Whether seeing ghastly apparitions in a hallway, winning prom king and queen, or straight up being stuffed into a locker by an evil jock, high school can be a scary place. Growing up I devoured horror movies, especially during my high school years. I also remember hearing older folks say, “High school will be some of the best years of your life; don’t waste them away.”
Parents, teachers, and pubescent peers all eerily anticipating four years that can significantly alter a person’s life, for better or for worse. Gosh, what a fuckin’ nightmare! Regardless of one’s high school experience, it crosses everyone’s life path, hand in hand with puberty. High school also goes hand in hand with horror movies.
Some of the best horror movies are based around “high school” and when students come face to face with sheer terror. It’s officially summer as of today, and the school season has come to a close. So fuck studying, and watch some of these flicks oozing with school spirit.
The high school horror subgenre roots can be traced back to Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic, Carrie. Carrie White is a teenager living a sheltered life, controlled by her religiously dominating mother. An outcast at school, she is picked on and teased and eventually comes to fruition with her classmates. Sissy Spacek delivers one hell of a performance as the title character, and Piper Laurie adds creepiness as her over-the-top mother, Margret. Adapted from Stephen King’s first published novel, the film conjured up a sequel 33 years later, along with two remakes in 2002 and 2013, with none coming close to the original masterpiece. The prom scene is one of the most grueling emotional scenes in horror cinema. If you’ve never seen Carrie, put this on the top of your must-see list!
Ginger Snaps (2000)
One of the best hidden gems to come out of the year 2000 (remember when Y2K was a thing?) was the Canadian flick Ginger Snaps. Two teenage sisters are obsessed with death and living in suburbia hell, when one of them is tragically bitten by a werewolf. From there, the duo endure the aftermath, metamorphosis, and high school. Teenage boys make a yummy snack! This dark and dreary film has solid practical effects with an excellent script, cast, and direction, making it one of the best in the high school horror subgenre.
Slaughter High (1986)
I randomly caught Slaughter High on demand and had never heard of it otherwise. Eight friends are invited to a ten-year reunion at their high school, where a nerdy student was tragically disfigured from a prank the group pulled as kids. At the reunion, one by one they are killed by a stalker, who may or may not be the disfigured student seeking revenge. Although it hits all the marks of a slasher, this reeks of high school horror. In this better than average slasher, there are several interesting kills. Watching the “cool kids” as adults getting picked off makes this an all-around fun flick, and you can’t help but root for the killer.
Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)
Troma is known for its shoestring budget horror films, most notably The Toxic Avenger. In their vast catalog of films, there are very few that I would call excellent movies, if any, but I still love a bunch of them! Class of Nuke ‘Em High is one of those I would call excellent, although I’m sure many may think I’m nuts for saying that. The movie takes place at Tromaville High School, located next to a nuclear power plant. Things start to go awry at Tromaville High, as students start to act and look strange. For example, the Cretins are a group of students who were previously honor students, but they now cause chaos around campus. There is even teenage pregnancy, as a couple conceives a hungry mutant child. There are sequels that lose the charm and cheese the original have, so they’re easy to stray from, but this is one to see.
Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
The Nightmare on Elm Street series is about a killer who stalks teenagers in their dreams. All of the films’ protagonists are differing teenagers, defending against antagonist Freddy Krueger. There are several scenes in the series that stand out, especially the iconic scene in the original, where the bloody corpse of Tina is being dragged through the hallways in a clear body bag. But Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge has the most “high school” influence. In this installment, Freddy is trying to take over the body of Jesse, our teenage protagonist. Jesse has a best bud, an arch rival, a love interest, and a teacher who is on his ass (literally). He endures all the hardships of being a teenager in high school; plus he has to deal with a pre-comedic Freddy Krueger trying to take over and make Jesse kill. Underrated, the second installment is always knocked for the homosexual undertones, but ultimately this is one of the more terrifying in the series and captures the essence of the high school struggle.
The Craft (1996)
After I saw The Craft, I wanted to become a witch. Seriously. I went online (AOL 2.5!) to look up witchcraft, and luckily the internet was so scarce back then, or I would’ve fully submerged myself in my latest fad. Anyways, this is one of those movies that embodies the 90s and high school horror. Not a blood and guts kinda flick, The Craft is a teenage drama with a backdrop of horror, as the movie is about four teenage girls experimenting in witchcraft. The movie has a magnificent soundtrack that captures the essence of 90s alt-rock and a solid story guiding viewers through witchcraft and teenage angst, without a plethora of plotholes.
Also in the 90s was a little movie called Scream, directed by an icon in the genre, the late Wes Craven. This movie reinvigorated the horror genre, breathing new life back into the slasher genre after an over-abundance in the 80s. Starring Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox, among other notable actors, and written by “Dawson’s Creek” scribe Kevin Williamson, this movie had the perfect high school horror vibe. It was really a fantastic film, with another awesome 90s soundtrack, and still stands tall when revisited 20 years later. Just make sure you aren’t mistaking the original film for the horrid MTV television adaptation that presently clogs the airwaves.