The Top 35 Horror Movies That Celebrate Summer
Ahhh, sweating like a pig and grilling in the backyard. Pick up games in the cul-de-sac and sun tea brewing on the deck. Summer is officially here and we here at Signal Horizon could not be happier….for air conditioning that is. Perhaps that’s why there are so many horror movies set in the dead of summer, it’s too f**king hot to do anything but kill each other. With that in mind here’s our list of the best summertime horror movies of all time.
35. Empire Of The Ants– I don’t know what it is about these dino-sized ants freak me out so bad, but to this day I have a raging case of ant phobia. Another example of toxic waste/radiation mutating bugs this is one of the most maligned films of that genre. If you watch for the fun factor only it’s a good time. The voice over work at the beginning really makes you think about those ant hill in your yard. If they put their collective minds to it, or became huge for some reason we humans would be donzo. The effects aren’t that great and there is little to no gore but this movie has stuck with me so that says something. Set one an island with a defunct sugar mill it might make you reconsider that trip to the Caribbean.
34. The Purge Franchise– If there is a better way to celebrate your Independence Day I can’t imagine it. Has your neighbor, co-worker, frenemy, store clerk, or Amazon delivery man pissed you off? Now is your chance to get even and have it all be legal. This is a brilliant commentary of human nature and capitalism run wild. I have enjoyed all the films in the franchise and the USA series was a surprising treat this Fall.
33. The Burning– Cropsy is the real deal. A horrifically burned man turned homicidal killer leads this ’80’s slashic. This era loved summer camping movies and this is one of the more grim examples. It is gory and made scissors the star long before Jordan Peele gave his the golden treatment in Us.
32. The ‘Burbs– One of my all time favorite movies of all time, in any genre this horror comedy features hilarious scenes and creepy neighbors. If you live in the suburbs you know just how real the characters and situations are. Tom Hanks and the late, great Carrie Fisher might have new neighbors that are serial killers in this family friendly horror movie. It is funny from jump and the family of disturbing freaks next door are an excellent menagerie of killer tropes. It will make you want to order some pizza and sit on your porch all summer long while spying on your neighbor’s shenanigans.
31. Tourist Trap(1979)– This campy movie with a bizarre twist ending, that makes zero sense but is fun as hell anyway, is about a vacation that takes a wild left turn into Hell. If you are easily triggered by mannequins you best avoid this one unless you are going for immersion therapy. It’s a cult classic despite the nonsensical story line that will leave you avoiding road side attractions like the plague. The largest ball of twine may sound good right now, but you never know what evil lurks along strange highways.
30. Midsommar– Although not technically out yet, this film should be on any Summer list. Ari Aster brings another ritualistic, psychological slow-burner following his breakout hit Hereditary. A dysfunctional couple travels to Sweden for a celebration that quickly gets way out of control. A technicolor nightmare with roots in real Nordic lore this is the most anticipated film of Summer 2019. If patience is not your thing, and you must know more about what ancient celebrations the deadly holiday channels, click here.
29. Blood Beach– Its so bad it’s good. A beach monster begins eating all the sun-worshiping hotties in this creature feature from 1981. The creature remains unseen as do much of the actual kills until the very end when the artichoke-like sand worm is revealed. It is glorious and worth the price of admission. There’s a tastly little bit of karma that comes for a rapist that’s entirely satisfying too. If it’s not safe to go in the water because of sharks, I guess you will need to stay off the beach too. Better to grab a drink and a seat on the deck.
28. Children Of The Corn– Stephen King’s great novel is brought to life in one of the most successful adaptions of his vast library. Creepy kids are my kryptonite and these brutal babies are some of the best ever. I was terrified to drive through corn fields for years after seeing and. To be honest I still my heart still speeds up if I see one. “He who walks behind the rows” scares the shit out of me even after all those years.
27. The Green Inferno– If you can get past the brutal imagery, and it’s rough I get it, you will find an excellent example of torture porn. A bunch of idealistic, naive college students decide to trek into the Peruvian jungle to rebel against rain forest destruction. What could go wrong, right? Well, when you pick a cannibalistic tribe’s village to plant your symbolic flag you are sealing your own fate. Pretty much anything and everything you thought would be off limits except for some of the best Japanese shock horror or an actual snuff film, is shown in this nasty piece of work.
26. Buffy The Vampire Slayer– I had to include the movie that started it all. We are introduced to Buffy Summers who is a superficial cheerleader living in California where it’s always summer. Vampires take over her high school and she learns she knows how to beat some ass. Kristie Swanson, Luke Perry, and Donald Sutherland round out this great cast from the 90’s. Joss Whedon wrote it so its funny, tight and dialogue rich.
