Summer is the prime time to head outdoors, take a hike and explore nature at its height during its growing season. However, if you’re anything like me, you would rather stay inside in a cool air-conditioned space and watch movies all day. Luckily for you, I compiled a list of the top five best summer camp slasher movies to watch all summer long (or rather at night) in your cool, bug-free environment. Spoilers ahead!
“Friday the 13th” (1980)
First on the list is Sean S. Cunningham’s iconic horror film, “Friday the 13th,” released in 1980. Set at the fictional Camp Crystal Lake, camp counselors are stalked and hunted down by an unknown killer while they are trying to reopen the camp after a child drowned and two counselors were murdered over 20 years ago.
Although the iconic Jason Voorhees does not show up in this movie (he becomes the killer in “Friday the 13th Part 2,” released a year after the original), his mother, Pamela Voorhees, makes for an excellent villain as she kills the camp counselors to avenge her dead son, who drowned because the camp counselors at the time (the two counselors who were killed in 1958) were busy having sex. There are several valid criticisms of this film, like the pacing and cheesy themes of “don’t have sex or you’ll die,” but it still makes for a great campy horror flick for all to enjoy.
“Fear Street: Part Two - 1978” (2021)
Next on the list is the second installment in the Netflix “Fear Street” movie series, “Fear Street: 1978” (2021). Following the series’ first film, “Fear Street: Part One - 1994,” this movie transports us back to 1978 when campers at Camp Nightwing must band together to solve a horrifying mystery concerning their town’s history.
Because this movie is the second of its series, I suggest watching the first film in order to fully understand what is happening in this movie. Nonetheless, this film stands on its own when it comes to the main plot, which is a bunch of campers trying to survive a terrifying serial killer in a scary mask. This film takes inspiration from other summer camp slashers, like a few on this list, which makes for an ultimate summer camp slasher film.
“The Burning” (1981)
Up next is an underrated film, “The Burning” (1981), directed by Tony Maylam. This movie follows a group of campers as they try to survive the wrath of the camp’s old caretaker who was burned severely from a prank gone wrong. Although the film is similar to “Friday the 13th” in terms of tone and themes, it still makes for a great horror film as you watch the campers get picked off one by one by the hands of the bloody garden-shears-wielding serial killer. It’s a campy thrill and makes for a great summer camp slasher to watch this summer.
“Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” (1988)
The next movie on this list is the sequel to Robert Hiltzik’s “Sleepaway Camp” (1983), “Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” (1988), directed by Michael A. Simpson. Taking place a few years after the events of the first film, Angela Baker returns as a camp counselor to a neighboring camp by Camp Arawack where she murders campers as a punishment for being “naughty.”
Although the first film (or the following films) could be equally fit for this list, I find the second film in this sequel to be a lot more enjoyable and possibly better than the first. The kills are better, its tone is more comedic/self-aware than serious, the characters are somewhat likable and Angela’s motives are less problematic. You will most likely want to watch the first film to fully grasp this movie’s premise, but even if you don’t, this sequel still stands on its own as a killer summer camp slasher film.
“Stage Fright” (2014)
Last on this list is the musical/horror film, “Stage Fright” (2014), directed by Jerome Sable. This film takes place at the musical theater camp, Center Stage, where the snobby campers are terrorized by a killer who hates musical theater.
“Stage Fright” is one of the more unique films on this list as it not only incorporates the brutal kill scenes found in a horror film, but it also showcases multiple musical numbers that make up a movie-musical. If musicals aren’t your cup of tea, I would suggest skipping this film as the musical numbers are quite over the top, but the horror aspect definitely makes this a worthy scary movie to watch if you’re willing to get around the dramatic and silly nature of this film’s musical aspect. Even so, the film’s score incorporates different musical genres like metal and rock music, which somehow blends with the musical’s show tunes. Nonetheless, “Stage Fright” is a unique summer camp slasher that will speak to your inner musical theater kid.