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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

The Scariest Lake Horror Films

Some families go on vacation to the seaside in the summer, other families prefer the calm, cool, peace of a quiet, serene lake. Similar to horror films set at the beach, lake horror is a prolific sub-genre. Bringing audiences along on a quaint trip destined for disaster lends itself well to tension. 


While all of these films intersect with other sub-genres in horror; from creature features and slasher films, to supernatural thrillers, they all are truly terrifying in their own special ways. 


Here are some of the best lake horror films.

A woman floats in a lake

X (2022) So much about X feels like a classic 70s slasher film retold through modern filmmaking. The film stars Mia Goth and Jenna Ortega and was directed by Ti West. We follow a group of actors who rent a barn in rural Texas in order to make an adult film. We can feel the unease that lives on this property, the body of water nearby and the strange hosts that reside here. 


A woman stands on a dock

The Night House (2021) Starring Rebecca Hall, The Night House is a gripping story of a woman grieving the death of her husband, all while she uncovers mysteries about his life she had never known. It’s a juicy combination that unlocks heightened suspense for the viewer. While I am fascinated by the supernatural world of the film, Hall’s performance steals the show in the best way.


Two women stand near the lake's edge

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) A classic ghost story in many ways, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is often thought to be inspired by the plot of the classic Vampire novella Carmilla. The highlights of this film include dreamy cinematography, a stunning Vicotrian mansion and dizzying characters. Director John Hancock successfully translates the protagonist's loss of grip on reality to audiences. 


A scary night shot of a lake

Lake Mungo (2008) Lake Mungo very successfully combines supernatural horror with familial grief, a combination that can be very hard to pull off. Directed by Joel Anderson, Lake Mungo is an Australian thriller. I some ways it’s exploration of mourning can be compared to The Night House (2021).


A woman is attacked by a fish

Piranha (1978) A film that squarely takes place on a river, but with such similarities to a lake setting it still belongs on this list. Piranha is a 70s horror classic, starring Heather Menzies. Directed by Joe Dante, Piranha is set along a river infested with genetically modified fish. It’s a campy summer classic, perfect for watching after you’ve already gotten out of the water for the day.  


A woman lays in a canoe on a lake

Friday the 13th (1980) A film that kicked off one of the most famous slasher franchises of all time, Friday the 13th combines summer camp and lake horror. A group of teenagers, including Kevin Bacon, head into the woods to open up an abandoned summer camp. 


A monster stands next to a man

Lake Placid (1999) A film that made a big splash in the late 90s, Lake Placid could be called the Jaws of lake horror. Starring Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman and Betty White, Lake Placid is a lake stalked by an unknown creature. 


A woman stands on a dock, looking towards a lake

What Lies Beneath (2000) Starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfieffer, What Lies Beneath is a horrifying psychological thriller set within a picturesque lake home. Similar to Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, this film asks audiences to place our bets, is Pfieffer’s character losing it, or is there truly something sinister and supernatural happening here. 


For more horror and history, listen to the Lunatics Radio Hour podcast, anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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