25. The Ruins– This eco-horror film based on a novel of the same name is genuinely scary. I personally loved it even if most critics did not. The book is fantastic. A gaggle of twenty-somethings on holiday in Mexico visit mysterious Mayan ruins when all hell breaks loose in the form of an insidious vine. Shawn Ashemore of Fox’s The Following and Iceman in the X-Men movies and Jena Malone of Sucker Punch are the best parts of this ensemble cast. It will definitely make you think twice about visiting those ruins in Tulum.
24. Eden Lake– A horrifying look at gang mentality and vacation gone wrong. A young couple goes to the lake for a weekend getaway and bad seed townies terrorize them until tragedy ensues. Harrowing and tense this movie does not let up from start to finish. Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender before his days as android David in Prometheus are both excellent as the doomed couple.
23. Turistas– This film is basically Hostel in the jungle with supremely beautiful victims. Josh Duhamel, Melissa George and Olivia Wilde all must do battle with a Brazilian organ harvesting ring. The setting is amazing and was shot on site in Brazil so it looks just as hot and oppressive as it was. The urban myth of kidney and liver stealing while being passed out is brought to life. Another summer vacation story gone wrong, but you can never have enough of those.
22. Just Before Dawn– A backwoods relentless killer chases a group of hikers. This independent gem was panned by the critics but over time has developed quite a cult following for its creepy atmosphere and gorgeous film shots. An 80’s slasher that should not be missed. Jaime Rose and George Kennedy are a few of the poor hikers who meet a horrific fate.
21. The Fog(1980)– Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis stars in another blast from the past. John Carpenter of that little film Halloween along with a whole host of other greats, many on this list, wrote the script. A small coastal town is built from stolen funds earmarked for a Leper Colony. The sailors bring the funds and the first inhabitants are killed. Naturally, that’s frowned on and during a 100-year celebration, they get their revenge. The original is great, but the remake is hideous so don’t waste your time. The ending has one of the scariest six minutes of chasing of any movie past or present.
20. Tucker and Dale vs Evil– Oh my God this movie is fall down funny. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk of sci-fi royalty Firefly star as Dale and Tucker respectfully. This is just the story of two goobers forced to fight for their lives after all manner of absurdity ensues. It’s bloody and goofy and bust a nut funny. This is a must-see for any lovers of either comedy or horror.
19. Us– Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out is this twisty-turny, bunny hopping, scissor cutting, red jumpsuit wearing invasion story. Trips to the lake or beach should be fun, but are definitely not when your family’s evil doppelgangers show up to take you out. It is eerie, gruesome fun that holds your attention just as asks some big questions about entitlement, family dynamics and survival. The standout of the film is Lupita Nyong’o who is utterly mesmerizing and chilling.
18. Perfect Getaway– A honeymoon in Hawaii turns deadly for two newlyweds. Twist endings that are truly surprising for a change this is one well acted and written movie. Milla Jovovich from The 5th Element and Resident Evil franchise, Steve Zahn from The Crossing, Kiele Sanchez from The Glades and Timothy Olyphant from The Crazies carry this taut thriller.
17. Escape From Tomorrow– Bizarre to the max Mr. Walt Disney’s family theme park is not the happiest place on earth for this unhinged father. Shot primarily on location but without the mouse’s authority, the mythos swirling around this movie make it that much better. If your heading to see Mickey this summer you must watch before you ride It’s a Small World.
16. Killing Ground– An Australian thriller from 2016 tells the story of campers whose history intertwines with another family of killers. Very creative and painstakingly shot this movie is truly a work of art. The realism is some of the best out there and the kill scenes are so visceral they are not for the squeamish. This is a terrifying grueling marathon of a movie.
15. Summer Camp Nightmare– A 1987 horror film from Bert L. Dragin based on the novel The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler is as scary simply because of the realistic subject matter. This is Lord of the Flies and The Stanford Prison Experiment mixed together and thrown into a summer camp. A hard look at mob mentality and the dangers of teenage peer pressure. Parents will think twice about sending their kids to summer camp for sure.
14. Club Dread– A 2004 comedy slasher that is as funny as it looks. The late, great Bill Paxton of Alien stars in this ensemble cast that watches like an R rated Scooby Doo episode. Guests and staff alike point fingers as people begin dying at an all-inclusive tropical resort. It’s funny and ridiculous and worth every minute of your time.
