It’s a Cruel Summer: 10 Horror Films to Watch Before the Season’s Out

It’s a long time coming, but The Void has returned, better, bigger and ready to knock some spooky socks off. The summer solstice occurred around ten days ago, thus begins the creaking of cabin floorboards and the slaughtering of camp counselors. While people associate horror films with the upcoming spooky season, there is no need to wait. There are so many films made for this sweltering season, and it’s time to talk about some of them.

Friday The 13th: How Many People Jason Voorhees Killed In Every Movie -  GameSpot
A sweet family portrait… Friday the 13th is definitely an honorable mention.

I mean think about it: how many films contain a brutal slaughter of a camp counselor? How many takes place in some random cabin in the woods? Therefore, follow along and jot down some picks for these post-fun-in-the-sun, cool summer nights. If I happen to miss any that you would like to share with the troop, comment down below and I’ll be sure to endorse them.

The Cabin In The Woods

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love my horror comedies. The Cabin in the Woods falls under one of my praised gems. Aging gracefully, The Cabin in the Woods is one of those meta-horror comedies that could easily fall into the spoof genre. However, it keeps the stakes high enough to be considered a traditional horror film. Therefore, we have a film packed with scares, laughs and creativity.

Review: The Cabin in the Woods - Slant Magazine

With a killer cast and horror veteran director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon, it is a witty bash that pokes fun at itself as well as the horror genre as a whole. I mean, seriously, how many bad occurrences in random cabins have to happen before we start drawing connections?

The main reason you should watch this one: The elevator scene–never will you ever see so much ludicrous carnage in one place again.

Where to watch: Rent/Buy on Amazon Video, Apple TV, or Vudu.

Tucker and Dale VS. Evil

Another classic that has been in my rotation for over a decade now, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a prime example of completely subverting a trope and turning it into genius. Two loveable yet painfully odd guys end up in a very odd situation that makes victim look like foe, all due to a boatload of ignorance and a whole lot of college aged ego. It’s a hoot, and definitely will cheer you up if you’ve had a doozy of a day.

Movie Review - 'Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil' - Deliver(ance) Us, Y'all : NPR

While more funny than scary, Tucker and Dale vs Evil really stands its ground as one of the best horror films of the decade and definitely one of the best horror comedies of all time. It floats around on streaming platforms, so it should be an easy viewing, and while it is moderately gory, it is a good starter horror for those that want to indoctrinate their young ones. Do that too early, however, they may become a horror blogger (thanks Mom).

The main reason you should watch this one: The woodchipper scene. That or the ultimate bromance that is Tucker and Dale’s relationship–they are truly friendship goals.

Where to watch: Free with Ads on PlutoTV, Tubi, and Vudu. Rent/Buy on Amazon Video, Apple TV and Vudu.

Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn

How could I praise any other horror comedy without featuring the best of the best? I have mentioned this film many, many times, and this is not the movie if you’re looking for a genuine scare. If you’re looking for that, watch The Evil Dead (the first one). However, they are basically the same movie and I honestly love watching Bruce Campbell overacting to a perfect extent.

Evil Dead II (1987) - IMDb

This is a horror fan essential, and I encourage following it up with its sequel, Army of Darkness. This is the year to celebrate Sam Rami anyways–he’s the one responsible for Marvel’s first horror-ish film, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. I hope readers of this enjoyed that post credit scene as much as I did.

The main reason you should watch this one: Groovy.

Where to watch: Rent/Buy on Amazon Video, Apple TV and Vudu.

Fear Street Part II: 1978

Apparently, I have a knack for including second installments, but I have my reasons. While I enjoyed and thought Fear Street Part I was one fun ride, the second one stands out to me. Not only was it scarier, but it felt like a love letter to those summer camp slashers that came before. This was definitely one of Netflix’s good risks that they’ve taken in the last few years, and boy was it a bloody good time.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 Review | Movie - Empire

Fear Street comes from R.L. Stine, the same guy responsible for the childhood staple Goosebumps. This is not suited for kids however, as these are some of the goriest horror films I’ve seen recently. It’s also worth noting that the actors in this film really do a great job, especially Sadie Sink. It’s a horror movie with quite a bit of heart, both in the plot and in its homage to what inspired it.

