Slaughter in the Sand: Your Grisly Guide to Summer Gore

 With the steadily climbing temperature and the scent of BBQ wafting through the air, one can no longer deny that summer is upon us. And what better way to the celebrate the season than to take a look back at some of the most popular summer horror flicks of all time. From Jason Voorhees chopping up promiscuous campers to creepy cabins and deadite invasions, the horror genre loves its summer vacation. Read on for a list of five of the most influential and interesting additions to the genre set during the sweltering months of summer.

1.      The Friday the 13th series

Ah, nothing says summer quite like “Camp Crystal Lake”. Come for the picturesque view of Crystal Lake, the quaint little cabins and the excessively friendly staff, but stay for the sadistic slayings by local legend Jason Voorhees! Beginning in 1980, and banking heavily on the success of other slasher films such as Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th tells the heart-warming story of a mother’s love for her son. Young Jason is an outcast at Camp Crystal Lake where the young camp counsellors are more interested in exploring each other than watching the children. Naturally, when the very un-buoyant  Jason winds up in the lake, he goes unnoticed by the hot-and-heavy staff and meets his untimely end. Jason’s mother, Mrs. Pamela Voorhees, is so distraught over the loss of her son that she does the only reasonable thing: brutally murders everyone who dares try to re-open Camp Crystal Lake. However, Mrs. Voorhees herself is rather old and not well suited to a life of serial killing partially clad teenagers and she ends up decapitated. But fear not, gore-lovers, for the presumed-dead Jason returns from the grave with his trademark machete to finish the work his dear matriarch began… And so begins the Friday the 13th franchise…

Best in Show:
Jack and Marcie proceed to have sex unaware that their murdered friend lies on the bunk above them. Following coitus, Jack is murdered when an arrow from beneath the bed punctures his throat, forever perpetuating the fear of something evil waiting under the bed.

Keep a Bloody Eye Out For:
A very young Kevin Bacon in the first film of the series. Also, Jason supposedly taking Manhattan, but instead opting for a murderous boat ride. Jason killing in space. Freddy Krueger showing up at the end of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) foreshadowing 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason
Filmic Legacy:
The Friday the 13th franchise includes 10 sequels, one remake and one television series. Jason is officially a pop culture icon with his image available on t-shirts, posters, home décor and even in the form of a cuddly Living Dead Doll. The iconic music used throughout the series is easily recognizable and heavily parodied.
Ki ki ki…. Ma ma ma…

2.      Cabin Fever (2002)

Oh, Cabin Fever. A secluded cabin. A weekend’s supply of beer. A gang of wild teenagers ready to party. A flesh-eating virus. What could go wrong? After renting a cabin in the woods, strange things start happening for the young group of partiers. But that does not stop them. Let the drinking and promiscuous sex commence! As a flesh-eating disease begins to spread through the woods, the teenagers start becoming infected. When it is revealed that the water may be to blame for the spreading infection, some of the gang are temporarily relieved that they decided to drink only beer for the duration of their stay. But soon enough, even they are not safe and the infection spreads to even the drunkest. In a disgusting conclusion, a bottled water company is shown obtaining their supply from the contaminated waters, suggesting it is only a matter of time before we are all infected…

Best in Show: Nobody could ever forget the horrifying scene when Marcy is shaving her legs in the bathtub. Suddenly, her flesh begins to shave right off…

Keep a Bloody Eye Out For:
Giuseppe Andrews of Detroit Rock City (1999) fame as the young, hunky and completely insane police officer/party animal.
Filmic Legacy:
 Cabin Fever was the directorial debut of filmmaker Eli Roth. Love him or hate him, Roth would go on to perpetuate the “torture-porn” genre with his films Hostel (2005) and Hostel: Part II (2007). Cabin Fever also spawned a sequel, but the less said about that the better. Andrews was the only actor to return for the sequel.

3.      I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

The year was 1997. You could have spent your time watching Jack romance Rose on the Titanic, Al Pacino prove he’s a little bit devilish in The Devil’s Advocate or the British boys strip it all off for the Full Monty. And you might have… But let’s face it, you watched Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, too. I Know What You Did Last Summer  was lambasted for being a terrible film and little more than a vehicle for showcasing young Hollywood hunks and starlets, Freddie Prince Jr., Ryan Phillipe, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar. However, the marketing worked and the teenagers flooded the cinemas, for better or worse. I Know What You Did Last Summer tells the story of a young group of friends who accidentally murder someone and decide to cover-up their crime. After going their separate ways, the gang thinks they have indeed gotten away with murder but find out that it is never quite that easy… The film utilizes some of the main conventions of the horror film, including the idea that teenagers are reckless and foolhardy. Furthermore, adults in horror films are next-to-useless, unless they are the ones doing the killing, and never seem to believe anything the young ones have to say. The film also introduces “The Fisherman”, a mysterious killer out for revenge.

Best in Show: Helen watches helplessly from on-stage during a beauty pageant as the Fisherman hacks up her boyfriend, Barry.

Keep a Bloody Eye Out For:
Johnny Galecki, who would gain his greatest fame as Leonard on TV’s The Big Bang Theory, playing Max, the cynical, loner best-friend who never gets the girl.

