TV Review: DEAD OF SUMMER – Episode 1: “Patience”

DOSposterI’m going to put this out there right away: Ever since I was a kid CANDYMAN has always scared the shit out of me. Whenever it comes on, I can not watch it alone. The Philip Glass score gives me the creeps and instantly showers my body with anxiety. One scene in particular is when Virginia Madsen’s character, Helen, is reviewing her photos she took while in Cabrini Green. Upon a closer look, she finds a man standing behind her in a mirror reflection, something she was unaware of when taking the photo. Just typing this right now is making me uncomfortable. Not only does the new Freeform series DEAD OF SUMMER have a couple moments reminiscent of that, but it’s the Candyman himself, Tony Todd, haunting these teens! The episode even ends with footage playing on a TV, showcasing a lake where no one notices him standing in the distance. Let’s delve a bit more into the first episode.

It opens in 1871 where Todd’s unnamed character is sitting in a cabin playing the piano, almost ceremoniously while several bodies are floating in a bloody lake. A bunch of white men (not sure if the white part is relevant yet but I’m noting it just in case for future episodes) come and kill him in a very brief moment.

Fast forward to 1989 and we have a group of teens preparing to reopen Camp Stillwater after it’s been closed for a few years. Why has it been closed? We don’t know yet, but the series promises plenty of secrets to spill. It’s clear right away that this campground is the same place from the 1871 opening and something supernatural lingers. Our female lead, Amy, is hesitant and screams every chance she gets. It turns out she was supposed to be accompanied by a new friend, but that plan was cut short due to her dying from a freak accident while trying to run from the cops at a busted party. The flashbacks feel a bit empty, leaving a lack of empathy for our lead and we kind of don’t care. It seems like she’s supposed to come off as a bit pathetic, but it doesn’t work very well.

Despite the accident not at all being her fault, Amy’s guilt is eating at her and starts seeing her friend’s ghost at the campground along with discovering the stock weirdo caretaker’s body in the lake. His death is ruled as an accident, but we know better.

All the teens have apparently attended camp as kids along with Deb Carpenter, the main adult who is responsible for opening Camp Stillwater. She has some secrets of her own as we witness her digging up a box in the middle of the woods.

Amy uncovers a hidden room in our dead guy’s cabin, full of Satanic artifacts and evidence of black magic. A map is revealed similar to the shape of a horned beast of which the camp lies within. All this is connected to Todd’s character whose pictures are all over the room.

I’m not too sure as why this show is set in the 80s as nothing about it screams the 80s aside from obvious soundtrack choices. The characters look and act like what basic cable networks think teens act like nowadays. The time stamp on one of the character’s camera is the only indicator of the year, even as it is constantly on display as a reminder to the audience. The advertising seems to aim at a CW crowd, while hoping to gain interest from ’80s horror fans of FRIDAY THE 13TH and SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Personally, it didn’t remind me of either franchise. It actually reminded me of UNTIL DAWN, the Playstation 4 video game that plays more as a terrifying interactive movie. UNTIL DAWN revolves around teens who return to a cabin in the woods after a tragic event and their secrets rise to the surface as does the body count. It was largely slasher movie territory, but ends in a more supernatural tone.

The strange mix is intriguing. This first episode was far from perfect, but the few creepy moments and touch on devil worshiping has me interested as to where this is going.

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