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I Know What You Watched Last Summer: Your Guide to Seasonal Sleaze

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Enter an internet search of summer horror movies, and the usual suspects pop up. But what if you don’t want to watch Friday the 13th or Jaws for the umpteenth time? What if you crave something trashy, campy, strange, or downright awful? Something that makes you choke on your beer after cackling at the cringe and creates those lasting so-bad-it’s-good memories with loved ones on a humid July night. The ridiculous Sleepaway Camp inspired this list, and while its problematic chaos qualifies, it’s had a resurgence in recent years. I’m here to point you toward less discussed summertime guilty pleasures, whether you’ve never seen them or haven’t had a rewatch in some time. Grab a flashlight and meet me around the fire at Camp Horror Press as we weave a tale of underappreciated gems, and maybe we’ll rip them to shreds along the way.

Cheerleader Camp (1988):

 If David Lynch and John Waters teamed up to direct a ludicrous old-school slasher, the self-aware Cheerleader Camp would be their concoction. Originally titled Bloody Pom Poms, it stars Betsey Russel (Jill Tuck in the Saw franchise) as troubled “it girl” Alison as she attends a cheerleading camp where anything goes, and every transgression is near immediately forgotten. Lynchian dream sequences featuring razor-sharp pom-poms and voyeuristic sex provide insight into Alison’s troubled mind. Yet, outside of this nightmare realm, it’s all Porky’sand classically trashy slasher depravity. There is no sense of time, so – much like the film’s young actors who can’t seem to help but tumble through the woods like ragdolls – it’s best to roll with it.

Antics include: Employees hiding a dead body to avoid a camp shutdown, wild bedroom role-play that’s recorded and screened for all to see, and a topless queen bee suntanning showdown, for good measure. Surprisingly, the acting is a degree above half-baked, perhaps because of the film’s presumably knowing nature. The sophisticated script allows for amazing line deliveries like, “Chickens! Where?!” and “I hope you DIE!” which remain oddly charming while wrapped up in the film’s bizarre plane of existence. The reveal of the killer’s identity – loosely based on a true story – is similarly satisfying. If you’re in the mood to submerge yourself in the mystical waters of prime late 80’s slasher filth, it’s time for a weekend at Cheerleader Camp.

Killer Quote: “The queen will epitomize the highest ideals of cheerleading, which are nothing less than the highest ideals of mankind.” – Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson)

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 I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998):

 Okay, this sequel to its hit predecessor from 1997 is genuinely bad. The original, which piggybacked off the success of Scream, had a few things going for it: It, too, was written by horror scribe Kevin Williamson, the cast is full of bonafide late 90’s dreamboats, and it includes what I consider to be one of the slasher genre’s best chase scenes, starring scream queen Sarah Michelle Gellar. Unfortunately, Williamson did not write this sequel, and poor SMG did not survive her legendary scuffle with the hooked killer. Scream 2 had modeled the precedent less than a year prior by satirizing cliché horror sequels while simultaneously being a great one, and I Still Know took absolutely zero notes. What remains is a hackneyed follow-up that thrusts Jennifer Love Hewitt’s irksome final girl, Julie James, into the muck once more – this time at a tropical resort in the Bahamas that resembles a lakeside retreat in upstate New York.

Hot garbage doesn’t stink so bad when it’s on celluloid, however, and if watched with the mindset of roasting this movie to hell – perhaps a drinking game – there’s fun within. Hewitt’s suspiciously forced acting chops invoke more cringe than trauma two decades before Halloween Kills ingrained “Evil Dies Tonight!” into our brains, and the return of her beau Freddie Prinze Jr. is butchered by writing him into an asinine savior subplot that literally throws him out a hospital window (and much of the action). Hewitt, arms outstretched, also blesses us with a recreation of her iconic, “What are you waiting for?!” scene from the OG, and a hilarious attempt at promotion for her now-defunct singing career inserts itself during the corniest of-the-era needle drop. Don’t fret, JLove, Ghost Whisperer comes soon enough.

The cast rounds out with a rasta-appropriating Jack Black, 90s icon Brandy as the rare black final girl, and Mekhi Phifer as her incredulously rude boyfriend. A few decent kills liven up the joint with some much-needed gore, followed by a suspenseful epilogue that acts as a lovely nightcap – that is, until it abruptly ends with a gotcha moment so uninspired your eyes may get lost in the back of your head. Keep up the (responsible) drinking game, and you’ll be litty as a kitty in no time!

Killer Quote: “All I know is that this is the worst vacation of my life. I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m fucking horny, and I ain’t seen one goddamn psycho killer.” – Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer) moments before being slain.

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 Tourist Trap (1979):

 What if the killer from House of Wax had telekinetic abilities and was super annoying? This wacky freakshow from the always entertaining Full Moon Features follows a group of twenty-somethings who suffer a doomed roadside run-in with the Carrie White of dollmakers, and it certainly checks off the “wrong turn road trip” box. Made at a time when not everything needed an explanation, the kinetically charged Tourist Trap somehow succeeds at being both positively silly and uncomfortably disturbing. Its achievements in audio are key: A shifty score oscillates between high tension and something akin to a Spotify playlist for clowns, and its sound design highlights the orgasmic talents of an army of moaning mannequins; if you have thin walls, beware.

Molly, the bonnet-wearing Little Karen on the Prairie heroine, is precisely as irritating as she sounds, and, as mentioned, the film’s villain is no different – he never shuts the fuck up! Of course, this is all part of the fun. There are some genuine scares to be had, mainly due to its infusion of supernatural blood into the standard slasher formula. Tourist Trap: Come for the chills…stay for the sultry mannequins!