The main reason you should watch this one: It’s definitely one of the more intense entries on this list, so if you’re looking for genuine guts, gore and ghouls, this is the pick for you.

Where to watch: Only on Netflix.

It: Chapter One

Finally, I’m in the right order it seems. IT: Chapter One soared to box office breaking numbers back in the day, so it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve seen this one before. A truly terrifying treat from Stephen King, the Muschietti duo really put a refreshing spin on the source materials and created something heartfelt and brutal all twisted together. This movie takes place during the summer of 1989, so I just associate it as a summer horror film.

It (2017) - IMDb

This movie has no brakes, as it contains one of the most notorious openings to a horror movie/novel ever with the Georgie scene. Definitely have some childhood trauma rooted to that scene (thanks to Tim Curry), but it shows the powerhouse that Bill Skarsgard is in the titular Pennywise role. All the child actors are absolutely incredible as well, and the dynamics between the characters really adds some light to this otherwise dark tale.I’m also a Chapter Two defender, I really enjoyed it and it is worth the watch primarily for Bill Hader. That man will make you laugh and make you sob.

The main reason you should watch this one: If you’re looking for scares, the sewer and basement scenes are quite up there. If you’re looking for laughs, I have one word for you: Gazebos.

Where to watch: Streaming on HBO Max.

Stage Fright

Now this suggestion is purely on laughs. This movie is something else, and if you’re not a musical fan, I suggest maybe skipping this one because you will hate it. However, if you’re in the niche like me where you’re an avid horror AND musical fan, this film will get a few laughs out of you. Stage Fright is something else, and while it’s not the greatest film, it definitely has some peak moments that are worth the watch.

Stage Fright: Film Review – The Hollywood Reporter

This is a cheese fest, so if you’re looking for a B movie that breaks out into song and dance, this might be the movie for you. Just don’t take it too seriously and be on the lookout for easter eggs in reference to your favorite horror films and musicals. I’ve been able to look back on this film with kinder eyes, and it still has its hilarious moments that outweigh the otherwise mediocre moments.

The main reason you should watch this one: Purely for the song “Where We Belong.” Especially if you were a queer kid into performing arts, because the cringe attack is oh-so-sweet and ridiculous.

Where to watch: Rent/Buy on Amazon Video.

You Might Be The Killer

This one is a fun indie film starring some familiar faces: Fran Kranz, who is the epic stoner from The Cabin in the Woods and Alyson Hannigan, known as Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Kranz is a camp counselor who experiences chronic blackouts and has found himself surrounded by dead bodies. He calls Hannigan, who is a horror movie fanatic, to possibly find out who did this and why he was spared.

summer

A hilarious and odd whodunit kind of movie, this film leaves you twisting and turning with plenty of laughs. It also has a unique way of storytelling, with majority of the conversation taking place over the phone and shot in close ups rather than narrative shots, which gives the film the unreliable narrator feel that they are going for, as Kranz is suspect number one.

The main reason you should watch this one: Kranz and Hannigan’s performances are brilliant and are sure to keep you entertained, even if the film can be rather predictable at times.

Where to watch: Streaming on NBC.

Cabin Fever

Eli Roth’s directorial debut is as gritty today as it was back in 2002. He recently remade this one, which upped the gore but downgraded everything else, so I suggest sticking with the original. A group of friends decided to take a vacation up in the woods and succumb to a flesh-eating virus that attract the attention of some unwanted visitors. It’s an interesting story full of body horror and ultimately is an early 2000s classic.

summer

This film features decently strong acting that makes such a seemingly ridiculous concept so real. It is a gruesome, bloody film that has scarring scenes, so if you’re not a gore fan, this one might be a skip for you. However, it is a defining film for 21st century horror, so you might have to bear with it just to say you’ve seen it.

The main reason you should watch this one: Other than it being a modern classic, the shaving scene will definitely scar you or meet the gore quota that you’re looking for.

Where to watch: Rent/Buy on Amazon Video. Free with Ads on Tubi.

