Halloween is my favorite holiday. I like to celebrate the entire month of October. What’s more delicious than a full thirty-one days of bite-size candy, color-changing leaves, windy nights, spooky glow-in-the-dark decorations, costume planning, pumpkin carving, and of course, scary movies? So imagine my excitement when, in planning this October’s month of movies, I discovered that there’s an entire cross-over genre combining two of my absolute favorite things in the world: horror movies and… summer camp!
Friday the 13th
This is definitely the most well-known of the horror/camp movies. Who hasn’t heard of Jason, the masked murderer? For those of you who haven’t experienced the thrill yet, the story involves a group of teens attempting to re-open a camp at which two counselors were murdered many years ago. Of course, the camp is cursed, and maybe choosing Friday the 13th as opening day wasn’t the best idea to begin with. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that this movie nails that sexy-gruesome combo so quintessential to horror movies (and to summer camp, for that matter).
This is actually the first camp-horror movie I ever watched. My cousin Charlie was my co-conspirator when, at age ten, we chose this gem from the movie store expecting a lighthearted horror romp set amidst pine trees and cozy cabins. Little did we know this movie would pretty much ruin our lives with creepiness. The protagonist is an odd, unspeaking girl named Angela who’s spending the summer at a camp that happens to be where her father and brother were killed in a grisly accident eight years earlier. If you were looking to switch up your regular nightmare routine, the final image of this movie is guaranteed to haunt your dreams forever. Bonus: there are two sequels featuring Pamela Springsteen (yes, Bruce Springsteen’s sister), and supposedly a third one in the works, in 3D!
Not many people talk about The Burning, but it certainly deserves a spot in your Halloween movie queue this month. The premise is appropriately gory: an alcoholic, sadistic camp owner is the victim of a prank gone awry, leaving him horribly burned and disfigured. When he’s finally released from the hospital, he returns to camp to seek his revenge. Okay, it’s not the highest quality slasher movie out there, but who wants a high quality slasher movie? And the cast includes such soon-to-be stars as Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter in their feature film debuts. If you’re looking for Meatballs with a dollop of murder, this is the movie for you.
Don’t be fooled by the light-and-fluffy title. Originally called the much-more-creative-and-disgusting Bloody Pom-Poms, this 80’s slasher flick is anything but cheerful. Our protagonist, the insecure Alison, attends cheerleading camp at the misnomered “Camp Hurrah”, where she’s soon afflicted with murderous nightmares. Shockingly enough, her nightmares becomes a reality as the other campers around her start dying off. Look for Leif Garrett as her flirtatious boyfriend!
Back to horror-camp basics in this cult classic thriller. A group of campers and counselors tell scary stories around a campfire until one tells the story of Madman Marz, a man who murdered his whole family and escaped right before he was supposed to be hanged for his crimes. Supposedly, if you say Madman’s name above a whisper, he’ll come back to kill you. And what do you know, one of the campers can’t stop himself from tempting fate.
Originally titled Camp Daze, this 2005 straight-to-video not-so-classic can best be described as a mash-up of Friday the 13th and Groundhog Day. In other words, potentially the best movie ever. A group of teens with a broken-down car wander through the woods and discover Camp Hiawatha, where seemingly happy campers frolic and play. Only, at Camp Hiawatha, it’s not 2005… it’s 1981. And everyone there is re-living the same day over and over. A day in which a killer stalked the camp, murdering campers and counselors alike, one by one. Very heavy stuff. Our protagonists must help the 1981 campers break free of the curse and change what happened that horrific day so many years ago.
This movie marathon pairs best with dimmed lights, a pine-scented candle, orange-and-black lanyard, and Halloween s’mores. Happy camping!