Adult Summer Camp Horror: A Slasher Genre to Survive

We’re scaring you with the latest Crazy Book Genre: Adult Summer Camp Horror. Grab your flashlight and get ready…. You did bring extra batteries, right?

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Dirty hands grasping trees in a spooky forest. Three book covers are shown.

The adult summer camp horror subgenre blends the nostalgia of summer camp with malevolent forces to form its own macabre corner of the horror genre. Summer camp is supposed to be all about canoes, campfires, roasting s’mores, camp counselors, and having fun. Oh, and machete-wielding maniacs, dead bodies, survival, and supernatural forces too, of course! This genre always promises to start with a happy and normal summer camp setting and quickly become a blood-soaked battleground. What is it about summer camps that make them so perfect — and satisfying — for killing characters en masse? The summer camp setting is the perfect breeding ground for horrific plots. The separation from society and the safety of public places, seldom-visited properties in overgrown woods, deep lakes with bottomless secrets — basically, all the right ingredients for a campfire kumbaya to go completely sideways!

The History of the Adult Summer Camp Horror Subgenre

They’re stories featuring a dark and deadly twist on traditional summer camp experiences!

The origin of the adult summer camp horror subgenre is the only part that isn’t going to make you jump in surprise. It evolved from the gory slasher films from the 1970s, like John Carpenter’s Halloween, and novels with murder sprees from horror writers like Stephen King. By 1980, the slasher genre found its love for summer camp. Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, and The Burning are just a handful of the eerie and violent stories that inspired future adult summer camp horror novels.

What’s to Love About Adult Summer Camp Horror: Tropes, Plots, and Expectations

Hey, guys, I’ve got an idea. Let’s split up.

When reading adult summer camp horror novels, dedicated horror fans expect to tap into suspense, fear, and that sweet feeling of nostalgia. It might start with archery lessons, swimming, hormone-injected teenagers, and roasting s’mores around the campfire. Still, readers know to expect it to change into fear, death, and panicked characters with a low chance of survival. There are so many ways to turn an idyllic summer camp setting into a hellish landscape. The summer camp setting is the perfect breeding ground for tropes and horrific plots.

IMAGE VIA CHERNIN ENTERTAINMENT

Separation from society and the safety of public places, seldom-visited properties in overgrown woods, deep lakes with bottomless secrets, campfire stories with foreshadowing tones, unwise rituals, supernatural presences, unkillable masked-killer on a killing spree — basically, all the right ingredients for a campfire kumbaya to go completely sideways! Like many other horror genres, in summer camp horror stories you can also expect dumb-ass behavior from some of the soon-to-be-victims: “Hello!? Is anyone out there?”

And don’t forget trope rule number one in all slasher horror fiction: if they want to have sex, they die! The final girl trope probably can’t exist without it.

Campfire Worthy Recommendations

Drawing of two ppl around a campfire near a tent with some trees, but the sky is replaced by darkness and a dark figure.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR / ERIN DZIELSKI

In a discussion about this subgenre, most people talk about the films. But you know where you are, and we know what you want. Here are four great recommendations for readers interested in books about adult summer camp horror.

Camp Slasher: A gory dark horror novel by Dan Padavona

It’s open season on camp counselors!

Cover for Camp Slasher by Dan Padavona.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

A group of young former camp counselors band together and try to rebuild Camp Black Bear, an abandoned summer camp located ten miles away from civilization. I mean, nothing works out better than reinstating isolated old campgrounds, right? Ah, but there is a killer in the woods and now most of them are all dead. Two remain, but will they survive the night after their vehicles are destroyed and the radio disabled?

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez

When you search for a local legend, sometimes you find it…

Book cover for Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez. Shows a bunkhouse.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Not a lot goes wrong when college buddies get together and rent a cabin in the woods — usually. Not unless they are there to look for proof of a local urban myth. No one is sure if Camp Slaughter was a real place or not, but the rumors about it are super creepy! This particular group of friends wants to uncover the truth — and have a little fun along the way — when they rent a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania. The problem is they are successful, and they find the remains of the mysterious Camp Slaughter close by. Unfortunately, they also encounter the hungry cannibal who still lives in the area!

The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved by Joey Comeau

Bible Camp is about to get unbelievably unholy!

Book cover for The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved by Joey Comeau. Cover is on a white background with blood splatters.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Eleven-year-old Martin thinks Bible Camp for the summer is going to be so much fun. There’s going to be archery, swimming, s’mores, new friends — and a gruesome string of murders. The suspense and violence in this book give off total summer camp slasher movie vibes with a twist. Trust us, although this story centers around a young boy, this one is intended for adult readers.

Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks by Christoph Paul

This is NOT your typical summer camp slasher story!

Book cover for Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks by Christop Paul. Cover shows the woods with an orange sky.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

What happens when the son of a great slasher struggles to overcome his Slasher Anxiety and follow in his mother’s footsteps? Well, he gets sent to a special summer camp for young slashers, that’s what. There Jason Voorheesberg is quickly dubbed the worst slasher at camp and bullied by the counselors, Jock Slashers, and the rich, snooty rival camp across the lake alike. He’ll still manage to make a slasher friend, though — and even start a forbidden relationship with a Final Girl! But does love and homicide at Slasher Camp help Jason overcome his Slasher Anxiety?

Beyond the Last Bonfire

graphic art for a campfire and some blood splatters on a purple background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR/ERIN DZIELSKI

Styled after the 80’s slasher films, the adult summer camp horror subgenre has a special way of transforming the safe and familiar into something much darker where no one can hear you scream (well, no one you WANT to hear you…) and help is NOT on the way. Some summer camp experiences come with more than trust falls and friendship bracelets, so I advise you not wander into the woods alone — and if you do, take a book with you to be safe!


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FEATURED IMAGE BY BOOKSTR / ERIN DZIELSKI