Summer of ’84

If you’re looking for a movie with twists and turns galore, this is the one for you. Summer of ’84 was one of those films that creeped in on people’s radars with the release of the top horror streaming service Shudder. It operates in the same way as IT, in which it’s a blend of nostalgia, coming of age and horror. Instead of a story we’ve heard before however, this one is sure to lull you into a false sense of security before ripping the rug right out from under you.

Summer of 84 (2018) - IMDb

This film’s strengths lie in the younger actors, who play a group of teenage boys who take their suspicions into their own hands when one of the boys suspects a police officer as a serial killer. They conduct an investigation of their own which gets them into quite the situation.

The main reason you should watch this one: It runs in the same vein as IT and Stranger Things, as far as group of friends hunt evil. However, this adds a bit more edge and gets quite dark in the last quarter of the film.

Where to watch: Rent/Buy on Vudu. Stream with a Shudder subscription on Amazon Video,

Midsommar

Not only does it have it in the name, but this is probably the ultimate summer movie just in regard to the season. The bright colors, the clear blue sky and warmth amid the atrocities that occur during Ari Aster’s second feature film give off those summer vibes, ya know?

summer

In all seriousness, Midsommar is one of those modern horror masterpieces that could be hit or miss for some people. It embraces its arthouse narrative style while displaying some of the most grotesque images to grace the silver screen. Despite its disturbing nature, this movie is the ultimate breakup movie and has its comedic moments. It’s okay to laugh at the absurdity. This film also is a reflection on what grief without support can do to someone, as Dani traverses an extreme loss with her boyfriend and his friends on a summer trip in Sweden.

The main reason you should watch this one: It’s always good to know whether or not you’re vulnerable to cult induction.

Where to watch: Streaming with subscription on Showtime. Rent/Buy on Amazon Video, Vudu and Apple TV.


Well, that’s the list! I know I missed a few obvious ones, but everyone and their grandma knows that Friday the 13th is the movie of the summer screams. I personally would love to hear your favorite summer horror films–it doesn’t necessarily need to be framed around the season. What spooky movies do you go reaching for as we reach these hotter months? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to add them to my personal list.

Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horrific tomorrow. See ya next time.

The Art of the Creative Kill

A shared experience for every horror fan is sitting in the theater for a new horror film that they already know how it’s going to end. Whether it be too much advertisement or the writer’s pitfalls, it can be a semi-disappointing viewing experience. The viewer doesn’t necessarily want a M. Night Shyamalan sized twist at the end to prove themselves wrong–they don’t really care if they’re right–but they would definitely appreciate some spice to keep the experience enjoyable. There is one technique that can be a saving grace for a horror film: creative kills.

Creative Kills

Horror will remain one of the more creative genres on the film spectrum. However, there is monotony that future creators are trying to dodge when releasing a new film out into the world. One of the genres that faces the most monotony is the slasher genre. With its never-ending sequels and reboots, it seems like all the kills of characters that you care less with each film never hit quite as hard as watching the original. Even A Nightmare on Elm Street with its dream realm lost its spark as the sequels seemed to go on and on, despite its open availability to do something new and out there.

Creative kills are a thing that horror creators do to engage its audience. It surprises them in moments rather than the whole plot. Sometimes it works better than trying to add a twist that people end up anticipating in the first place. I can save a film too. If a viewer remembers a certain death, even if they didn’t enjoy the film as a whole, that could be considered a win.

Warning: Spoilers past this point


The First Viewing

The horror films we see nowadays are rarely original. Most trace back to an origin film, with most of the films from the 60s, 70s and 80s serving as influence on modern horror creators. This was a special time period for horror. The monster movie was going out and the genre was starting to branch out into different subgenres. The groundwork for creative kills rests in the original slashers, as they were the first to take the plunge into the grisly. Their reign in conjunction with rental movie shops that dominated in those decades allowed for these gruesome yet unique scenes to spread to televisions across America.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Creative Kills

We start from the beginning with of the 70s-80s slasher reign with Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While there are a variety of weapons in the film, none of them sound more terrifying than the chainsaw. Despite its low budget, there is plenty of clever camerawork in this film. This expressed the gruesome nature of the kills, tarnishing the chainsaw forever. It’s rare to find a haunted house that doesn’t utilize one without its chain for its terrifying sound. Personally, a man wielding one of these chased me out of a haunt with one. I don’t scare super easy, but I did minorly fear what would’ve happened to me had he caught up.

