Best summer slashers to watch this season

Sleepaway Camp. Image Courtesy Shudder
Sleepaway Camp. Image Courtesy Shudder /

Considering it’s still June yet and the solstice just passed, that means there’s plenty of summer left. The season’s long, hot days are a prefect chance to catch up on all of those must-see movie lists. This is also the right time to check out some of the best summer slashers that may have flown under the radar, or even some classics to revisit or screen for the very first time. After all, what says summer more than a bunch of camp counselors trying to escape Jason or Cropsy?

Here’s a list of some of our favorite summer slashers, and oh, for the record, Jaws can definitely be considered a slasher film, especially considering some of the POV shots. However, you won’t find it listed here because it’s already on so many other horror movie lists.

The Burning (1981)

Directed by Tony Maylam, The Burning is one of those films that tried to cash in on the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. There was a glut of those films throughout the 1980s. However, The Burning stands out for a few reasons. For one, instead of a final girl, it has a final boy in Todd (Brian Matthews). It also has a memorable villain, Cropsy (Lou David), a former summer camp caretaker who enacts revenge after a prank goes horribly wrong and burns him. Using a pair of garden shears, Cropsy doesn’t rest until he murders those responsible for his disfigurement.

Yes, The Burning is another summer camp slasher movie, but besides having a final boy and a cool villain, this one stands out because of some of the gruesome kills. This is thanks to Tom Savini’s work.

The Burning is currently streaming for free on Tubi. It’s also available on Prime Video, Paramount+, and Fubo TV.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

If you haven’t seen Sleepaway Camp by now, then what are you waiting for? This film has garnered a cult following, especially over the last decade as queer horror has garnered more attention. This movie is set in Camp Arawak and stars Felissa Rose as Angela, a troubled teen who struggles to make friends and deals with some truly mean girls at camp.

There are so many iconic moments and kills in this movie, especially the controversial ending. I’m personally a fan of Angela’s deadly stare and some of the zingers, like when Judy (Karen Fields) says, “She’s a real carpenter’s dream: flat as a board and in need of a screw,” or when Angela tells Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), “Meet me at the waterfront after the social.” If you know, you know.

Sleepaway Camp is currently streaming on Peacock, Tubi, Crackle, and Pluto TV.

The Final Girls (2015)

The Final Girls deserves more love than it receives. In fact, nearly a decade after its release, I’m still unsure why more people don’t talk about this film. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, it’s a clever take on 80s horror and summer slashers generally. More than that, it’s about a teenager, Max (Taissa Farmiga), who grieves after her mom (Malin Akerman) dies in a freak car accident, as Max rides shotgun.

The moments between Max and her mom are especially powerful, but this film also has a creative and clever concept. Max’s mom starred in a slasher movie in the 80s called Camp Bloodbath, which is very much a Friday the 13th knock-off. During a special screening, Max and her friends get sucked into the movie. This gives Max one more chance to connect with her mom and enjoy every moment with her, knowing she wouldn’t have had the chance otherwise. There’s a lot of heartfelt scenes in this one, but also plenty of humor.

The Final Girls is available to rent on Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, and YouTube.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

I Know What You Did Last Summer is a film that definitely tried to cash in on Scream’s success in  the mid-90s. However, it’s much different than Wes Craven’s meta masterpiece. It also features a who’s who of hot talent from the late 90s, including Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, who plays final girl Julie, Ryan Phillippe as the jock Barry, and Freddie Prince Jr. as Ray.

All these years later, this feature still holds up pretty well. It’s a heck of a lot of fun and a good pairing with some of the other films on the list, or Scream, for anyone looking to have a 90s horror marathon. The small seaside town is atmospheric, and I Know What You Did Last Summer is an effective revenge tale with a hook-wielding maniac.

I Know What You Did Last Summer is currently streaming on Netflix.

Fear Street Part 2- 1978 (2021)

Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, based on the books by R.L. Stine, was a pleasant surprise. Each film is set during a different decade, and eventually, all storylines congeal to tell a broader story about the town of Shadyside. The second entry in particular is a love letter to summer slashers, specifically the ones set in camps.

The second film occurs at Camp Nightwing and stars Sadie Sink as Ziggy. Another Shadysider becomes possessed with the urge to kill, leaving Ziggy and other campers to fight for survival. Overall, the trilogy is entertaining with a lot of easter eggs for horror fans and some great needle drops, too.

You can stream the film on Netflix.

Uncle Sam (1996)

Yes, this movie is all kinds of cheesy, but it’s a good escape. It’s also soaked in July 4th imagery and has some powerhouse horror names behind it. Larry Cohen penned the script and William Lustig (Maniac) directed it. The feature follows the story of a Desert Storm veteran, Master Sergeant Sam Harper (David ‘Shark’ Fralick), who was killed in combat. However, after teens burn an American flag over his burial site, he rises from the grave to slaughter unpatriotic citizens of his hometown. Compared to the other summer slashers, this is the most patriotic of the bunch, a true, blue all-American gorefest.

Uncle Sam is currently streaming on Tubi, Shudder, and Prime Video.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

What is there to say about Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece that hasn’t been said already? Of course, it had to be included on the list. From the opening, you can almost feel the scorching Texas heat and taste the dust. You can almost smell the stink and rot within Leatherface’s house.

This is one of the most influential contemporary horror movies there is. It gave us a slasher icon and one of the best final girls to ever grace the screen, Marilyn Burns’ Sally Hardesty. Two scenes in particular are my favorite: the moment Sally gets away, laughing manically on the back of a pick-up truck, and that image of Leatherface doing a strangely mesmerizing dance on that country road, twirling his chainsaw once Sally finally escapes his grasp. You know from Sally’s crazed laughter and the look in her eyes that the final girl is not going to be okay. She’s going to carry serious trauma with her. No scene showcases a final girl’s pain better than the closing moments of this film.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is currently streaming for free on Tubi and also available on Shudder and Peacock.

Friday the 13th (1980) and the Birth of Summer Slashers

Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, of course Friday the 13th had to be included on the list. Essentially, it birthed summer slashers. I have to confess, however, that this is not my favorite in the series. I’m a fan of Part 6: Jason Lives and Part 4: The Final Chapter. Still, this is the first, and it influenced so much of what occurred within the horror genre in the 1980s. It also spawned countless imitations, hoping to replicate the fact this movie had major box office success on a relatively low budget.

This original has a lot of positives, including Tom Savini’s effects, Kevin Bacon’s gruesome death scene, and of course, Betsy Palmer’s iconic performance as Pamela Voorhees, the mom out to avenge her son. Considering Peacock will be releasing a prequel series titled Crystal Lake set in the 1950s, now is a good time to revisit this.

Friday the 13th is currently streaming on Paramount+, Fubo TV, and Showtime.

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