Now that we’re smack in the middle of summer, who doesn’t yearn for a chill or two? Summertime has been a playground for scary movies ever since “Jaws” hit theaters in 1975. Here are 10 selections that prove summer can be the scariest season of them all.
In this creepy cult comedy from “Gremlins” director Joe Dante, Tom Hanks takes a week off from work to enjoy summer with his family, only to suspect that his new neighbors are actually secret flesh-eaters. Though mostly ignored on its original release, “The ‘Burbs” has built up a huge fan base, as it manages to mix laughs and scares in just the right amount.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) (Starz, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
Both a satire and a celebration of summertime horror flicks about unlucky kids heading off to a remote cabin for the weekend, this twisty breakdown of every horror formula in the book served as a flashy calling card for director Drew Goddard (“Bad Times at the El Royale”). Keep an eye out for a very young Chris Hemsworth, whose big exit is really something to behold.
The Final Girls (2015) (Showtime, Hulu, Sling TV, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime)
Can a horror-comedy also be a tearjerker? Yes indeed, at least in the case of this underrated time loop treat featuring a young Taissa Farmiga and her friends as they’re propelled into the world of a summer camp slasher film, starring her late mother. Both thrilling and hilarious, this movie is also a surprisingly moving testament to the power of the bond between a mother and daughter.
The original summer camp slasher film started off as a “Halloween” imitation, but immediately became a sensation all on its own. The movie stripped down the basics of pure fright with a group of counselors picked off over the course of a dark and stormy night and went on to introduce audiences to the iconic maniac Jason in its first sequel, which paved the way for an entire series that eventually led to 3D, a trip to space, a body-hopping worm monster and a showdown with Freddy Krueger.
Jaws 3-D (1983) (HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play)
Speaking of 3D, originally conceived as a spoof called “Jaws 3, People 0,” this outrageous third outing in the popular seafaring series was shot at SeaWorld in Orlando and rode the brief wave of 3D films that engulfed movie theaters for a couple of years in the ’80s. Though this definitely isn’t the scariest film in the series, it’s a wild popcorn experience best taken on with as little knowledge beforehand as to enjoy the crazed plot twists and dialogue.
The Lost Boys (1987) (Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube)
The recently departed Joel Schumacher scored one of his biggest hits with this hip vampire classic about a family whose new home in Santa Carla, California puts them in the crosshairs of a gang of eternally young, fashion-conscious vampires. An all-star cast and one of the decade’s greatest soundtracks — not to mention cinema’s most iconic sax player — add to the fun in this fast-paced, witty horror favorite that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.
Midsommar (2019) (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu)
Summer in the outskirts of Sweden turns into a nightmare in this hallucinatory instant classic from director Ari Aster. “Midsommar” also happens to be the perfect movie if you’re going through a bad breakup. Either way, you’ll get a strong buzz watching this movie. Try to find the longer director’s cut, which fleshes out the character relationships and features one entirely new sequence in the middle.
Though it was largely overlooked in the ’80s horror wave of summer camp slashers, “Sleepaway Camp” shocked and captivated legions of fans in later generations thanks to its jaw-dropping climactic plot twist and a wildly inappropriate collection of characters you’d never, ever see on a movie screen today. Once seen, never forgotten.
Summer of 84 (2018) (Shudder, iTunes, Vudu)
Far from the lighthearted retro fest you might expect, this dark and twisted Canadian thriller is set during a lazy summer — guess in which year — as a young teen comes to the conclusion that the serial killer preying on the neighborhood must be the cop living next door. Featuring a gorgeous synthwave score and a terrifying paranoid stinger of an ending, “Summer of 84” caught everyone off guard at Sundance and remains one of the eerie little gems people stumble upon at random — preferably on a hot and humid summer evening for the full chilling effect.
US (2019) (Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube)
Summer on the boardwalk has never been creepier than in Jordan Peele’s stylish homage to body-swapping horror classics with Lupita Nyong’o and her family as they’re confronted with their ticked-off, scissor-wielding doppelgangers during a very nasty summer vacation. You may find yourself digging around for themes and symbolism in this film for hours, or you can just sit back and enjoy a truly spooky ride.