13. Piranha– A horror parody of Jaws this film chomps unsuspecting swimmers with the teeth of schools of bloodthirsty fish. To be fair piranha really can eat a large size animal in a frenzy if they are hungry so it’s not nearly as far-fetched as it seems. A B movie in every sense of the word it doesn’t take itself to seriously and is a heck of a good time. A plethora of sequels and remakes came from this little movie from the 70’s so it must have done something right.
12. The Cabin in the Woods– The best meta movie ever pokes fun at itself all the while scaring the pants off you. Wildly inventive with a cameo by Sigourney Weaver and starring Chris Hemsworth and Fran Kranz of Dollhouse nerdom this is a horror film that has teeth. Written by Joss Whedon who never fails to deliver smart dialogue and interesting stories this is a great take on the classic trope.
11. Sleepaway Camp– This 80’s exploitation film is so bad it’s good. Campy in the literal and figurative sense, no better example of that era’s fascination with ridiculous summer camp vengeance exists. A poor shy girl goes to Camp where she is bullied and the bullies start dying off. Sleepaway Camp spawned three other God-awful sequel but the original holds quite a bit of nostalgic charm. James Earl Jones(Star Wars) lends his incredible voice so you really can’t go wrong.
10. I know What You Did Last Summer– It’s literally in the name. This perfect little slice of attractive nonsense is really not half bad. A tried and true storyline has young people doing something careless and a bad guy seeks revenge. This movie is much better than the questionable sequels and features a really pretty cast of 90’s stars, Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillipe and Freddy Prinze Jr. alongside Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki. If you can believe it this film was based off a novel of the same name. The name is one of the few things the book and movie have in common. A liberal dosing of creative license turned this thoughtful novel into a slasher film. It’s got an inventive bad guy and quality jump scares.
9. Lost Boys– The quintessential vampire movie of my era features a super young Kiefer Sutherland before he was the Designated Survivor, 80’s icons Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, and a super yummy Jason Patric. This film is credited with inventing the young, sexy vampire so your welcome Twilight. Even after all these years it is creepy and has the best horror soundtrack in history.
8. Jeepers Creepers– Arguably the most unique killer ever. This movie is great but the sequels are pretty good simply on the strength of this monster. The tale of poor people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time a truly scary movie. Justin Long is adorable and Gina Phillips is sympathetic. The 1938 song Jeepers Creepers lends a super creepy vibe to an already mesmerizing bad guy.
7. The Hills Have Eyes– An exploitation film from the 70’s written and directed by powerhouse crazeball Wes Craven this film delivers on the inbred killer family theme in a big way. An unsuspecting family runs into another family of an altogether different sort. Road trips will not look nearly so good after watching this film.
6. The Devil’s Rejects– You either love Rob Zombie or hate him and this movie has his stamp all over it. Taking a page from The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre a murderous family hunts down innocent travelers. Lots of gore and flinch-worthy moments make this his hands down best film.
5. Annihilation– An amazing example of The New Weird genre this film gets under your skin and holds your attention until the bizarre thrilling ending. If there is another sound more terrifying than the bear monster wail I dare you to find one. Adapted from the Jeff Vandermeer novel of the same name by Alex Garland it is eco-alien horror done oh so right. Reality is bent and time means nothing in this luminous endless summer world.
4. The Thing(1982)- Okay I know I’m cheating here but I can’t help it. John Carpenters frozen monster masterpiece is a work of art to be savored again and again. The makeup is incredible and acting is superb. Kurt Russell and Keith David, in particular, are outstanding. There is not another more tense scene in any horror movie ever than the famous blood testing scene. Who knows maybe the frigid temperatures and snow-packed imagery will remind you why summer is not so bad. We are sure this is what summer looks like in the arctic.
3. Texas Chain Saw Massacre(1974)– Proving not everything in Texas is great this is the granddaddy of all unholy families and power tool gore. As disturbing now as it was in 1974 this is one gross movie. It is unrelenting and I still have nightmares about the dinner scene. As blood laden as the movie is it is still shot lovingly with some of the best camera work you will ever see.
2. Jaws– Thousands of vacationers flock to the east coast and enjoy all of the exploits of various boardwalks and small towns. Jaws takes this seemingly tranquil environment and puts it on its ear. There are multiple sequels and each utilizes the freedom and wantonness of summer as a backdrop. We would include them all but we would need a bigger list ;).
1. Friday the 13th– The OG poster child for anti-bullying, anti-premarital sex and anti-drug use this movie tops our list for obvious reasons. Sequels abound proving Jason Vorhees is terrifying in or out of camp. The sound effects alone can drive people to squeal and run. For my money, this one is even better than number two where Jason gets to really shine.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.