M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on March 18, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from Lionsgate Home Entertainment! Also streaming on Tubi!
SUMMER CAMP (2015)
Directed by Alberto Marini
Written by Alberto Marini, Danielle Schleif
Starring Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue, Maiara Walsh, Andrés Velencoso, Àlex Monner, Xavier Capdet, Rick Zingale
While the premise of having a group of camp counselors encountering a virus in the middle of the woods is something we have seen plenty of (specifically in the CABIN FEVER series and remake), the addition of a smart script and fantastic actors make SUMMER CAMP one of the most entertaining films of this kind I’ve seen in ages.
The film is set in Mexico, as a quartet of counselors are setting up a summer camp for underprivileged youth and learning to work with one another in the process. The small group of counselors are comprised of douchey opportunist Antonio (Andrés Velencoso), bespectacled good guy Will (SCREAM QUEENS’ Diego Boneta), spunky outdoorsy gal Michelle (THE VAMPIRE DIARIES’ Maiara Walsh), and princess out of her element Christy (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL’s Jocelin Donahue) who are stuck together on this trip and forced to learn to trust one another so that they can take care of the ornery kids. Activities are planned and the grounds are explored, but what the group didn’t account for were the locals who seem to want them to leave immediately and an outbreak that turns people into mindless cannibal monsters. The catch is that this transformation only lasts for short periods of time, so while one of the counselors is infected and chasing two others, at any minute, the infected could return to normal and one of those running from the monsters could become one him or herself.
This is a film about trusting others and it’s a clever one at that. SUMMER CAMP opens with the counselors playing a trust game in order to build teamwork. One person is blindfolded and the other is supposed to guide the person through the woods with audible cues. This is supposed to build a good working environment where one has to rely on teammates in order to achieve a goal. When people start getting infected, once again, a game of trust is played, it’s just that this time, the stakes are much, much higher. It’s this type of cleverness that sprouts up all through SUMMER CAMP, making the familiar unfamiliar and fun as these counselors rotate in who is the pursued and the pursuer as the virus is passed between them. It’s this game of tag that had me engrossed in this unconventional way of making the old “virus infected person on the loose” story feel fresh and new.
The cast here are absolutely lovable as all of them have a myriad of flaws and attributes. Standing out is Jocelin Donahue who once again offers up a great genre performance as Christy, who could be your typical vain bitch role, but the way she plays this role and the way she functions in the narrative is really strong. Maiara Walsh is also awesome as the more compassionate of the gals, and again, this role matters greatly in the way things work out. Using the behaviors shown in the beginning of the film during the trust games, the film smartly revisits later when the stakes are higher. This is a level of storytelling sophistication you don’t normally see enough of in horror and one I appreciated immensely.
I also loved the dark comedy at play throughout this film. In one scene, two un-infecteds are hiding in two different places. When one of their cell phones ring, it is thrown away in order not to alert their infected pursuer only to land inches away from the other hiding uninfected. This play on space and comedic timing are excellent here and makes for one of the more rambunctious and results in an unpredictable rollercoaster of a movie.
Just when you thought it was predictable to see a summer camp horror film, SUMMER CAMP comes along with tons of laughs, shocks, twists, and gore. It’s a film like many you’ve seen before but done in a way you haven’t. Highly recommended.
THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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