TV Review: DEAD OF SUMMER – Episode 5: “How to Stay Alive In The Woods”

DOSposterIt’s 2016, over 20 years since we were first introduced to the Candyman and Tony Todd is still scary as shit. With a voice that demands a 5.1 set up, he still has a screen presence that few come close to and makes me hold my breath every time his arms are out stretched towards the camera. Episode 5 of DEAD OF SUMMER, in a creatively smart move, takes advantage of Todd’s natural gifts and makes it front and center.

This episode focuses on Joel, our wannabe filmmaker who we saw closing the deal with the much older Deb in the last episode. Or did we? Cue the dun dun dun! The creators went full BOOK OF SHADOWS on us by letting us know anything that we think happens with Joel might not be real. To find the truth, Joel and the audience must look through his camcorder to truly see what’s in front of us. For example, we learn that intimate moments were ever shared between him and Deb and his tapes help clarify reality. While I found him to be one of the less interesting characters in previous episodes, my assumptions were set aside and this proved to be one of the more engaging episodes of DEAD OF SUMMER.

Years prior to camp, Joel was just any other little brother watching his older sibling, Mike, get ready for prom. Mike seems to see things that aren’t there and doesn’t seem all mentally okay. When he doesn’t come downstairs to take the traditional prom pictures with his date, Joel finds Mike’s dead body in a tub of blood with his wrists slit. “He will never leave me alone” is sprawled on the bathroom wall with Mike’s blood. It’s after Mike’s death we learn that it was the ghost of Holyoke (Todd) haunting Mike and has now set his sight on Joel, who comes off to those around him as possibly mentally ill.

If this were not a horror show and it wasn’t obvious that something supernatural is going on, then it could easily be a riveting character piece of an episode as we watch a young man’s sanity quickly decline. There’s some intense flashbacks where Holyoke’s appearances cause Joel to have public outbursts and even hurt those around him. Now that it’s camp time, Holyoke has made it clear multiple times that Joel is to kill Amy, but Joel resists causing another camper to die.

And who is our unlucky victim? Unfortunately, it’s Cricket who ironically is shoved and finds her head inside of a bear trap in one of the best jump scares of the series. What makes it more tragic is that she was on her way to wooed by Alex, who made sure her favorite song was playing ever so romantically.

When Joel finally confesses to the other counselors of his visions, each realize the eerie occurrences in the woods and possibly leading up to their summer are no coincidence. There’s definitely more of a connection between some of them then they even realize, but Jessie confirms Joel’s mysterious figure when she presents an old photo of Holyoke (which I would love an 8×10 copy to have Todd sign at a convention).  That photo is the type of thing collectors love and it’s a scary piece of memorabilia. Visions of Amy’s blood soaked face still don’t convince Joel to kill her, but her sacrifice is necessary for some ritual I’m still not too clear on. Maybe we’re not supposed to know yet, but if the show keeps rolling out great character driven episodes then I’m willing to wait to find out.

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