Halloween

Creative Kills

Up next is John Carpenter’s masterpiece, Halloween. While there are plenty of groundbreaking, iconic kills, the one topping the list is Michael Myers playing pin-the-Bob-to-the-pantry. The impact of the scene is not necessarily the kill in action–though it is effective–but rather Michael Myers stepping back and observing his kill, tilting his head and brainstorming his next move. This leads to the iconic bedsheet ghost with glasses. John Carpenter is no stranger to creativity in his horror and his kills. This shows especially in his follow up film The Fog and even more as he approaches the sci-fi horror genre in 1982 with his take on The Thing.

Friday The 13th

Creative Kills

Going chronologically, the next in line is Friday the 13th, which kickstarted the trope of “you have sex, you die.” The death that sticks is both creative and one of the only familiar faces in the film. Poor Kevin Bacon’s character Jack is trying to enjoy a nice cigarette. Moments later, he gets a hand around the head and an arrow through the throat. The use of close up practical effects in this kill distinguishes it from the previous pair of film mentioned, as it is a death seen up close rather than imagined due to shadows or camera placement. This pushed the boundary of gore on screen, which was turned up to eleven in 1984.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Creative Kills

A Nightmare on Elm Street is the foundation for out there creative kills. It takes place primarily in a dream state. This allowed for Wes Craven to push the supernatural boundaries on this classic slasher. It is also has the impact of familiar face meets gruesome end as it stars a babyfaced Johnny Depp. While watching Tina pinned and slashed on the ceiling is truly frightening and impactful as a first kill, it is Glen’s bed eating him and projectile vomiting him out in a geyser of blood. The excessive gore and false security that both the viewer and Glen feels makes the death impactful and very memorable. Wes Craven is no stranger to making the viewer care for the characters, which can also be seen in the Scream franchise. This only makes his creative kills even more useful and impactful.

BREAKING THE VIEWER’s TRUST

While a horror fan knows not to get too close to any characters in their favorite horror series, it happens anyways. They want the best for these characters ultimately. When it comes down to their brutal death, there is a powerful emotion that comes with it. Sometimes they don’t see it coming. Most of the time they do see it coming and convince themselves that the writers simply wouldn’t do that. This is what makes this technique the cruelest of the creative kills.

Fear Street: 1994

Creative Kills

These attachments are usually side characters that shine just as bright as the main character. A main example in recent times is Kate in Fear Street: 1994, which is one of the most unfair and creative deaths I’ve seen in the recent years. Kate is lovable. She and her best friend Simon have some hilarious, if chaotic, moments together that just makes the audience care and love them more.

As the film arrives at the final grocery store showdown and the Skull Face Killer locks her in a chokehold, the film convinces the viewers she isn’t going to die. She had escaped death too many times to count prior in the movie, she has to get out of this. He slams her down on the table and her head slides closer and closer to that bread slicer. The film convinces the viewers once more someone will save her since this team is always looking out for each other, and her screaming her head off has to attract one of them to help her. All that hope shatters into pieces as the audience gets a close up shot of her head becoming shredded by this once ordinary, now malicious machine.

The predictability comes back the moment afterwards, with Simon’s death seeming inevitable, but it was that brief moment that will actually stick with you. Not only because the writers killed off beloved Kate, but also the shocking visuals and the manner of her death.

Scream 2

Creative Kills

Another way to shock the audience is killing off what seems like a quintessential-to-the-plot character. In recent years, the fake-out death of Marty in The Cabin in the Woods is an example of this kind of kill. He was high as a kite the entirety of the film, but he was the one–other than the main protagonist– not affected by the mental curveballs thrown by the company running the show. The one that has stuck with many horror fans however was the killing of Randy in Scream 2.

Lovable, adorkable Randy who was an easy target in the first film but delivered very necessary information on the tropes of a horror film that saved a lot of his friends’ asses. He, like us watching a horror film, knew what pleasant predictability felt like; the first Scream is chock full of pleasant predictability with its main but effective curve being there was a second killer and it was Stu. With its equally enjoyable sequel, we think we are just as self aware as Randy. Therefore, we together are not susceptible to the killer’s tricks.