Killer Quote: “He always wanted to be like me. You see, I’m his big brother. He always wanted everything I ever had. Including my face.” -Mr. Slauson (Chuck Connors)

Deep Blue Sea (1999):

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 “Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin.”

“Bleeding to death with no arms and short sleeves.”

“Struggling to flow with hemorrhages in your throat,

 Getting the lap dance while I smash through your boat.”

Yes, those are lyrics from LL Cool J’s time capsule of a marketing tool meant to coincide with the release of this late ’90s sharkbuster. Lady Gaga who? (jk ILYSM). A rap track about how Cool J is as badass as a genetically modified shark fits the bill, though, because this movie is just as absurd. Equal parts The Poseidon Adventure and Jaws, the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Thomas Jane fight for their lives to prevent uber-intelligent sharks – engineered as research for an Alzheimer’s cure – from escaping captivity to the open sea. It’s full of gnarly kills, close calls drenched in sweat and salt water, and a shocking early death that rips a page from the Drew Barrymore gag in Scream – see, I Still Know, someone took notes.

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While not very…deep, the movie isn’t half bad and was quite successful upon release. However, 20+ years and two piss-poor straight-to-video sequels later, I don’t see Deep Blue Sea getting nearly as much time in the spotlight as its summer horror peers. It’s an all-around good time and may as well be Jaws when compared to the deluge of incoherent shark movies that release every year. As Sam Jackson once said in that other creature feature, “Hold on to your butts.”

Killer Quote: Honestly, just watch the video for “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)” with subtitles on. LL Cool J cemented himself as the poet laureate of 1999.

That concludes our time around the fire tonight. Hopefully, my shady reads of these discounted gems have inspired you to give them a whirl and make some steamy summer memories yourself. And don’t stop there. Continue down the rabbit hole and discover even more amethysts in the dirt. A few may even supply that, “You’ve never heard of this movie?” clout you can use at the next barbeque. Until next time.

Alex Warrick is a film lover and gaymer living the Los Angeles fantasy by way of an East Coast attitude. Interested in all things curious and silly, he was fearless until a fateful viewing of Poltergeist at a young age changed everything. That encounter nurtured a morbid fascination with all things horror that continues today. When not engrossed in a movie, show or game he can usually be found on a rollercoaster, at a drag show, or texting his friends about smurfs.

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It Came From Shudder: December Edition

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It’s the first Friday of December! You know what that means, it’s time to share a small selection of movies that we’ve watched, or are looking forward to watching on Shudder. Look, we get it, Shudder serves up tons of content and it’s constantly adding new stuff to its catalog. So we’re here to help you with a handful of recommendations.

What to watch on Shudder this Month

A Wounded Fawn
This trailer caught my eye from the start. From what I gather, it’s about a woman who goes on a weekend getaway with a man she’s been seeing who happens to be a serial killer. Starring Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben, this movie looks very suspenseful… and weird? I can’t wait to watch this and get to the bottom of all the weird visuals sprinkled into the trailer.

 

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Christmas Bloody Christmas
Directed by Joe Begos, this movie takes place on Christmas Eve and pits a record store owner against a violent homicidal robot Santa Claus. Yes, I know how that sounds, and yes, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. The trailer looks so colorful, and it immediately transported me to my second most favorite time of the year, Christmas. Robo-Santa Plus looks brutal and over the top, two things I love in my horror. Christmas Bloody Christmas is available to stream on Shudder starting December 9th.

 

Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge
If you’re a fan of horror anthologies like we, then you’re going to love Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge. The highly anticipated sequel to fan favorite Scare Package follows Rad Chad’s funeral, where attendees must survive death traps based on Chad’s favorite movies.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Shudder outdid themselves this time. Bringing us not just A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the entire collection! Do yourself a favor and rewatch these movies immediately, because I can guarantee you it’s been too long since the last time you did. As a bonus make sure to give Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street a watch. Seeing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 actor Mark Patton’s perspective and experience as a gay actor makes for some of the most touching, compelling TV in recent memory.

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Joe Bob’s Goultide Get-Together
Live streaming Friday, December 16th at 9 PM Eastern on Shudder TV. This holiday-themed episode will surely be filled with fun facts, awesome interviews, and a double feature that will have us all tweeting in excitement. As of now, we have no idea which movies will play and that’s half the fun! The other half? Guessing Darcy’s cosplays for the night. If you have never participated in a Joe Bob live stream, make sure you tune in on time and have Twitter ready to engage! It’s a good time. If you happen to miss the live stream, no worries! The episode will be available to stream later on in the weekend.

Next time you’re looking for something to watch on Shudder, make sure to stream these titles!

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There’s News Down in Newville: ‘The Mean One’ (Horror-Parody of ‘The Grinch’) Trailer Has Arrived

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As the release of The Grinch horror parody draws near, The Mean One trailer is finally here!

David Howard Thornton, who has recently skyrocketed in popularity due to his fantastic performance as Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, plays the titular “Mean One.” Given his previous success with making a monster that can be as entertaining as terrifying, he is a perfect match for the role of the antagonist in this Christmas horror comedy.

Directed by Steven Lamorte, the film follows a grown-up Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) who witnessed her mother be murdered by the Christmas-hating green monster years prior. As the trailer shows Cindy arming herself with weapons, Krystle Martin’s character promises to make for a badass female lead.

One marked difference between this film and its source material is that it gives us a monster amongst humans rather than a creature amongst other creatures. Judging by the trailer, that will be far from the only difference offered by the horror parody of the Dr. Seuss Christmas favorite.

He may not stop Christmas from coming, but he will make it his own.

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Check out The Mean One in theaters on December 9th!

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