As summer comes to a close and the kiddies head back to school it’s time to reflect on summers past. Specifically, those nostalgic summer camp days. Summer camps are full of fun, wholesome activities, building wholesome friendships, and having a grand old, wholesome time. But then again…
Let’s take a look back at some of the greatest summer camp horror film’s and remember those who didn’t make it out of camp alive.
Stage Fright (2014)
This unique Canadian horror film combines musical theater and slasher cinema. When Center Stage Performing-Arts Summer Camp decides to put on a new kabuki version of the musical The Haunting of the Opera, a young woman finds herself in murder central. With a fun and exciting tone, and an awesome killer mask, Stage Fright is one of the most unusual summer camp slashers to pop up in recent history.
The Burning (1981)
This summer camp slasher gives you two camps for the price of one. Inspired by the urban legend of New York’s Cropsey, The Burning starts with a prank gone wrong. When some kids pull a prank on the caretaker of Camp Blackfoot, Cropsy, he accidentally knocks over a candle starting a fire in his cabin. This incident leaves Cropsy disfigured. Five years later, he is released from the hospital and sets out to destroy another camp, Camp Stonewater. Teenage sex and camping, plus a crazed man with garden sheers makes this a memorable 80’s slasher. With the film ending on a group of teens telling the story of Cropsy around a campfire, the real urban legend of Cropsey is fueled even more.
Originally conceived as another telling of the Cropsey, this summertime slasher underwent many rewrites after The Burning entered production as well. As a result, we gained the story of Madman Marz. Told around a campfire (of course), we learn that Madman Marz murdered his family with an axe, but before he could be hanged he escaped into the woods. Now the legend says anyone who speaks his name becomes his next victim. Good job campers. Madman has become one of many films to earn cult classic status in recent years. With the film’s low budget and independent production, Madman has garnered more and more attention over the years, making this a seriously memorable summer camp film.
Twisted Nightmare (1987)
Paul Hunt’s 1987 film follows a group of people who go back to the camp they attended years earlier. Unfortunately, someone starts brutally murdering the visitors. Twisted Nightmare is an interesting amalgamation of essentially all of the slasher flicks of the 1980s. Twisted Nightmare serves as possibly the most stereotypical 1980’s summer camp slasher. It may not be well-known or super memorable, but this film will definitely remind you of the glory of 1980’s horror.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
There was no way I could make a list about the best summer camp horror films without giving a nod to the film that gave us the iconic Jason Voorhees. Honorable shout out to Friday the 13th Part 3, which brought us the signature hockey mask as well. Friday the 13th Part 2 picks up with the original film’s final girl Alice coming face to face, or ice pick to temple – if you know what I mean. But then it’s time for Jason to head home to Camp Crystal Lake. Conveniently, a training camp has been set up for camp counselors near Crystal Lake, giving Jason a whole group of teens to terrorize. And thus the legend of Jason Voorhees came into the world.
Camp Slaughter (2005)
This 2005 flick brings 1980’s slashers into the 21st Century. The film pays homage to the iconic summer camp films of the 80’s by starting off the film at Camp Hiawatha in 1981 when a young couple are murdered at the camp. Fast forward to 2005, some young travelers break down during their trip and become lost in the woods. The travelers are found by campers and counselors the next morning who invite them back to Camp Hiawatha. The camp looks exactly like it is the 1980’s. That night, a killer slaughters everyone in the camp except for our 4 travelers, however in the morning everything is fine again. This is one of the coolest takes on the summer camp motif I have seen. The camp is stuck in a time loop, unable to move past the murderous night in 1981. If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it.
Addams Family Values (1993)
This film is pure 90’s kid nostalgia. Pugsley and Wednesday’s forced visit to Camp Chippewa delivers some of the film’s most iconic scenes. Forced into participating in a Thanksgiving play put on at the camp by the overzealous counselors, the Addams family teens truly shine. Wednesday’s one-liners and macabre attitude make Christina Ricci’s performance memorable. And for any kid who grew up with this film, the Addams family’s reaction to Camp Chippewa was the best.
Summer Camp (2016)
When four Americans sign up as counselors at an English Summer Camp in Spain, little do they know that a virus is about to ruin summer vacation for good. Upon arrival, the camp doesn’t fit into the stereotypical idea of a summer camp. There are no cabins or outdoor activity areas. Instead they have a rather creepy, broken down old building. After one of the counselors is bitten by a vicious dog, he becomes violent. As the counselors become infected by the rage induced virus, they must turn on each other if it means they will survive. A unique spin on the summer camp horror, this 2016 film is not one to miss.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Not many films are as shocking as Sleepaway Camp. That infamous twist ending is still terrifying and unnerving to watch. When cousins Angela and Ricky are sent to Camp Arawak by Ricky’s wacky mother for the summer, the strange and petty dramas of 1980’s teens is overshadowed by mysterious murders. Upon the final reveal of the film, we learn that the young and quiet Angela is actually a boy and has been murdering campers and counselors alike. If you’ve seen this cult classic, you know that once you’ve seen that final expression on Angela’s face, you can never un-see it.
Friday the 13th (1980)
The O.G. of summer camp slashers. When a bunch of kids head up to Camp Crystal Lake, aka Camp Blood, Mrs. Voorhees has other ideas of summer fun. This is the film that really popularized the sub-genre of summer camp horror. As you all probably know, the teenage counselors are slowly picked off as they are separated from the group. Eventually the only one left is our final girl Alice. Terrified after finding the dead bodies of her fellow counselors, Alice runs into a kind older woman who introduces herself as Mrs. Voorhees. What Alice doesn’t know is Mrs. Voorhees has been exacting her revenge on the camp as her son drowned there years earlier when campers were off doing other things…
Like the previous entry on this list, Friday the 13th was also known for having a shocking ending. When Alice finally believes she is safe, the drowned Jason emerges from the lake, dragging her out of her canoe, and shocking initial audiences.
Well those are our picks of the Top 10 Summer Camp Horror Films. Did your favorite make the list? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!