is more a satire of slashers than a slasher itself, but it still counts. A lot of horror comedies struggle with the balance between both, but this one tows the line perfectly.
Because of the absurdity of the situation, and the constant misunderstanding, the incredibly gory kills serve as jokes themselves. But it’s not just about jokes and kills either. At its core, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has a lot of heart, promoting a thoughtful theme about not rushing to judgement about people.
It speaks to the inner outcast in all of us, something that is particularly relatable for horror fans.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
When we talk about summer slashers, it usually refers to movies set on the 4th of July, or set at summer camps. In this movie however, you can almost feel the intense Texas heat and humidity oozing off the screen.
Despite not actually being that violent, it has an intense brutality to it, almost feeling like a snuff film at times. Not only was a groundbreaking in the slasher subgenre, but it was the type of film that had something to say.
For years, film critics have praised it for its subtext on veganism, the meat industry, and the struggle between industrial and rural societies.
2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
So for this one, the decision was made to include only one movie from the franchise, because otherwise, half the list would be Friday the 13th films. The Final Chapter was originally meant to be the ending of the series, and they really went all out.
We get Jason in his iconic costume and weapon (something the first two films didn’t have), and we actually get interesting characters for him to go after, thus making their deaths have all the more meaning. The final fight is nothing short of legendary, with a kill for Jason himself that’s pretty epic, as delivered by a young Corey Feldman.
1. Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp is everything that a summer slasher is supposed to be. It has great kills, great one liners (who can forget “eat shit and live”), and one of the best twists in any horror film ever.
Sure it has an early 80’s camp to it, but it really tows that line between cheesy and serious horror. Jason and Leatherface may be bigger cultural icons than Angela, but her movie better captures the essence of the summer slasher!
What’s your favorite summer slasher? Let us know in the comments!
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