Sinister Summer

Summer is not my favorite season. I prefer spring thunderstorms and crisp fall air to the relentless heat of the summer sun. I grew up in the South and now live in Florida where It's always hot, always humid, and the sun is always beating down on you. But despite my objection to the sun, I will admit that I have spent many a happy summer day lounging by the pool, vacationing with family, and floating out on a lake somewhere.

Lake Ouachita | Hot Springs, AR | 2010

Lake Ouachita | Hot Springs, AR | 2010

Despite the oppressive heat, summer does have an undeniable spirit of freedom, and vacation is a big a part of that. When it comes to vacation in America, the possibilities are virtually endless. Adventure can be found in the great outdoors, the city, the small town, and abroad. But adventure goes hand in hand with danger, and you can never be too sure that you won't encounter a little of both while vacationing. 

The films below embody different aspects of the Great American Summer Vacation. The heat, the traveling, the adventure, the locals and the bizarre unknown. Let's dive in...


We've all traveled to the quaint small town where everyone knows everyone, and life is simpler. At the beach, the lake and the mountains, you'll find small summer towns bustling with activity during the hot months, full of families, tourists and laughter. We visit these places to retreat from the chaos of life and settle in for relaxation and quality time. These places are mostly remembered for their happy times, but beware traveler - danger is lurking just around the corner.


I really don't think I need to go into much detail about why Jaws is first on this list. It's iconic. It's classic. It's an important piece of film history. The music, the environment and the color palette create a timeless backdrop for a nostalgic day on the beach. But we've all seen how that perfect beach day can and will go south in a matter of minutes. Jaws is probably the first movie that ever made us afraid of summer vacation.

The Bay

The Bay is part monster movie, part body horror. Much like Jaws, it's about a quaint little town that just wants to celebrate the 4th of July in peace. However, this town situated on the Chesapeake Bay is being overrun by some kind of parasitic virus, which brings terror to locals and tourists alike. The Bay is a surprising little found footage movie that is better than you'd expect. When signs of infection start showing up out of nowhere, it feels real and terrifying.

The Lost Boys

The Santa Carla boardwalk is the perfect place for a little teenage fun in the summer. Grab an ice cream, buy a comic book, flirt with the cute local girl. There's only one problem. It's crawling with vampires. The Lost Boys manages to capture the carefree spirit of youth and summer, effectively balancing laughs and scares in a this classic vampire tale. 

The Mist

Frank Darabont's vision of Stephen King's novella is a tense and beautiful story of humanity and survival. When a summer storm turns into a grocery trip from hell, a diverse group of locals must band together and fight for survival against Lovecraftian monsters, and each other. The Mist is best viewed in black and white, while eating a big bowl of popcorn. Oh, and look out for that ending. It's a doozy.

The ending will tear your heart out… but so will life, in the end. Stephen King 


In the summertime, the heat is both a blessing and a curse. Breaking out the sunglasses and soaking up the sun is a welcome relaxation, but if you linger too long it can wreak havoc on your body and your brain. So if you find yourself driving through hot, isolated territories this summer, make sure the gas tank is full and you have plenty of water. You never know who you'll run into out there.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my favorite horror movies on ANY list, but it fits particularly well on this one. Sally and her friends are taking a fun little road trip to their old family homestead, but things go very wrong after they pick up a bizarre hitchhiker and then ask for gas at the wrong house. The story is filled with heat, sweat and dirt and the film itself has a grainy quality that makes it feel real. Part of the true genius of TCM is that it takes place almost entirely during the day, giving us an unobscured view of the horrors that unfold on an idyllic summer afternoon.

The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes is based on a 1973 Wes Craven film of the same name, and might be the best remake ever made. When a road tripping family has a breakdown in the New Mexico desert, they encounter a group of radioactive cannibals who refused to relocate when US government began testing atomic weapons in their area. The result is a brutal, bloody fight for survival.

Disclaimer: There is one scene in this movie that I will not watch. Just take my word on this one and proceed with caution when it comes to the attack on the women in the RV.


When Jess is invited for a day of sailing with a group of friends, it seems like the perfect opportunity for some much needed relaxation. But when they encounter a ghost ship out in the middle of the ocean, things go from strange to stranger. Triangle is a psychological thriller that delivers a suspenseful and unique trip into madness. Don't miss this one, folks.


Everyone looks forward to vacation. We spend most of our lives working, and are happy to take full advantage of the little leisure time we have. Camping, road trips, cruises, and theme parks are popular vacation retreats that are usually perfectly safe. But no amount of planning can prepare you when things take a darker turn, and vacations go wrong.

Friday the 13th

When a group of teenage counselors report to a secluded campground for summer work, they encounter a killer determined to take them out, one by one. Friday the 13th is obviously a horror classic, a staple of both summertime and slasher movies. Watch it while wearing a bathing suit and roasting hot dogs by the campfire. Ki ki ma ma.....

Escape From Tomorrow

A Walt Disney World vacation is something that most families experience at least once in their lifetime. The whole place was built specifically to make your stay as magical and happy as possible. But in Escape From Tomorrow, that dream vacation spirals into a nightmare. After Jim gets bad news on the last day of their trip, he starts to see strange things, and we're left wondering if it's really happening or if he's just losing his mind.

To read more about the dark side of Disney, visit my recent travel entry.

The Ruins

Sometimes, 50 states just aren't enough and we feel the need to explore outside our home borders. Oftentimes, that trip ends up in Mexico where all manner of things can go wrong if you're not paying attention. In The Ruins, one group of friends venture off the beaten path to experience something that isn't on a tourist guide map. And they find it.

So, there you have it. Let's break out the sunglasses and get ready for a some summer fun. I'm sure we'll all make it to fall safe, sound and one piece.

But as you make your summer plans, keep these stories in mind and remember, travel safe.