July is always a fun month here in the United States. Everything is done up in patriotic colors, we let off fireworks, stuff our faces around the barbecue all month long, and of course, most important of all, we get to celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of the month.
With these excellent points of cultural interest aside, we also have a slew of patriotically themed, terrifying #horrormovies to coincide with the spirit of the holiday and the midsummer vibes that can only be associated with the month of the red, the white, and the blue. Here is a very vibrant list of some of the better offerings of this sub-genre, and we encourage you to give each one of them a watch! So let’s take a gander, shall we?!
1. Jaws (1975) And Jaws 2 (1978)
Of course #Jaws is going to top this list. Steven Spielberg's galeophobia classic is one of the quintessential Fourth of July horror films. And yes, we understand that many consider this thriller to be more of a suspense/adventure film, but we can’t help but categorize it as the moody and atmospheric summer horror blockbuster we know it to be. If you haven’t seen this film yet — I mean, really? Where's that rock you've been living under?
There’s no doubt that the Jaws franchise goes downhill fast with the third and fourth films. However, Jaws 2 is almost as good as the original, albeit not anywhere near as iconic. With excellent cinematography and the majority of the original cast returning, Jaws 2 plays more as a slasher film on the water than a man vs. monster movie like the first film was. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, this follow-up is sure to delight you this #4thofJuly long weekend.
2. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) And I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
This stylish 1997 Scream knockoff turns 20 this year. How time flies, huh? So what better way to celebrate the Fourth than to kick back with this sleek slasher flick and enjoy one of the last decent horror films to emerge from the '90s? With a story set around the festive weekend and playing off all the familiar elements — parades, fireworks, etc. — I Know What You Did Last Summer is one of the only true Fourth of July horror films out there.
Unfortunately, the sequel is a very poor imitation. We aren’t saying the original was all that in the first place, but it seems so when you compare it to this wacky sequel. And yet, the spirit of the film feels like its predecessor and it still revolves around the Independence Day weekend, so we can’t fault it in that regard. At its heart it is entertaining, yet only entertaining enough to watch just once, so we think it deserves to be listed here.
3. Uncle Sam (1996)
This is one of those #slashers that emerged from '90s obscurity, at first with little support from the horror community, only to be embraced by a fervent cult following long after its release. And it’s easy to see why — the film is awesome. Fourth of July weekend, barbecues, parades, crooked politicians, a zombie dressed as Uncle Sam knocking off the evils of his hometown — what more could you want? This is the perfect film to watch midday on the Fourth or last thing at night when the festivities wind down.
4. Cape Fear (1991)
This '91 remake by Martin Scorsese is a quintessential Fourth of July film, and yes, we are in fact aware that it isn’t strictly a horror effort, with elements of drama and suspense trickling through this psychological thriller. The story is set around the holiday and we’re treated to creepy scenes of Robert De Niro's stalker enjoying the fireworks, plus an epic finale. If you’ve never seen the film, we couldn’t make it clearer that the Fourth is the perfect time to become acquainted with it. And did we mention how awesomely creepy the brilliant De Niro is?
5. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) And 2001 Maniacs (2005)
Although technically not a film that takes place during this particular holiday, Two Thousand Maniacs! nonetheless feels like it belongs in the category, with the splatter-fest capturing the frenetic tone of other films on our list. It follows a group of tourists from the US North who are savagely tortured and murdered during a small Southern community's centennial celebration of the Confederacy. Although we prefer the comedy-horror remake 2001 Maniacs, the original makes the cut, pun intended, on so many levels.
With a plot and flow a little more polished than the original — and starring Robert Englund, a.k.a #FreddyKrueger — 2001 Maniacs is a welcome and highly recommended reimagining.
6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Based on the novel of the same name, this movie was surprisingly good, with a terrific portrayal of President Abe along with a cast of characters that was genuinely superb. It plays more as a straight-up period piece, only with #vampires added to the mix. What could possibly be more patriotic than Lincoln protecting the country from bloodsuckers? Nothing. The answer is nothing. We adore this epic dark-fantasy horror, not just for the Independence Day weekend, but for any occasion.
7. The Purge (2013), The Purge: Anarchy (2014) And The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The Purge franchise is surprisingly good and captures the feel and the chaos of the all-American weekend holiday: explosions, gunpowder, aggression and blaring music. Of course, most of us don’t spend our Fourth of July purging — most of us. With a plot based on an overflowing amalgamation of crooked politicians and big, bad government, this shameless series is one of the more fun entries on this list. The first film, considered by many to be the strongest entry in the series, is the bloody beginnings to one of the most unique horror series of modern times, for better or for worse.
But we think the second film, Purge: Anarchy, is the best and most fun of the series so far. It gives us a street-level view of #ThePurge, leaving the confines of the suburban household that was the setting of the original. Par excellence.
The third film, Election Year, is considered the weakest of the series. While its political-fueled plot is still compelling, the execution feels lackluster. Still, it's overall an exciting watch. See it once and move on.
Do you agree with our list? Is there anything we may have missed? Let us know in the comment below. Have a fun and safe Fourth of July weekend, folks. We’re only a couple of weeks away — stay spooky!