In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
Ah. The hot and dusty days of summer. When smelly people are everywhere, and we all feel ashamed for not losing a bit more weight before squeezing back into those old shorts.
I’m not a fan of summer. I think that’s what I get extra-excited about Halloween early every year (August the 1st, thank you very much). That being said, I love summer horror movies. Give me summer camps, dying shrubbery and sweaty people running from things. It’s a very satisying asthetic.
So I’ve gathered up a few of my favourites. There’s certainly a lot missing here…and there’s a lot of “stretches” involved. But my blog, my rules.
1. The Funhouse (1981)
This little Tobe Hooper number exists in god knows what time of the year. Sometimes it feels like autumn, sometimes summer. I think we can narrow it down to Indian summer at best.
The Funhouse follows a group of teenagers who go to a seedy carnival in town. When they decide to spend the night in the funhouse, they soon find themselves being stalked and killed by the carnival workers.
I always recommend this movie to people delving deeper into slashers, as it’s a rare gem in the genre: something you can watch all the way through without getting bored. But I love the visuals as well. It reminds me of staying at the state fair late into the night, bewildered by all the strangess around me.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This is, for me, the ultimate summer classic. Another one of Hooper’s films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre really needs no introduction. It’s truly a masterpiece.
The heat. The sweatiness… It imagery just reeks of summer. It also has a lot of rotting flesh, so I imagine it reeked of that too. We may all have seen it half-a-million times, but who’s to say we can watch it half-a-million more?
3. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Right. So this is not my favourite Lois Duncan adaptation by a long shot. This movie actually upset Duncan when she saw it, as the violence reminded her of her own daughter’s tragic murder. It was stripped of its story and turned into a straight-forward slasher film (no hook-handed fisherman in the original).
But we couldn’t talk about summer horror without the one where it’s literally in the title. While I’m being a bit harsh on it, this is actually entertaining pop-corn fair. Sarah Michelle Gellar is an absolute gem in this one, so really just watch for her performance.
“I don’t think we’re that powerful, Julie. You’re giving us way too much credit.”
4. Spider Baby (1967)
This Jack Hill probably isn’t the film that immediately comes to most people’s minds when it comes to summer horror. But hear me out. Spider Baby is one of the brightest, sunniest horror movies I’ve ever seen.
When a couple go to see a family mansion, they find a group of mentally-regressing children in the home. The house is always being watched by people shading their eyes. That’s probably due to the fact that it was mostly shot in August and September in sunny California.
But there’s something very brave about a bright horror movie. It doesn’t need to always hide behind shadows in order to be unnerving. Yes eventually we spiral into the darkness of both the night and the family, but I think that makes the contrast all the more powerful.
5. Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro aka Eyeball (1975)
Some movies feel more like a season due to their settings. Is it in Salem? It’s perfect to watch in autumn. Is it Norwegian? Put it on in winter! So when this Italian horror gem puts ‘Americans’ on a tour bus in sunny Spain? It’s a summer movie to me, kids.
Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball is one of my favourite gialli. It’s really bizarre (I mean really). It has a banging theme tune. And there’s that one grinning guy with the bag of oranges. Watching Eyeball for the first time was an absolute blast, and it’s been a pleasure to keep re-watching it ever since.
If this doesn’t get you in the travelling-for-summer mood, then I really don’t know what will.
6. Slumber Party Massacer II (1987)
What’s that? Another chance to plug my favourite horror movie sequel? Well, I’ll take that opportunity. Again.
This (literally) dreamy movie mostly takes place during the school year, but it still has some definite end-of-the-school-year vibes. The girls walk around in shades, sing Paisley Underground songs and hang out in unfinished houses. They also get killed by a drill/guitar-wielding maniac. Really just usual plans that we all pencil into our summer schedules.
I think because I associate this movie with the word “fun” so much, I immediately relate it to summer. Because that’s ultimately why most of these movies are here: what’s really the point of summer but to enjoy yourself?
7. The Summer of 84 (2018)
There are many coming-of-age classics: Stand by Me, Goonies, and new-comers like Stranger Things. They’re all rich with nostalgia. We’re a nostalgic type of species.
Which is why Summer of 84 is great. It reminds you why you loved the classics of the 80s. It has a plot line that’s well-worn, but well-loved: the person next door isn’t who you think they are. Think of The People Under the Stairs and The Burbs.
Only this book has an added punch to the gut with it’s jaw-dropping ending. It’s the end of both summer, and of naive innocence.
So what is your favourite horror movie to watch in the summer? I bet it’s Friday the 13th. It is, isn’t it?