Carla’s drive-in classics: The Burning and other summer horror gems

Every horror fan out there knows the usual summer horror recommendations, and we love them all, right? But, this summer, let’s dig into some past films that we haven’t all seen a million times before like The Burning…

For summer horror, Jaws, Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th, and even newer films like Crawl and Summer of ’84 are good choices. But, as a horror loving chick myself, I am here to bring you some recommendations you may not even know about, or have forgotten over time.

We’ll start with the oldest film on my short list, a 1979 gem called Tourist Trap. Eileen, Woody, Becky, Jerry and Molly are friends on a road trip together. While driving through a desolate area of the desert, Woody gets a flat tire, and he takes off on foot to find a gas station.

Woody reaches a decrepit gas station, and while looking for the proprietor, he gets locked in a back room. Quite suddenly, the creepy mannequins in the room start moving, and objects begin flying towards him at great speed. As dumb as this scenario may sound, this is a creepy and hair-raising scene, and events only gets more disturbing as the film goes on.

When his friends search for the missing Woody, they find themselves literally trapped in a tourist trap, a wax museum run by sweet Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors). If you find dolls and mannequins creepy, this movie will really get under your skin, so be warned.

The Burning

Tourist Trap. Image Courtesy Shudder

Tourist Trap is currently streaming on Shudder, or can be rented on Amazon Prime Video. For added fun, I recommend watching it as part of Joe Bob Briggs’s original marathon, because his commentary and background stories will increase your viewing pleasure. The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs is also available on Shudder.

1981 brought us our next summer horror delight, a slasher called The Burning. It’s set at a summer camp (of course), and was loosely based on the New York urban legend of Cropsey. In the opening scene, a group of boys at Camp Blackfoot play a prank on Cropsey, who is the caretaker of the property. The prank goes sideways in a horrible way, and he ends up burned and disfigured.

Five years later, Cropsey turns up at Camp Stonewater, where he begins to kill the campers and counselors in a fit of homicidal rage. His weapon of choice is a pair of large garden shears, which are very effective at slicing and dicing teenagers.

The Burning

The Burning. Image Courtesy Shudder

The Burning is surprisingly good, with an engrossing storyline and solid performances by the then-unknown actors playing the teens. Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens all made their big screen debuts in The Burning, and Alexander and Stevens in particular are very likable.

While The Burning is much like any other summer camp horror film in many ways, what sets it apart from the rest are the characters. The teens are not all one dimensional, and the counselors actually act responsibly for the most part. And, hey – Tom Savini did the special makeup effects!

You can find The Burning on Shudder, and new subscribers can receive a free 30-day trial subscription by visiting the website and using the code SHUTIN at checkout.

My last pick for this summer horror list is 1982’s Madman, also available on ShudderDon’t expect an original storyline or great acting if you choose to watch this flick. What you can expect is a fun, “what the heck is going on” viewing experience.

Like The Burning, the story is loosely based on the Cropsey legend, so we get a similar premise. Madman opens with a group of counselors and campers telling stories around the campfire, and one such story is that of Madman Marz, who it is said went crazy and killed his family. Of course, he wanders through the woods, murdering anyone who speaks his name.

I’ll bet you can guess what happens next. That’s right, Madman Marz starts killing off our camp counselors, complete with beheadings and hangings.

The notable exception to the subpar acting in Madman is Gaylen Ross (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow), and she is a participant in a very awkward hot tub sex scene. Ross may have realized that the film was not going to be a hit, and she is billed under the name Alexis Dubin.

I highly recommend watching Madman on the first season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, not only for the genuinely entertaining stories Joe Bob tells, but also for his delightful rendition of the movie’s theme song.

Look, we all know there won’t be a lot of hot new releases this summer, so give these three films a shot the next time you’re in the mood for a fun summer horror flick.

Have you seen these three summer horror films? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.