Filmic Legacy:
Throughout the film, the characters receive messages from the killer in black ink written on small, white pieces of paper. This is parodied in many films after including the Scary Movie franchise. The film also spawned two sequels, the first of which, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) takes place in the Bahamas and features Jack Black in an un-credited role.

4.      Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2 (1987)

The Evil Dead films are truly cult classics in the world of horror. Few people, even non-horror fans, would fail to recognize Evil Dead’s chainsaw-armed, catch phrase spewing, S-mart workin’ Ash. However, it is important to return to one’s roots and remember the first Evil Dead film when Ash was a shy, sweet, innocent fellow and a rather reluctant hero. The first film finds a group of rowdy teenagers on their way to a cabin in the woods for a special summer vacation. They were not expecting to raise an evil army of the undead but those are the risks you take when you go on vacation. After discovering the Naturan Demonta, or the Book of the Dead, the teenagers listen to a recorded incantation, which summons the evil. One by the one, the teenagers are possessed and killed by the deadites, leaving only Ash to rise to the occasion and stop the madness. In the sequel, the story of the first film is entirely re-written and given a comedic treatment. Bruce Campbell, as Ash, becomes the sole focus of the film as he must battle his dark side and remove his hand in order to prevent possession by the evil deadites.

Best in Show: In one of the most famous scenes, Cheryl is attacked and raped by evil trees. No, seriously.

Keep a Bloody Eye Out For: The scene in Evil Dead 2 when Ash fights his own hand. This scene is paid homage by Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar (1993). Also, the entire re-writing of the plot during the beginning of the second film. When watched back-to-back, it is even more glaringly obvious.
Filmic Legacy:
The Evil Dead franchise bore two sequels, Army of Darkness being potentially the most famous. While the first film was grotesque but serious, the two sequels were tongue-in-cheek and filled with quotable catch phrases. In addition to the films, there is also an Evil Dead musical in which audience members can purchase “blood seats”, in the understanding that they will be splattered with blood during the production.
“Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.”

5.      The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

My first introduction to The Cabin in the Woods came as a briefly seen interview with the director and producer. During the interview, Joss Whedon talked about the film and how he was not a fan of the horror genre. Right away, I felt unsure about the film and I was not sure if I wanted to give it my time. However, I am very glad I gave it a chance. The Cabin in the Woods marketed itself as not being what you expect and utilized the tag line “You think you know the story”. This is accurate, the film twists and turns in many unexpected ways. In fact, when I went to see the film, two men walked out within the first five minutes, refusing to give it a chance. As I watched the film, I strongly felt that it reads as homage to the horror genre and any horror-loving fan will notice these tactics. The cabin looks nearly identical to the Evil Dead cabin. The elevator scene near the end makes it impossible not to conjure up images from The Shining (1980). A villainous creature with a murderous box is easily mistakable for Pinhead of Hellraiser franchise fame. The film comments on the use of horror film conventions, such as the sexualized blonde female and prudish, intelligent final girl. The one drawback to such an approach is that the film seems to be constantly trying to divert expectations, so much so as it begins to lose its effect. However, it stands as a clever and enjoyable horror film regardless of your particular feelings for the genre.

Best in Show: The film actually forgoes the use of blood in many murders. However, the most memorable death is hinted at in the trailer. Macho-man Curt attempts to jump the canyon on his motorcycle is met with an invisible force field.

Keep a Bloody Eye Out For:
Your favourite monster.
Filmic Legacy:
Whedon has called this film a “love-hate letter” to the horror genre, as he considers the recent over-use of torture porn to be spelling death for the genre. He has said that The Cabin in the Woods was meant to revitalize the horror genre. Only time will tell…

Written and Researched by
A.J. Von Purr, Summer 2012


Starving Piranha said…
Excellent article, on some of the most classic horror films (and one that is sure to become classic)

I've seen all them except "Cabin in the Woods" and only really had a passing interest in it, this write-up peaks my curiousity of it, and now I'll definitely have to track it down.
typicallydia said…
Every time I want to watch a 'weekend gone terribly wrong' horror, it is one of these. So many others try, but pale in comparison.

The Cabin In The Woods certainly revitalizes the teen-romp genre in one sense, but turns it inside out, then right-side in... the inside-out again, over and over. I have said a few times I would love to have TCITW as it is, a version of just the horror story, and a version of the sci-fi story that is the true backbone.
Thank you, Starving Piranha. You should definitely check it out.

Well put, Lydia. I was quite impressed with The Cabin in the Woods and I strongly felt that most other horror fans would get a kick out of it, too. A classic in the making, if you ask me. :)
LarSiN said…
Good list, though to contradict an above post I wouldn't call "Cabin Fever" a "classic".

It was okay, but the script needed more work, which is funny since Roth bragged about how he'd written it in his late teens and hadn't changed any of the dialogue since.

Yeah Eli, we can tell ...
typicallydia said…
Hm, 'classic' no, but 'classic in the making', sure. Time will tell. I also found the film awfully timely but dialogue can be updated and not necessarily 'changed'.