Scary Summer Movie Fun!

by on Jun.25, 2011, under Exclusive Ghoularama Blogs, Films

With summer now in full swing, and July 4th right around the corner, I’m reminded of those magical summers of my childhood. The days seemed full of endless opportunities for a youngster – carefree, optimistic, and loaded with energy (probably due to a couple of bowls or Fruit Loops or Sugar Smacks each morning), every new day opened the door to a world of fun and play. Out the door you were sent (Mom’s daily reprieve), only getting called back in for lunch and dinner. The world was a blank slate, and a child’s mind was the designer. And for me, that design was quite often dictated by my love of monsters of every shape and size. Armed with my Marx Universal Monsters plastic figures and a handful of horror-based comics (long live Swamp Thing and Morbius the Living Vampire!), I ventured out into the great wide world (commonly known as my neighborhood) with a head full of imagination. But the truth was, for a fan of horror and monsters, daylight was a handicap. It wasn’t until the sun set each evening that you could really get in the macabre mood.

Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, summer nights were fairly synonomous with scary movies. Many was the Friday evening we gathered a group of fearless peers for an outing to the local cinema or drive-in to soak in a spooky flick or two, followed by a few hours of trying to out-scare one another before calling it a night and heading home. Any time the drive-in featured a double billing of horror films we were in the car, stocked up on junk food and drinks, ready for what was typically the most fun we could find as a child in Western New York. Blood, guts, thrills and chills made for a fine diversion from the everyday humdrum of suburban life.

I can recall at the tender age of ten years old taking in a screening of the original “Tales from the Crypt” with a car load of family at a Pennsylvania drive-in while visiting my father’s family. It was a double feature, and although I can’t for the life of me recall what the second movie was, I remember the adrenaline rush of knowing that I was about to sit through a hot summer evening of horrifying enertainment surrounded by people I trusted. See, as a youngster, that was the key to surviving – safety in numbers. Be it a trip to the corner store, hanging out in the schoolyard, or a trip to the monster movie marathon, having a familiar crew on hand was essential. Silver screen terror was not so terrifying if you could glance over at a friendly face…

I can’t quite put my finger on it now, but there was a real charm about a summer night with a scary movie when I was a kid. Maybe it was the calming warmth of a usual New York evening, the occasional buzz of insects, the random glow of fireflies, or perhaps it was the feeling of comfort that came from knowing the doors were locked and everyone except the crowd at the theater was in for the night that made it possible to endure a couple of hours of sheer terror. Whatever the reason, I found comfort in fear. Over-the-top, cinematic, special effects and makeup-laden fear. It started out with the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s creature, follwed up by radiation-charged monstrosities like Godzilla and Them!, eventually to be replaced by Freddy and Jason and the Predators and Aliens. Over the course of a couple of decades, there was always a fresh fiend or freak of nature to supply me with summer scares.

In looking back, much of what I found frightening as a youth seems somewhat silly and contrived by modern standards, but a good bit of it holds up. There is a handful of classic films that just ooze “summertime” for me, movies that regardless of what time of year they air somehow magically transport me to a muggy New York night, sprawled out on the floor with a copy of “House of Mystery” flipped open and a glass of Pepsi on the coffee table. “Bride of Frankenstein”, “The Creature from the Black Laggon”, “Carrie”, “Jaws”, “Trilogy of Terror”, “Legend of Boggy Creek” and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” are just a few of the season-altering movies that whisper “summer” in my ear. I’ve never been too captivated by the “Friday the 13th” flicks, but they do feature all the key summer points – camping, swimming, boating, hooking up with lovely ladies, hockey masks(?) – and are a fun guilty pleasure when I need a quick fix.

Associated Content released its list of the top ten scary summer movies last year: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5571382/top_ten_scary_summer_horror_movies.html
While some seem like obvious choices, others may surprise you. Scary is, of course, a relative term, and what one person finds frightening may not phase another in the least. But this will at least give you a jumping-off point for putting together your own summer-themed frightfest. So throw a pan of Jiffy Pop on the stove, stock up on marshmallows, pour some cola on the rocks, and get ready to while away the sweltering summer nights with your very own top ten scary movie picks.


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