Scary summer camp movies that are actually pretty funny
Happy Wet Hot American Summer day, gigglers! In honor of our beloved cult movie’s new Netflix series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp dropping today, we’re running our favorite summer camp stories.
When I think of summer camp, I tend to think of the good stuff first: s’mores, writing letters home, making new friends and memories, water sports, sing-alongs, the combined scent of burning firewood and cafeteria food lingering in the background 24/7, etc. These are things that go on at any respectable traditional camp, as far as I know, and what I grew up thinking camp was. I used to kind of want to go.
But then, being the indoors girl that I am, I started seeing a trend of movies pop up that painted summer camp in a totally different, darker light. Some filmmakers out there were, and still are, apparently all like, “You know how kids are already afraid of being away from their parents for six to eight weeks at a time? Yeah, let’s make them way more scared. It’ll be fun!” Say it with me: WHYYYYY!?
But I watched anyway, because I couldn’t help myself. And while some of these films are truly scary—specially to a kid—they’re pretty much all downright hilarious when I look back at them. And for that they deserve some recognition, because funny-scary is kind of my favorite movie genre.
Friday the 13th
You can’t talk about scary camp movies without mentioning Friday the 13th, since it sort of started the whole horror-camp obsession. The Jason Voorhees hockey mask alone is a pop-culture icon that is continued to be seen at Halloween parties ’round the globe.
These films are about your friendly neighborhood slasher Jason, who allegedly drowned at Camp Crystal Lake (though we figure out eventually that he’s still alive). He and his mother Pamela Voorhees take revenge on the campers over this incident and apparently don’t know when to stop, given the numerous sequels that are still being made 35 years after the original.
Fun fact: Orlando, where I live, has a Crystal Lake Drive. I only get off on that highway exit when I absolutely have to and never at night because I like being alive and who knows what crazed individual wants to make that headline in the Orlando Sentinel.
Why this movie is actually hilarious: Jason X. I’ll never understand why we needed to freeze this guy and take him to space.
The Sleepaway Camp films make up what is probably my favorite horror-camp series, if for their over-the-top and (forgive me) campy endings alone. They follow the protagonist, Angela — an orphan who grows up with her cousin and who is very different from the rest of the kids at camp. In the first movie, Angela is a camper; in the second, she is a counselor. Strange things tend to happen whenever she’s around, and no one can figure out why because she doesn’t talk.
Why this movie is actually hilarious: The ending. The cheesy dialog. The ’80s fashions. Nothing about this movie screams “serious,” so it’s almost impossible to actually be scared.
Addams Family Values
This is one of the few sequels I like better than its original. Addams Family Values puts horror and comedy together seamlessly at Camp Chippewa, where Wednesday and Pugsley Addams are sent for the summer after their new aunt Debbie Jellinsky convinces their parents Gomez and Morticia that they want to go but are too shy to ask. Between the mean-girl clique led by the snobby Amanda Buckman, the way-too-sprightly camp counselors, the Harmony Hut (meant to force campers with bad attitudes into giddy submission), and the fire started by Wednesday, Camp Chippewa is a nightmare in the flesh.
Why this movie is actually hilarious: AFV is first and foremost a comedy – led by Debbie, played by Joan Cusack in my favorite role of hers to date. And who could forget all Wednesday’s one-liners, including the comeback “All your life” when Amanda says, “I’ll be the victim!” during lifeguard practice? Classic.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
I found this gem on Netflix a few years ago and am so glad I did. It’s a total camp-horror parody, led by two idiots in the woods who stumble upon a group of cliché coeds who care camping in the woods. In the process, Tucker and Dale become the killers in their story – completely by accident.
There is a gory aspect to this movie which does make it a little uneasy on the stomach if you’re not into that sort of thing, but it’s all completely tongue-in-cheek. Warning: a wood chipper gets involved.
Why this movie is actually hilarious: Because it exists. Check it out on Netflix if you need a good horror comedy in your life. Oh, and it stars the brilliant Alan Tudyk, which is always a plus.
I’ll be honest: I saw this movie in theatres in college, and it was 99% because it starred Rider Strong, aka Shawn Hunter of Boy Meets World (and now, Girl Meets World) fame. It was worth it, because he rules.
And while it’s technically not a film about an actual summer camp, the Eli Roth-directed Cabin Fever is about a bunch of college kids who camp out in the woods. I don’t understand why college kids don’t know by now that camping out in the woods is a bad idea, but there we are.
Why this movie is actually hilarious: Spoiler: Because the bad guy is literally tainted water. All the characters have to do is not drink the tainted water, and they do it anyway. Crisis averted if you just drive to the store and buy bottled water, or go home and camp in your backyard.
[Image via Searchlight Pictures]