My mind has been on summer camp lately. Perhaps it is just that time of year or more likely it is that Signal Horizon has spent the better part of the summer preparing our own summer camp. Either way Final Summer by director John Isberg seems to capture the fireflies of Camp Crystal Lake and scratches the itch of those who like a summer camp full of bodies.
I enjoyed Final Summer for various reasons, but most of them boil down to the movie’s ambition. Namely, it doesn’t have a ton of it. Some directors may feel the need to reinvent the subgenre for a modern audience. Isberg is more interested in delivering familiar tropes in the comfort of your favorite lakeside cabin. It starts with the poster/cover art which feels straight out of the horror section at Blockbuster Video. The rest of the film uses those images as a mood board never straying too far from the nostalgia it uses as inspiration.
Final Summer manages to capture the lightness and levity of summer comedies like Wet Hot American Summer while never straying too far from the beats of a standard slasher. It is the amalgamation of comedy and horror that makes the audience feel like they are a part of the joke as opposed to being laughed at. The tone is reflected in the cinematography that really shines in the dark. As our masked killer starts to elevate his body count the movie is at its best as the moon illuminates his bloody ax and his next victim. Isberg seems to understand sometimes that is all you need.
The opening campfire tale scene introduces Camp Silverlake and the legend of our masked killer. It may be Isberg’s directorial debut but the movie feels straight out of the eighties. As our masked killer starts to pick through the counselors and staff at Camp Silverlake you can see Isberg grow into the moment as a director. The more we see the killer and the more the screen leans into the blood and gore the movie offers the more fun everyone has. The cast is perfectly serviceable giving performances that are better than their eighties inspiration but hamstrung by the material which isn’t attempting to do more than check off the greatest hits of that bygone era. The film uses a metric ton of blood turning the most wholesome of scenes into a bloodbath. By the end, no one is splatter-free. Just as it should be.
Final Summer isn’t revelatory. It doesn’t have to be. It also doesn’t want to be and in that, there is a fun confidence that makes screening the film equally amusing. The grand twist at the end isn’t much of a twist nor is it all that creative. Mostly it seems to be setting up Final Summer 2: Electric Boogaloo but it is almost expected and for that, I will happily book my reservation for next summer at Camp Silver Lake.
Final Summer releases today for our UK audience and is available on most streaming platforms in the US. If you miss Friday the 13th or Sleepaway Camp, Final Summer should be high on your list.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.