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Film Reviews

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Introduction

Vacations are the stuff of nightmares. Behind their veneer of relaxation are a myriad of things that can go wrong. Even the most mundane inconveniences are amplified when you’re on holiday: missing the bus, running out of money, getting lost, feeling sick, even bad weather is worse abroad than at home. You’re farther away from your normal support system, but even more than that, you’re ‘supposed’ to be having a good time, and the spoiling of a vacation can seem a terrible tragedy.

Fortunately, horrible experiences make for wonderful stories.

The Burning (1981)

Any pleasant trip can be a horrific event: a car breaks down in the middle of an abandoned road; sightseers become trapped in a strange culture’s exotically evil ritual; a family reunion reveals sinister secrets; and of course, infamous summer evenings spent by the bloody shores of Crystal Lake or Camp Arawak.  In many ways, these films hold as much nostalgic value as my actual summer vacations.  It could even be argued that much like summer camp, horror movies are a modern day rite of passage, a way of showing that you’re not a little kid who’s unafraid. In honor of summer vacations past, I’m reviewing horror films that take place during vacations.

House (1986)

In assembling this list, I tried to avoid any of the famous film franchises. Instead, I want to focus on the little-known, the forgotten sequels, and the ill-marketed remakes. This doesn’t mean that I’m intentionally trying to find bad, or so-bad-it’s-good, movies; I’m genuinely looking for good films, but I accept that whenever you go traipsing in horror-country, you’re bound to watch films that are less than amazing.  I also don’t have much in the way for criteria aside from the movies being horror flicks where the protagonists are on holiday. I want to review as many sub-genres as I can: slasher, ghost story, gothic horror, monster movie, zombie, maybe even dip into less savory categories such as cannibal or rape/revenge movies. I’ve also decided, perhaps foolishly, to forgo any premade lists of movies, though I will try to get at least one review a week until Labor Day.

Just Before Dawn (1981)

With our still less-than-stellar economy, I know most people can’t afford to go on a true vacation, so hopefully this will provide a certain Schadenfreude towards those who can.  But for those who can afford to go on vacation, this series will help you put any vacation mishaps into perspective. After all, what’s losing your luggage when you could lose your life?

By Marshall Oliver Estes  7/12/2011

Follow up with:
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: House (1977)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Just Before Dawn (1981)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: The Burning (1981)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Cthulhu (2007)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Mystics in Bali (1981)


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