Horror movies just keep coming as Hollywood serves up summer of scares

Movie studios have learned that releasing movies like MaXXXine and Longlegs at the height of summer brings money rolling in.

The summer of 2024 sees the release of horror movies including Longlegs, MaXXXine, and In A Violent Nature. (Neon/Universal/Altitude)
The summer of 2024 sees the release of horror movies including Longlegs, Maxxxine, and In A Violent Nature. (Neon/Universal/Altitude)

Naturally, you'd assume that horror movies will show up in cinemas around Halloween. That's the perfect time to be terrified in a dark room, right? Well actually, in recent years, Hollywood has done great business by unveiling its scariest films over the summer months — from 'Boo!' to blockbuster.

The summer of 2024, in particular, is absolutely stacked with spooky movies. This weekend sees the closing chapter of the X trilogy with the Mia Goth-starring Maxxxine, while UK cinemagoers will be able to choose between the captivating chills of Longlegs and the grubby slasher vibe of In a Violent Nature next week.

It's clear that there's something in the water — and that's the name of another horror movie you can currently see in cinemas — when it comes to summer spookiness. Apparently, there's an intrinsic link between holidays and hellscapes. But does this strategy actually work?

The Conjuring is one of the most successful summer horror movies ever. (Warner Bros. Pictures/Alamy)
The Conjuring is one of the most successful summer horror movies ever. (Warner Bros. Pictures/Alamy)

Studios have always known the value of horror movies during the sunnier months. Jaws, which is arguably the first ever summer blockbuster, is effectively a horror film. Many of the big slasher franchises, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, also used an August slot in order to take advantage of teenage audiences with time and money on their hands.

The Blair Witch Project proved to be a real winner in 1999, transcending its tiny budget to go toe-to-toe with the big films of that summer for a monstrous $248.6m (£194.5m) global total. Its main competition that summer? Deep Blue Sea and The Sixth Sense. In other words, horror movies from wall to wall.

Read more: Demand for New Horror Movies Isn’t Highest in October (The Wrap)

The idea of summer horror in the modern era, though, began in earnest with the summer of 2013. James Wan's The Conjuring was originally set for a more conventional release slot, but strong test screenings convinced Warner Bros. that this could be a winner during the peak months of the multiplex calendar. They were right.

Summer audiences want crowd-pleasing stuff, and nothing's more crowd-pleasing than a ghost train ride. The Conjuring made $320m (£251m) worldwide and sparked a multi-stranded horror franchise. Not bad for a bit of a risky release calendar punt. Since then, studios have often decided to unveil horror gems over the summer. Why go outside when you can hide in the dark being terrified?

Dakota Fanning and Olwen Fouéré in The Watchers (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Dakota Fanning and Olwen Fouéré in The Watchers (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The horror gods have already bestowed us with riches, and there's plenty yet to come. Back in May, things got off to a bit of a wobbly start with home invasion slasher The Strangers: Chapter 1 and the truly risible Tarot. Even the surface-level fun of giant alien spider horror Sting failed to get the pulse racing.

Read more: The best shark movies to watch after you've seen Netflix's Under Paris (Yahoo Entertainment)

By June, there was The Watchers, in which Dakota Fanning played a woman trapped in a mysterious woodland location to be observed by enormous, violent creatures. There was also The Exorcism, in which Russell Crowe again found himself tangling with demons. Under Paris, meanwhile, took the shark movie formula and dunked it into the catacombs beneath the French capital.

The best, though, was yet to come. Under Paris is dwarfed in the shark movie stakes by the impressive oceanic thriller Something in the Water. The movie, which is still in UK cinemas, follows a group of British friends who find themselves stranded at sea without a boat following a shark attack. It's intense and character-driven in the best possible way.

Something in the Water is a more thoughtful take on the shark movie genre. (StudioCanal/Alamy)
Something in the Water is a more thoughtful take on the shark movie genre. (StudioCanal/Alamy)

Audiences can also delve into one of the most successful horror franchises of the 21st century with new prequel A Quiet Place: Day One. Much like Something in the Water, it's a surprising and welcome case of character-driven horror, with Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn delivering layered and nuanced performances in amongst the wordless set pieces and alien carnage.

Read more: Lupita Nyong’o felt the 'pressure on' after she won an Oscar (BANG Showbiz)

This week, then, it's the turn of Maxxxine. A sequel to 2022 horror X and its fast-tracked prequel movie Pearl, it follows Mia Goth as Maxine Minx — attempting to shift her career from pornography to horror cinema in 1980s LA. It interweaves Ti West's fame satire and lurid directorial style with the true crime tale of the Night Stalker. Everything suggests that it's the perfect culmination of a surprisingly successful trilogy of wildly different slashers.

Watch: Trailer for Maxxxine

Then comes the double bill in cinemas on 12 July. In a Violent Nature is a low-budget indie slasher about a resurrected mute killer, slaughtering teenagers in the Canadian wilderness. Much like Maniac or the opening sequence of Halloween, it depicts a lot of the events from the killer's perspective. That always gives everything an extra blast of fear.

Read more: Why You Won’t See Nicolas Cage as a Serial Killer in Any ‘Longlegs’ Trailers (IndieWire)

But the real main event is Longlegs. Maika Monroe is the FBI agent on the trace of a serial killer, played by Nicolas Cage. The A-listers face has been obscured in all of the trailers, so they're clearly confident that his performance is worth waiting for. The tone of the trailers is pure Se7en and Zodiac, which is more than enough to sell the thing to me.

We'll be first in line when it hits cinemas. The summer of horror might have finally found its biggest highlight.

Maxxxine is out in cinemas now, Longlegs and In A Violent Nature will be released on Friday, 12 July.