Summer is here, the sun is out, and the weather is warming up. Time to pack your cooler, grab a blanket and floatie, and make sure there’s a sun umbrella in the trunk. There’s no better way to spend a hot summer Saturday then on the beach. If you’re old enough you might remember watching Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello singing and dancing up on drive-in screens. But if you’re a horror movie fan, you’re likely a little reluctant to hit the surf. In horror movies, somewhere just below the clear blue water or warm sand, something usually lurks waiting for a hapless victim. Though not as notoriously dangerous as camping trips, horror movie trips to the beach rarely end well. From Jaws to The Lost Boys, we celebrate the best and obscure of beach horror movies.
Remember, it’s only an island if you look at it from the water. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws isn’t just a great ‘killer shark’ movie or horror movie – it’s just a great movie, period. In addition to spurring a series of ‘nature strikes back’ knock-off’s, Jaws changed how we watch movies. Arguably, Spielberg created the ‘summer blockbuster’. From the opening beach attack to its stunning climax, Jaws is filled with memorably terrifying moments. When the titular Great White Shark isn’t on the screen, Spielberg finds clever ways to maintain the sense of threat. The shark’s first appearance is a classic movie moment. And while some may disagree, I would argue that the movie’s shark effects remain the standard for killer shark movies.
Zombi 2 (1979)
Who hasn’t wished for their own Caribbean island retreat? From Italian gore-master Lucio Fulci, Zombi 2 outdoes the Fyre Festival for worst island retreat. Maybe it’s a sequel to the European-edited version of George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But like many Italian horror movies, Zombi 2’s story is largely incomprehensible. There’s something about a scientist’s daughter search for him on an island where zombies have been resurrected. Not that it matters. Everything takes a backseat to Fulci’s insane levels of gore, which earned it a spot on the ‘Video Nasty‘ list. In addition to Zombi 2’s notorious eye-gouging scene, you’ll witness a zombie fighting a shark underwater.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Humanoids from the Deep is many different things, and it’s also nothing. Even amongst eco-horror movies, it’s pretty silly stuff. There’s sea monsters invading a small coastal town and abducting its women. Try repeating that with a straight face. Let’s face it, the mix of goofy rubber monster suits and deadly serious approach to the material don’t mesh well. Long stretches of dull dialogue offset the handful of decent gore effects sparsely spread over the movie’s runtime. You should be laughing along with Humanoids from the Deep, but you’re more likely to be bored. This is a movie suffering from an identity crisis – a B-movie with aspirations of offering serious narrative. And the exploitative nudity and misogynistic sexual violence pretty much ensures it won’t find new audiences.
Blood Beach (1980)
If you grew up in the 1980s, you’re recognize Blood Beach even if you never actually saw it. It was one of these distinctive VHS cassettes that was always just out of reach on the top shelf of your local video store. Like Humanoids from the Deep, it’s a straight-up low-budget monster movie that forgets to bring the camp. That is, Blood Beach plods along while delivering straight-faced schlock while its better-than-expected cast do what they can with the DOA material. Beneath the sandy beaches there’s a subterranean monster pulling sunbathers into sinkholes. Too bad Blood Beach is never is good as its VHS cover art.
The Mutilator (1981)
Just as the slasher subgenre was running out of steam, The Mutilator limped into a handful of theaters after extensive edits. Just about ever slasher trope is presented and accounted for here. Horny teens take a trip to a beachfront condo owned by a friend’s father for a weekend of sex and booze. Unbeknownst to the young revelers, a family tragedy unfolded in the same home years ago. What follows is exactly what you’d expect with no deviation from the formula. Expect an ultra low-budget and laughably poor acting. But there gore effects are actually pretty decent saving this one from being a total waste. And wait for one of the most ridiculous ‘the killer isn’t dead yet’ moments in slasher history.
The Lost Boys (1987)
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires.” From director Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys perfectly blends action, comedy, horror, and 80’s campiness in what remains one of the best vampire movies. Its story of two brothers transplanted to a beach town where a pack of teen vampires stalks the boardwalks was more than a box office hit. Today, The Lost Boys is a cultural milestone of the 1980s. Whether it’s teen idols ‘The Two Corey’s’ or the soundtrack , The Lost Boys holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who came of age in that decade. And no matter how cool you are, you’ll never be as cool as ‘Sax Man’.
Nightmare Beach (1989)
In a Florida ‘Spring Break’ party town, a mysterious biker – possibly the vengeful ghost of biker gang member executed a year ago – has arrived and he’s executing the party guests. Nightmare Beach, a little seen slasher movie, is not a good movie. No, it’s not a hidden gem like some the sub-genres early efforts like The Prowler, Just Before Dawn, or My Bloody Valentine. And it lacks the truly outrageous qualities of later entries Intruder, Slaughter High and yes, even Cheerleader Massacre. Nevertheless, Umberto Lenzi had a knack for tasteless cinema, and it shows here. There’s just enough of the ridiculous mixed in with the horror and sex to pass as (un)intentionally hilarious. Don’t go out of your way to find it, but Nightmare Beach probably passes as late-night viewing for the right horror fans.
The Shallows (2016)
By the time The Shallows was released, the campy Sharknado series was already on its fourth entry. Horror fans were probably hungry for a serious, scary shark movie. And The Shallows delivered. The movie has a simple premise – a shark attacks surfer Blake Lively, leaving her stranded on a rock that will disappear when the tide rises. That’s it. Yet director Jaume Collett-Serra wrings maximum tension out of the simple concept. Over the course of the movie’s tight 1 hour and 26 minute runtime, Collett-Serra finds several hand-wringing ways to put Lively in danger. In the tradition of Jaws, The Shallows’ climax veers to the preposterous. But if you’ve made it that far through the move, you’re not likely to mind. In addition, Lively shines with the spotlight firmly on her for the entirety of the movie.
The Beach House (2019)
Young couple Randall and Emily, looking to repair a strained relationship, head to Randall’s remote family beach house. However, an uninvited couple, a strange mist, and fluorescent bacteria along the beach set the relaxing weekend off course. Another illustration of hte recent resurgence of Lovecraftian horror, The Beach House is a slow-burn chiller that channels the same cosmic horror aesthetics of Richard Stanley’s Color Out Of Space. Not everyone will appreciate The Beach House. Whether it’s the early slow pacing or ambiguous storytelling, Jeffrey A Brown’s directorial debut feels most appropriate for a streaming platform like Shudder. Still there’s plenty to like here, particularly Brown’s ability to get so much out of so little.