All of those comforting feelings go out the window, or rather into the back of the van when Ghostface murders Randy in broad daylight with Gale and Dewey so close by. Upon each viewing, the kill is just as devastating as it is the first time. A die-hard horror fan relates the most to this character, and his death dismisses the belief that his knowledge and self awareness alone could keep him alive for another round.

Sometimes horror creators are too trigger happy with killing off characters. While this is sometimes done in a “they were all doomed anyways” kind of sense, sometimes they take it way too far.

The extreme: Torture porn versus arthouse

There are two genres that have the same level of brutality most of the time. They differ so heavily from each other. The genres are arthouse horror and a genre lovingly known as torture porn. Both feature disturbing images and scarring scenes, but a film that completely relies on tolerance to gore doesn’t mean its the most creative. The best horror movies are ones that non-horror fans can watch, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that they won’t come out unscathed– some of the mentions on this list are disturbing–but it’s not watching people die in bloody, gruesome ways back to back.

Torture Horror

These types of films have their fanbases, and I am not invalidating their feelings towards these films. In regards to their accessibility , their grisly goriness earns them their praise rather than storyline. This does not mean that the kills in these films aren’t creative, they are overly creative. However, they lose their impact by having so many creative kills back to back. It allows a new kind of unpredictability that creates excitement for what bizarre thing will come next , which amps up fans of torture porn. This allows for some creative error, because while a lot of these films continue to have out of the box moments, the excitement with each sequel dims and dims as each sequel falls short.

An example of this last year is Spiral, the Saw reboot. While this film was sadly hindered due to movie theater closures due to COVID, there was an overall complaint about seeing things that have already been done before in the franchise. In a series full of traps that are made of the masses’ worst nightmares, it a risk to make so many movies which ultimately turn away a general crowd due to its brutality and turn away its cult following due to running out of ideas. You can see this same progression in many of Eli Roth and Rob Zombie films too, meaning that going to the extreme all the time can burn out the creative spark that make this gory flicks tick.

Arthouse Horror

Another genre of film that can be hit or miss but can teach the torture porn genre a thing or two about how frequently to use creative kills is the arthouse horror genre. The obvious recent examples are films such as Hereditary, Midsommar and The House That Jack Built. These films can exhibit as equally creative and disturbing scenes as the torture porn films, but these films use a one-and-done method. They’re films where it is okay if they’re not watched again, since they can be deeply disturbing, even for the most desensitized horror fan, but there is no hinderance in watching it again, as most of the time there is opportunity to understand and see more than one saw in the first viewing.

Comparison

While most arthouse horror have things that are odd and out of the usual, it is usually in a slow burn format rather than the fast paced timing of torture porn movies, which allows for a break from the gore but also creates a foundation of dread to build upon during the film’s usually longer runtime. Much like the grisly films mentioned above, these films are not everybody’s cup of tea, but they are the films that are shaping the horror scene. More mainstream films follow the influence of arthouse horror, which includes the films from recent horror powerhouse Jordan Peele, who utilizes disturbing images and creative kills to his benefit in both of his films Get Out and Us–specifically the use of the giant scissors as well as the deerhead stabbing.

Overall, both of these genres have changed what modern horror fans are looking for in horror films. Whether it be an out-there arthouse film or a grisly never-ending death hour, both genres hold heavy influence over the modern day horror film, with viewers seeking out more and more creativity in the standard mainstream horror films that come out year after year.


Conclusion

It is undeniable that the use of creative kills defines what the horror genre. It also separates it from the similar thriller genre. When used correctly, an out-of-the-box kill can shake things up for a seemingly predictable movie. This can be used to the enjoyment of the general viewer and the horror fan, even if it involves some broken hearts along the way (I’m still not over Randy’s death). However, when used too often, it can alienate both the casual horror viewer as well as its cult follower. Nonetheless, it is an essential technique that is used by the best horror filmmakers out there and is a one stop shop to make a horror film memorable.