What I'm Watching: Dead of Summer
I lucked out with this one. Dead of Summer is a new tv series on Freeform, the former ABC Family network. And it just so happens to be about happy fun times at a summer camp...UNTIL IT ALL GOES HORRIBLY WRONG.
Any other year, this comes out, and I *might* have given it a pass, or missed it entirely. But since I am in the midst of the Summer of Slashers with my main reviews, I decided to give this a closer look, since it fit the theme. In all honesty, I probably still would've checked it out, because it's horror, but it got extra points for extremely great timing.
The setup is classic, as we follow a group of counselors gathering as Camp Stillwater is reopening after many years of being closed following a tragedy. *cough* Still water...which would be...CRYSTAL clear... Yeah, there's a lot of cleverness like that, especially my absolute favourite name, Deb Carpenter, a great mashup of the two masterminds behind the original Halloween movie.
It is very wisely set in the 80s, to get around our modern technology woes that plague modern horror stories, also, if you're gonna do a series that's a love letter to 80s camp horror slashers, why not go all out and set it in the 80s?
Now, I don't think they QUITE get the feeling right. One of the characters has a video camera he carries around, and the design of it seems a bit more late 90s to me. But then again, a character in an upcoming review, filmed in 1988ish, carries a camera around, so it's not THAT far off. It just seems a bit too sleek for the time period they want. They're trying for late 80s, but just slightly miss that mark. But I'll let the camera go, since if you're going to have him carrying something around all summer/series long...do you really wanna bulk him down with an ACTUAL camera from the right time period?
The series comes from several of the people behind Lost and Once Upon a Time, so you can probably guess what this show has...FLASHBACKS!! And you probably know the style of show you're getting into. If you ever liked Lost or Once, you'll probably enjoy this, because it uses a lot of the same tricks, and they always do twists nicely. In fact, I'm a little bummed that there's not more twists. But it is early days yet, so we're still settling into the first two episodes. (The third is out as of this writing, but I haven't gotten to it yet.)
The best way to sum up this series would be that it's got Lost style with Pretty Little Liars type sensibilities. It's got that "Everyone has a dark secret" quality to it, with the teen relationship drama, but not quite as soapy. Which isn't a bad thing, that sort of stuff can keep a longer plot bubbling along.
The acting is great across the board, with many familiar faces from those two shows already, and likely more to come. Also, any show giving work to Tony Todd is aces in my book. Tony is playing a mysterious figure from 150ish years ago, known only as the Tall Man (In a great nod to Phantasm) who is still lurking around the camp and driving events.
Just what's going on at Camp Stillwater is an intriguing mystery, and they've given a lot of hints already, and I am very pleased that it looks supernatural. Supernatural slashers are always more interesting to me, plus it gives them a lot of backstory they can flashback to and still be relevant. They could always roll back on it and give some mundane trickery sort of explanation, but I hope they don't.
It's tough to judge the show entirely, since a lot will hinge on whether or not they provide good answers to a lot of the mysteries they've laid out. But it seems like they have a plan, and I have some faith in them, even if Lost might have stumbled a few times in the final season. I'll still defend a lot of the answers we DID get...but I digress, this is not a Lost review.
I'm definitely on board for the rest of the season, and am intrigued to see where things go. So far, they are selling me on the mystery and horror, and there has been some great deaths and blood already. If you're a fan of the era, and if you're reading these words, odds are that you are, so it is at least worth a look. It's not quite great, but I see potential, and promise from the people involved with their past projects, but for now it is still fun to see the 80s camp slasher genre coming alive as an ongoing series, and it's definitely enjoyable just on that level.