15 Horror Films to Get You in the Summer Spirit


Summertime is the season for slashers, sea creatures and campouts, so what better way to kick off this time of year than with a selection of horror films to really get you in the seasonal spirit? I love the ambiance that comes with each season and holiday, filling you with sensations that associate with that specific time of year- I’m a sucker for it all, and I guarantee that most of you are, too.

One of my absolute favorite things to do is throw on a horror flick while working on a painting, having it fit with the current season or holiday… it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Narrowing it down to fifteen (technically sixteen, shhh), I’ve selected films that I enjoy watching the most during this time of year, in absolutely no particular order. Whether considered horror treasures or box office busts, these are the films that I feel best represent the tonality that tags along with the summer solstice, and the ones I have the most fun delving into to get that feeling of good ol’ fashioned summer fun!

Tourist Trap

One of my all-time favorite summer horror movies, Tourist Trap is how to start the season off right. This cult flick caters to the summer getaway gone horribly wrong, featuring disturbingly lifelike mannequins and campy scare sequences. Nothing says vacation quit like split-personality disorder and a bizarre ending that you’ll love regardless of how little it makes sense. This movie is all about the ride, and what a ride it is!

The Burning

Curl up around the campfire to this 80s slasher, hosting the badly burned killer named Cropsy, murdering campers with a pair of deadly shears. Any horror film with a summer camp premise holds the recipe for a great seasonal watching, and The Burning is definitely a gritty gem for anyone’s list. I had the pleasure of seeing this outdoors on the big screen at The Mahoning Drive-In’s “Camp Blood II” fest last summer- what a great viewing that was!

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and (2003)

Nothing says “summer” quite like getting chased by a chainsaw-wielding lunatic who wants to slice your face off and wear it as his own. This classic is the perfect flick to gear up for the upcoming heat waves, with its sweaty rural locations and family of cannibals who are dying to have you over for dinner. The 2003 version also fits well into this category, making Leatherface scary as ever while encompassed beautiful cinematography. And with the same DP as the original film, how could you go wrong?

Sleepaway Camp

Pack your bags, and saddle up for the bloody and insanely bizarre cult hit that is Sleepaway Camp. This movie is one of everyone’s favorite summer slashers, while even showcasing some peen during its creepy and plot-twisted finale. This is a flick that will satisfy anyone’s summer camp cravings until the season begins to sizzle out.

The Cabin in the Woods

Escaping the heat through the insides of a rented cabin is a common theme amongst summer-based horror films, but The Cabin in the Woods shakes things up with its creative plot and fun tonality. I thoroughly enjoy this movie, from its vast selection of mythical monsters to Sigourney Weaver’s cameo and even its weird wolf head make-out scene. It’s definitely a seasonal must-see.

Jeepers Creepers

Another great film to add to your heatstroke haven is Jeepers Creepers. Although this movie technically doesn’t take place during summer, the film’s hot Floridian location makes it feel as such, giving you the sensation of being engulfed deep within the season, instead of the actuality of spring. This is the perfect movie for early June (which is technically still spring anyway).

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Although not an award winner by any means, I Know What You Did Last Summer fits perfectly into this category. This nautical 90s slasher is coated from head to toe in summer vibes, making this a great (and cheesy) watch for the month of July. It’s mostly the nostalgia talking, but let’s face it… there are hardly any Fourth of July-themed horror films, and this one (along with JAWS and Return of the Living Dead) are great to throw on while hosting a creepy cookout during the patriotic holiday.

Piranha (1978)

Cool off with Joe Dante’s satire-filled bloodbath starring a plethora of man-eating fish out to ruin your good time. This film is another great example to always spend your summer vacation next to bodies of water, and not in them.

The Devil’s Rejects

Another one of my favorites, The Devil’s Rejects presents Rob Zombie’s psychopathic trio, who are now on the lamb, creating a mass amount of deathly destruction in their wake. This film gives off great summer tonalities through its hot Texas landscapes and sun-bleached desert roads that stretch on for miles. Road trip, anyone?

Friday the 13th (2009)

Not the greatest of the remakes, but Friday the 13th holds up well and is good for what it is: a different take on the iconic original with a lot of killer death scenes. This remake screams summer and is just a fun watch overall. With scenes containing arrows through the face and machetes puncturing heads between wooden dock boards, how can you not be amused? And, oh hey, same DP as both Texas Chain Saws previously mentioned- gotta love it!

Creepshow 2: The Raft

I’m throwing this out there as my wildcard, with The Raft being a pretty perfect example of summer fun for horror fans. Watching a floating, gelatinous blob devour a bunch of college students while on vacation is A-okay in my book (and probably everyone else’s). And if you’re feeling frisky, you could also say that Old Chief Wood’nHead contains some elements of summer fun as well, so two out of seven isn’t bad!


One of my favorites of 2015, Preservation offers camping, hiking… and human hunting. It’s never a good idea to go off trail, especially when you have a pack of demented teenagers hunting you down for sheer sport. This flick fits nicely alongside seasonal classics to get you in the summer spirit.


Not horror, but there’s an unwritten rule out there somewhere stating that this movie must be watched throughout the course of summer. It’s one of my favorites, and the late and great Bill Paxton turns this natural disaster movie into a prolific classic that provides the perfect summertime ambiance for any film fan.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Originals always pave the way to variations and spinoffs, and with good reason. Friday the 13th holds a strong place in the slasher hall of fame, providing the perfect spooky undertones for this time of year. This classic was made for summer and produces intense feelings of suspense through thunderstorms and desolate camp cabins.


Saving the best for last, JAWS, to me, is the epitome of the ultimate summer horror flick and even sits amongst my favorite movies of all time. This unique feature stands strong and proud, while remaining terrifying, even after seeing it a couple thousand times. This is another great film that is a must-see around the Fourth of July (and just all summer long) and is the main reason why I still won’t go past my ankles into the ocean (or any body of water for that matter). If you haven’t made watching JAWS a summer tradition by now, then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing with your life.

Thus concludes my list of horror flicks to get you geared up for the sensations of summer and the fun activities that come along with it. Everyone enjoys different things, and if there’s a movie on this list that is not right for you, replace it with a film that best represents your horror summer experience – and tell us about it below!




Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter