Best Camping Horror Movies
Summer camping horror movies are in a true league of their own.
We’ve curated some of our favorite summer horror movies for your sick enjoyment! When people think of horror movies in general they often think of some psycho hiding in the woods with a mask and machete. There’s a good reason why Summer camp horror movies are synonymous with an entire genre. Summer camp-style horror films boomed in the 80s and are now a staple.
To celebrate the Summer season we’re shining some light on our favorite slashers. We put together the best (and not so best) camping horror movies that we could find. Whether it’s backpacking in a haunted forest, being caught in the clutches of a cult, or being gutted by a psycho with a disfigured face, there are some summer scares for everybody! Grab your bug spray and your goggles because we’re counting down thirty-one of the best camping horror movies for Summer.
1. Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp (1983) directed by Robert Hiltzik, to me, is a brilliant encapsulation of 80s slasher films. It’s gross, violent, campy (pun intended), and it features one hell of a twist. A young girl named Angela (Felissa Rose) and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tierston) are sent off to camp Arawak. While they are there, a string of murders are happening on the campgrounds.
Some of the kills range from a bee hive thrown into a bathroom stall, boiling hot water dumped straight onto someone’s skin, and to “top” it off a gnarly decapitation. Felissa Rose’s performance as Angela is very subtle but works for the role. The film has some odd direction to say the least but can be appreciated if you’re into tongue and cheek style horror flicks.
Angela’s coming-of-age story might be a little more sinister than anyone could have ever imagined. Sleepaway Camp’s twist ending has also sparked a lot of modern dialogue within the online film community at large. Sleepaway Camp became an unexpected cult classic for horror movie fans and it even made 30x more than what was spent on it!
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2. Camp Slaughter
Camp Slaughter is a wonderful throwback to the 80s, Alex Pucci and Draven Gonzales’ 2005 homage to Friday The 13th and other of the classic camp slasher movies. Camp Slaughter embraces the silly, over the top, and completely gore-filled roots of its cinematic predecessors.
Camp Slaughter does have an interesting twist that some will get behind while others will scoff at. Think a mixture of Timecrimes (2007) and any camp set slasher movie! If that isn’t enough buy-in there are thirty-seven on screen deaths featured in Camp Slaughter. Camp Slaughter seems to be pretty divisive amongst viewers, you decide if this Summer camp horror film deserves to be included amongst the pantheon of iconic slashers.
3. The Burning
The Burning (1981) is a gnarly horror classic from one of the greatest decades of the genre. Directed by Tony Maylam, with special effects by makeup magician Tom Savini, The Burning tells of a former summer camp caretaker who is horribly burned from a prank gone wrong. He returns years later to where the incident took place, hell-bent on killing the teenagers responsible for his disfigurement.
Think Jason Voorhees meets Freddy Kreuger but with garden shears instead of a machete or knife glove. If that isn’t enough to scare or entice you, The Burning was one of the first films to land on the UK’s Video Nasties list, specifically because of the raft massacre scene. Not the only raft kill to make it on this list. The Burning is horrifying, visceral, and embodies peak 80s horror.
4. The Ritual
The Ritual (2017) is certainly not your typical choice when you think of summer horror films – we get that. But backpacking through the woods and stumbling upon something monstrous is entirely why David Bruckner’s The Ritual is here.
The film follows a group of longtime friends who reunite for a backpacking trip to a forest in Eastern Europe but encounter a menacing presence there stalking them. If you loved Amateur Night from VHS (2012), then Bruckner takes his fiendish love for horror in The Ritual to a whole other level. The film is filled with mythology and lore that will only make you want to dig further and further into its inspirations.
5. The Cabin in the Woods
Summer camp isn’t anything without some dirty, creepy cabins, now is it? Cabin in the Woods took meta-horror to a whole other level. It played on the genre’s tropes and pulled a fast one on genre film fans everywhere. I can’t say too much here without spoiling everything.
Directed by Drew Goddard, five friends go for a vacation at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for, discovering the truth behind the cabin in the woods. Sounds like something you’ve heard before, right? Trust me, if you’ve slept on this film, now is your time to watch it.
In the behind-the-scenes commentary for The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard noted that his inspiration for the film came from living in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a place filled with scientists and co-workers all going about their business and living ordinary lives…even though they were building nuclear weapons that could potentially destroy the entire world.
6. The Evil Dead
Now, if you’re looking for some classic horror movie goodness, look no further than Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981). Sam Raimi had a major influence on the horror genre with The Evil Dead. It broke boundaries and took the genre places to even darker places. Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Fun fact: In Germany, the film’s release date was hindered by public authorities for nearly eight years. Original 1982 cinema and video releases of the movie had been seized, making the movie a cult favorite on the black market video circuit. This is one horror flick you definitely don’t want to watch on your remote cabin getaway trip.
7. Evil Dead II
Probably the best out of the Sam Raimi trilogy. Set after Evil Dead I, the sequel picks up right where we left poor Ash as the Deadites do all they can to destroy him physically and emotionally. And, of course, this is where we see Raimi’s love for comedy comes into the fray.
Plus, this has the infamous laughing furniture and possessed hand! What more could you want? Sam Raimi also credits Stephen King for making Evil Dead II a reality. Raimi couldn’t acquire enough money to fund the film so Stephen King made a few calls (since he was a huge fan of the original) and convinced financiers to give Raimi the money he needed.
8. Evil Dead (Remake)
Taking a more serious and blood-soaked look at the original. Fede Alvarez’s remake follows the same path as the original except with a few distinct touches. Our hapless heroes are there to help one go through detox/cold-turkey, which adds more serious/sinister undertones to the proceedings and the budget.
In an interview, director Fede Alvarez said they used 50,000 gallons for the final scene alone. This is compared to the 200-300 gallons used in the original Evil Dead. This is definitely the movie Raimi would’ve made back in the day if he had the budget. Check it out!
Filmed at the same time as The Burning, and just like that one, both were inspired by the New York Cropsey Maniac urban legend. But, due to the fact that The Burning was already filming and had a similar story, writer/director Joe Giannone changed it, and what we ended up with was more of a mixture of Candyman and Friday The 13th. And for me, any story that uses an urban legend as a jumping-off point, or even a legend in general, has to be watched!
10. Friday the 13th Part I
We all knew this was going to be on the list. The movie (apart from Evil Dead) that made camps truly scary, and of course, started one of the longest horror franchises of all time. It’s the Summer slasher king for a reason right? On release the film made $39,754,601 on a budget of $550,000!
Ki ki ki, ma ma ma…
11. Friday the 13th Part II
This is the film that truly made slasher history because it’s the first time we ever got to see Jason Voorhees himself, though, for his first appearance, one of the Holy Trinity of slashers wears a sack instead of the well-known hockey mask.
But it’s still a rollicking good time of a camping horror movie for the Summer. Fun fact: the first Jason scene in Friday the 13th Part II is a shot of Jason’s legs walking across the street toward Alice’s house. This is the only time in the series Jason was played by a woman: Ellen Lutter, the film’s costume designer.
12. Friday the 13th Part III
And here it is, the first time we get to see Jason Voorhees in his oh-so-iconic hockey mask, a mask that would go down in horror history as a signature look that was even used (in a way) in the Slaughterhouse games. The movie itself is different to the first two (not just because of the mask) but in the fact that, to date, it is the only one in the franchise that was released in 3D.
Unlike the previous 2 in the series, Part III shows a wounded and slightly more vulnerable Jason (a result of the direct continuation of Part II) that we would lose in the following entries.
13. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
The final movie in the franchise to feature Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) as the main character, this happens to be my favorite out of the series for one reason; this is where we finally get the 100% superhuman, undead, resurrected nightmare version of Jason Voorhees. Need I say more?
14. Friday the 13th (Remake)
Ah, the early 2000s were a strange time for horror fans. Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s production company) was spearheading a string of remakes of the classics that started with 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and ended with 2010’s A Nightmare On Elm Street. But 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, directed by Marcus Nispel, is a strange animal of a movie; combining the first four original movies, adding flashier kills and special effects, this is an interesting movie to use as an introduction to Jason and the franchise.
Including this film, Jason has killed nearly 200 people throughout the “Friday the 13th” series!
15. Creepshow II
Though not as good as the first Creepshow (1982), the 1987 sequel does boast an excellent adaptation of the Stephen King short, The Raft. This segment is a great creature feature style story set on a, you guessed it, raft and reminded me of the classic The Blob and even some moments of the latter survival horror movie, The Ruins. Definitely a highlight of this anthology. This segment was almost fatal for actor Daniel Beer.
Daniel Beer, who played Randy almost died from hypothermia. The water was so frigid his body turned green. The crew got Daniel to the hospital and he made a full recovery, and later completed the segment of “The Raft.”
16. Stage Fright
Coming out of nowhere, in 2014, Jerome Sable’s debut is a homage/satire/love letter to all things horror and musical. With support from Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf himself, Stage Fright straddles the line between silly, ridiculous, appalling, and fun easily as we a thrust into the world of musical theatre, and at times this reminded me of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut but with more gore.
17. Twisted Nightmare
The 1980s were a glorious time for camp slasher movies, weren’t they? With Friday the 13th showing producers, directors, and writers that all you needed to make some money was a lake, a campsite, nubile teens, and copious amounts of blood. What Paul Hunt did in 1987 was take the formula and add something different; the spirits of Native Americans. Not the best, but still a fun one.
18. Summer Camp
This 2015 Spanish movie, the first directed by long-time writer/producer Alberto Marini, takes all the regular tropes of camping horror movies and turns them on their head. The basic premise is; four counselors from the USA at a European summer camp are caught in the middle of a rage-inducing plague that started with the animals. What follows is not our usual camping horror movie, and the twist with the plague really raises this one above most others.
19. Cheerleader Camp
A camp for cheerleaders, a competition, and bloody murder. What more could you want from this 1988 slasher flick? Also, the main character is played by Betsy Russell, who would go on to star as Jill Tucker in the Saw series. Plus, the original title was Bloody Poms Poms. Shall I go on?
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Taking a slightly different idea of camping, Ari Aster’s second movie does something most horror movies avoid: being set in broad, blinding daylight. This takes the usual safety of light we find in most horror movies and eradicates it instantly. Midsommar really plays up the old H. P. Lovecraft quote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” While also showing us a side of our own psyches we haven’t seen on screen all too often.
21. Summer Camp Nightmare
Inspired by both William Butler’s 1961 novel The Butterfly Revolution and (in my opinion) William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord Of The Flies, 1987’s Summer Camp Nightmare poses the age-old question, what happens when a group of boys are left alone?
What makes Summer Camp Nightmare different from Lord Of The Flies or even The Butterfly Revolution is the violence on display and that the boys actively inflict it. However, it does remind me of The Simpsons episode Kamp Krusty.
22. Cabin Fever
Eli Roth’s directorial debut was a clear indicator of what was to come – taking the standard idea of a group of friends bounding off into the woods for a camping trip that goes horribly wrong and adds a body-horror element with a flesh-eating virus. This is definitely up there with Evil Dead gruesome, and if you want to see an early Eli Roth film, you can’t go wrong with this one.
23. Bloody Murder
What happens when you take Friday the 13th and mix it with Scream? You get 2000’s Bloody Murder. For me, this is definitely one for the later part of an evening after the pizza and booze have kicked in. The killer is too much like Jason Voorhees, but as with all of these movies, you’re in it for the blood and guts.
Joe Dante’s second movie, 1978s Piranha, was one of the earliest movies to cash in on Jaws, and luckily Steven Spielberg got to see it in advance of its release and gave a positive comment. If he hadn’t, Universal Studios would’ve squashed this Roger Corman-produced monster flick that sees a small town overrun by genetically modified fish. Kevin McCarthy, Dick Miller (naturally), Keenan Wynn, and Barbara Steele all-star in the first in a series that includes two remakes! If you want to see where it all started, this is the place.
25. Cannibal Holocaust
Probably one of the most infamous horror movies ever to come out and probably one of the earliest of the found footage subgenre, Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 cannibal film (if you couldn’t guess from the title) has been the subject of much debate. From the way the actors were treated, the location for filming, and of course, the six onscreen animal deaths. But, what Deodato gave us is truly as realistic a horror film as we can get, and the setting permeates every single aspect of Cannibal Holocaust.
26. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project is the film that started the found footage craze and also had one hell of a marketing ploy. Daniel Myrick’s and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1999 hit film follows three student filmmakers that go hiking in the backwoods of Maryland, USA, which is perfect for any marathon of camping horror movies.
The directors of the film communicated with the actors Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard via walkie-talkies, to ensure the three would not become lost during the shoot. Reportedly, they got lost at least three times.
27. Blair Witch
This 2016 direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project continues the story of Black Hills Forest and the eponymous Blair Witch. With a higher budget and higher production values, this movie takes the world of Blair Witch into a strange and, at times, frustrating direction but is still worth a watch. For those who may not have enjoyed the ambiguous ending of the first film, this sequel will confirm all your suspicions.
28. Lake Placid
One of my all-time favorite camping horror movies, 1999s Lake Placid is completely and utterly a creature feature flick, but one with an outstanding cast; Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, and Betty White all star in one of the most sarcastic-character filled movies about a giant crocodile attacking a small Maine lake town. With creature effects by Stan Winston, what more could you want?
29. The Final Girls
The first time I saw 2015’s The Final Girls, I thought it was a joke movie. How can you take seriously a story about a group of high-school students that are transported into an old 80s slasher film called Camp Bloodbath?
Well, let me tell you that upon repeat viewings, this strange little movie has quickly become a favorite that will make you smile with delight at the homages and inspiration to the classics we all know and love. I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.
30. You Might be the Killer
If you enjoyed Tucker & \Dale Vs. Evil, then 2018s You Might Be the Killer is right up your alley. Taking the typical camp slasher film and throwing it on its head (thanks to Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes), what we have is the perfect way to bring the genre into the 21st century.
31. Scare Me
A Shudder original directed by Josh Rubin that came out in 2020, Scare Me is an anthology movie masquerading as something different. This is the tale of what happens when two authors (one successful, the other not so much) are trapped together in a remote cabin and try to outdo each other by telling scary stories. Still an enjoyable romp of a movie!
What Are Your Favorite Camping Horror Movies?
Cabin-based horror flicks are one of the best ways for die-hard gorehounds to kick off the Summer months. This list is just the tip of the iceberg so be sure to let us know on Twitter what your favorite Summer camp horror movie is. Travel safe campers!