I know what I was expecting when I heard about Dead of Summer, so I wasn’t going to watch this show. But now I’m intrigued. I don’t, as a rule, watch movies, or shows, involving serial killers, unless there’s a very unique take on the subject. It turns out that Dead of Summer, no matter how much it may look like a retread of Friday the 13th, may not actually be about serial killing, which is what I found so refreshing.
In the first episode, we get our usual cast of characters, who show up at a re-opened summer camp, that had been closed after a horrible tragedy. Actually that’s not our opening scene. The opening scene involves Tony Todd, as the last surviving member of a suicide cult, of some kind, who drowned themselves in the nearby river.He is subsequently killed by some angry townspeople.
So whatever tragedy befell the camp, before our new crop of teenagers showed up, is not the only tragedy in that area. Our second clue, that this show might not be what it seems, is the teens who are there for the summer are reunited from one of the years before the camp closed, and they all know each other, except for the virginal looking new girl, who turns out to be not quite as innocent as she seems either.
There are the usual cliches like the shady locals warning people to stay away, the nosy sheriff, who looks like he may be hiding something too, the cranky groundskeeper, and the camp director, who seems oblivious, but is more than a little sketchy herself.
The cast is the usual grab bag of cliches as well, or so it seems. There’s the hot, sexy skank, the pre-occupied, brainy black guy, the rebel who barely speaks, and the usual J.Crew catalog models, along with the gay best friend, but these people aren’t exactly as they seem either.
Everyone has secrets and some of them are both literally, and figuratively, haunted by their pasts. The new girl has been seeing the ghost of a little girl at the camp, while suffering from some dark regrets, from her own past, involving a former friend.
The black guy starts seeing images of Tony Todd in his videos (he’s the group’s video chronicler), which is pretty frightening, if you’ve ever seen Tony Todd. He has also been getting some significant eyeballing from the camp director. I don’t yet know what any of her eyeballing means but she’s either totally cougaring him or hates his guts. I’m not sure.
So far, no one has been serial killed yet, and this may or may not occur, what with ghosts running all over the place, the groundskeeper knocking off deer and leaving them laying around to fertilize the lawn, and the sheriff investigating the groundskeeper, for being an ass, as far as I can tell.
I found the show really interesting. It started off doing some expected things but then introduced a few ideas I wasn’t looking for, like ghosts, so now I’m asking questions, and that’s always a good first step to loving a show.
Its not a particularly heavy show, but its definitely not a comedy either. Everything is played for straight and the actors are acceptable. Actually, what surprised me was that the characters were likable. I usually end up hating the characters so much that I root for the killer to get them. But I genuinely like these people. There are a couple of bland ones, and they all do the usual cliched activities, like telling scary stories to each other around the campfire, but they’re not ugly to each other just for fun, or obnoxious, or anything. They’re not mean to the new girl for funsies, and they take the gay character in stride without a blink, and don’t try to haze, or shame, the truculent, quiet, rebel. Even the ones you think are just there to be pretty act relatively intelligent.
The show’s atmosphere is just a tiny bit of camp (no pun meant). Just enough to let you know its okay to laugh at some things but mostly its a drama.
So, I will be checking out a few more episodes, although most of my reviewing for the Summer is done. (I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming in the Fall, though.) This looks much more interesting than Outcast, which is totally not capturing me.
For those of you who are still not sure, Dead of Summer is from the creators of Once Upon a Time and airs on The Family Channel, which is now called Freeform