I had no idea what to make of Dead of Summer. It was another of a long list of horror TV shows that have come on the scene recently and it seemed, at least from the description, to be a play on 80s summer camp horror films, which I love, so what the heck, give it a shot.
But to be honest, that’s really not what it turned out to be at all, which was kind of a disappointment. Let’s see what went on at Camp Stillwater.
When a summer camp reopens after a tragedy, the camp counselors, former camp kids, try to move past the camp’s dark history. But evil resides at the lake and when people start to die, can the counselors figure out what’s going on while anyone is left breathing?
There’s something about the 80s summer camp horror movie that just works. It’s in the day where they have no cell phones, where people getting lost in the woods actually makes sense and the National Guard isn’t going to be camped out at your front door the first time someone gets offed. This kind of plot simply doesn’t work in the modern day when everyone has GPS on their phones and can contact anyone on the planet in a hot second. However, because they didn’t decide to go with a Freddy or a Jason style killer, but instead went with an unearthly monster that was convincing human killers to do its bidding, I think it lost something in the translation. Yes, the 80s references worked, for the most part, just like they did in Stranger Things, but I never really felt any connection to the cast and thus, when they started to drop dead, I really didn’t care. The secret to doing a series, or a movie, like this is to have some of the characters actually be likeable and in Dead of Summer, they really weren’t. They weren’t just flawed, they all had something deeply unlikeable about them. 80s horror had the really stupid people who you wanted to die, and at least one or two that you really pulled for. I got none of that here.
And because this is aimed at Freeform’s teen audience, they had to stick things into the series that simply would never have played in the late 80s, the era that the series is set in. Like it or not, openly gay characters and openly transsexual characters simply would never have worked in an 80s horror film. They were added solely for a modern teeny-bopper audience.
Unfortunately, the farther it went, the less interested I was in it. Had they stayed with the weird cult killing people in the woods, I might have found it passable, but they were just a distraction, the real baddie was a lake monster that could possess people and how the hell do you fight that? Without any real expectations that the teens can win, what’s the point in watching them die?\
I just can’t recommend this one, sorry. If they do go with a second season, I can’t imagine how they’d do it because the whole premise was burned through this year. The summer camp is up for sale. The cast is dead. Only a couple of counselors remain and none of them are interesting at all. It’s over. Done. Kaput. Let’s just leave it that way, okay?