Top 10 Summer Thrillers To Give You The Chills
Looking for a great way to beat the heat? Summer has always been a time for everything to run high: temperature, hormones, blood pressure and nerves. And a summer thriller is the perfect way to make them all go bust. This is the season that has seen some of the best horror and thriller classics to come out, like ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and THE SIXTH SENSE. And those titles are in great company with the following list.
10. DELIVERANCE (1972)
While the presence of anal sex in a movie is no longer as gut wrenching as it may have been in 1972, DELIVERANCE remains one of the most shocking, haunting and uncomfortable films ever to have been made. Could it be the Dueling Banjos, or the generally weird Jon Voight that is the straw that breaks the camel’s back? There are so many strange little interludes in this film that add to the general unease of it all, it’s really hard to tell.
9. SUMMER OF SAM (1999)
Spike Lee’s often-overlooked homage to that golden era of the 70s in New York City zeroes in on a particular summer, the heat wave of ’77 to be exact, and a particular location, the Bronx, while Son of Sam was killing brunettes left and right all over the city. Many consider the 70s to have been the headiest of times in New York, and this movie captures it all perfectly. One of Adrien Brody’s best performances, not to mention a spot-on John Leguizamo.
8. UNCERTAINTY (2009)
This is SLIDING DOORS on speed. The always-worth-watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the pretty Lynn Collins flip a coin on July 4th on the Brooklyn Bridge to decide which way to go. From there, the narrative splits in two, taking them on a journey through family dynamics in Brooklyn, or a supercharged thrill ride involving guns, crime and lots of money in Manhattan.
7. CABIN FEVER (2002)
While everyone was losing their chips over last year’s CABIN IN THE WOODS, this nasty little Eli Roth critter from 2002 was a summer chiller with teeth…teeth bared due to a pesky flesh-eating virus that chews off the lips of certain characters. Ew. No surprise that this is the man who later brought us the HOSTELs.
6. BROKEDOWN PALACE (1999)
In the tradition of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and the also exceptional RETURN TO PARADISE, this is a film that tourism boards across Southeast Asia don’t appreciate that much. While traveling through Thailand, two young girls (the always remarkable Claire Danes…and Kate Beckinsale) are (framed and) arrested for smuggling drugs, and slapped with an unthinkable punishment. This Locked Up Abroad the movie version, but don’t expect an entirely neat Hollywood ending. One pivotal scene between the two actresses on the phone brings into stark relief just how much Danes knows about acting…and how little Beckinsale does in comparison. BROKEDOWN also features one of the all-time best film soundtracks, including early Nelly Furtado and Tricky.
5. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
One of the best retro-genre jobs of the last 20 years, Curtis Hanson’s noir masterpiece was playing at the same time as another more watery chiller was in theaters, namely TITANIC. In addition to clinching Oscars for the script and Veronica Lake lookalike prossy Kim Basinger, CONFIDENTIAL packed a whole bunch of zinging plot twists and thrills, exposing the corruption and greed of the LAPD in the golden age of 1950s Hollywood.
4. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)
Buried underneath countless sequels, crossovers and reboots, lurking behind sugarcoated pop-culture references and the softening up that only decades of new trends and fashion can bring, there is the original first film in this undead series. This is the one with Kevin Bacon getting a pretty awful goodnight message. This is also the one that took the horny sinful teenager trope updated in HALLOWEEN and multiplied said teenagers exponentially, in a summer camp, to boot. And while the modern day Jason is pretty oafish and boring, deformed little boys who don’t show their faces are just plain scary. I am embarrassed to admit I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the last shot.
3. THE BEACH (2000)
Another doing-drugs-in-Asia-equals-bad-news vehicle, the trippy and foreboding THE BEACH was an early success for Danny Boyle, director of 28 DAYS LATER…, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and 127 HOURS. The sense of danger brought about by Boyle’s direction helps things along at a nice clip, as Leo and his French friends set out to find paradise, up to the moment when the shit hits the fan in a big way. Perhaps most chilling, this film features one of the most unlikely couplings in all of cinema: Leo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton.
2. FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
Regardless of season, no thriller list would be complete without this classic. Glenn Close’s berserk performance is pitch perfect, and Michael Douglas got the balancing act just right here as the married businessman with a dark side (something he’s been trying to recreate for the best part of his career ever since). The rabbit isn’t even the most chilling part…Alex turning the light on and off, on and off…that one may be even creepier. I’ll go ahead and say it: Adrian Lyne’s film is as tight as some of the better Hitchcock.
1. JAWS (1975)
A no brainer perhaps? I’d actually love to see a deathmatch between Alex Forrest (Glenn Close from previous entry) and the shark. Shark would win, but it would probably be a pretty close match. On a more serious note, summer thrillers rarely get more summery or thrilling than JAWS, from the golden era of movies (the 70s) when positively horrific elements blended perfectly with authentic, searing drama (this film, THE EXORCIST, and many more…).