With camping season at hand, here are some movies to take with you on your journey. Whether you are staying at a cabin in the woods, attending summer camp, or going out to the lake for a fishing trip, these films are perfect for you.
7.) Campfire Tales (1997)
Directors: Matt Cooper (The Honeymoon); Martin Kunert (The Hook and People Can Lick Too); David Semel (The Campfire and The Locket)
Writers: Eric Manes, Martin Kunert and Matt Cooper
Main Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer MacDonald and Hawthorne James in The Honeymoon, James Marsden, Amy Smart, Frederick (Rick) Lawrence in The Hook; Alex McKenna, Devon Odessa, Jonathan Fuller in People Can Lick Too; Jay R. Ferguson, Christine Taylor, Kim Murphy and Christopher Masterson in The Campfire, and Jacinda Barrett in The Locket
Campfire Tales is a horror anthology, where a group of young teens have car problems and find themselves stranded in the woods, with their only form of entertainment being a campfire and some scary stories. Being a ‘90s kid I found myself watching a lot of Are You Afraid of the Dark, and this anthology captures that exact same feeling geared more towards adults.
6.) Cheerleader Camp (1988)
Director: John Quinn
Writers: David Lee Fein and R.L. O'Keefe
Main Cast: Betsy Russell as Alison, Lucinda Dickey as Cory, Lorie Griffin as Bonnie and Leif Garrett as Brent
Alison decides to join a summer camp for cheerleaders with a group of her friends, but the girls begin to go missing. It’s not long before they are discovered to not only be deceased, but in fact brutally murdered. The cover of this film is really what drew me in and it wasn’t a letdown. Keep in mind that the production value is rather low, so don’t expect the industry’s best special effects or acting. That aside, this still is really enjoyable in a campy ‘80s B-movie sort of way. When it comes to slashers I’m usually pretty good at solving who the killer is right from the start, but this film caught me a bit off guard and steered away from the conventional answer which was a breath of fresh air.
5.) Madman (1982)
Director: Joe Giannone
Writer: Joe Giannone
Main Cast: Paul Ehlers as Madman Marz, Tony Fish as T.P. and Gaylen Ross as Betsy
A group of teens sit around a campfire while camp counselor T.P. (T.P…. really? – it really makes you doubt how serious they planned on taking this film) tells them of a most gruesome tale about a man called Madman Marz who had murdered his entire family only to be caught and hanged for his crimes. Legend has it that Madman Marz escaped from his noose and fled into the woods, where he stays hidden from the world and only returns for his revenge when someone says his name any louder than a whisper. What this film lacks for in originality, it makes up for in creative kill scenes. The ghastly sounds you’ll hear when the teenagers begin to be picked off will really send a chill down your spine and make you think twice about where you set up camp.
4.) Cabin Fever (2002)
Director: Eli Roth
Writer: Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein
Main Cast: Rider Strong as Paul, Cerina Vincent as Marcy, Jordan Ladd as Karen, Jame DeBello as Bert, and Joey Kern as Jeff
In this rendition of the classic teens-at-a-secluded-cabin-in-the-woods tale, our protagonists are confronted by a man who is carrying what is quite obviously a very dangerous and potentially highly contagious disease. They attempt to kill him and burn his body, which unintentionally falls into the water supply at the cabin they are staying at. The teens come to agreement that they will not drink the water, as it is likely contaminated, but due to unfortunate circumstances one of them becomes infected and it’s all downhill from there. Eli Roth takes a common horror movie trope and turns it into something much larger and incredibly suspenseful with Cabin Fever.
3.) Just Before Dawn (1981)
thriller, horror, drama
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Writer: Mark Arywitz, Jeff Lieberman, and Jonas Middleton
Main Cast: George Kennedy as Roy, Gregg Henry as Warren, Deborah Benson as Constance, Chris Lemmon as Jonathon, Jamie Rose as Megan, and Ralph Seymour as Daniel
After being warned not to go into the woods by park ranger Roy, a group of five (yet again) teenagers set up camp deep into the woods near a lake and begin getting murdered one by one by a giggling, machete-wielding, beastly-looking man. Now, if that isn’t terrifying I don’t know what is. This movie’s plot formula is very common, and it didn’t get the popularity it deserves – largely due to the fact that it was released a bit after Friday the 13thand was considered one of its rip-offs -- but there is a big, unexpected (but not improbable) plot twist within this backwoods horror that will definitely shock you.
2.) Sleepaway Camp (1983)
horror, thriller, comedy
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Writer: Robert Hiltzik
Main Cast: Felissa Rose as Angela, Jonathan Tiersten as Ricky and Desiree Gould as Dr. Martha Thomas
Sleepaway Camp opens with six-year-old Angela witnessing the death of her father and brother out on a lake. With no other immediate family, Angela is sent to live with her Aunt Martha and her cousin Rick. Eight years later, Angela is now fourteen and is sent to attend summer camp along with Rick. Due to her traumatizing childhood, Angela is a very quiet and reserved young girl which causes her to get bullied instantly the moment she arrives at camp. Not long after Angela and Rick arrive, anyone with any negative or perverted intentions begin to be killed off one by one. I must say, the final act and reveal of who the killer is has got to be one of the best and most shocking moments in horror history, and has to be seen to be believed.
1.) The Burning (1981)
horror, revenge, thriller
Director: Tony Maylam
Writers: Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam, Brad Grey, Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein
Main Cast: Lou David as Cropsy, Brian Matthews as Todd, Brian Backer as Alfred, and Leah Ayres as Michelle
When a group of boys at Camp Blackfoot decide to prank the caretaker, Cropsy, their plan goes up in flames (literally) and Cropsy becomes engulfed in flames and is left horribly burned and disfigured because of it. The film The Burning is about the revenge that Cropsy takes on the five young boys involved in the prank-gone-wrong, but what they have to go through because of it is much more than punishment. This film was released in the years that the slasher subgenre was in its prime, and The Burning does not disappoint with its well-executed death scenes (see what I did there?) and high-end practical effects. Most importantly, what makes this film different from your average summer camp slasher? The teenagers that are being victimized are surprisingly a likeable bunch (for the most part), so the emotion you are left with is what makes this film so effective and scary.