Summer Camp (2015)


summer-camp-posterStarring Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue, Maiara Walsh, Andrés Velencoso

Directed by Alberto Marini

Amidst an overwhelming smorgasbord of namby-pamby remakes and unabashed regurgitations of timeworn tropes, filmmakers sometimes have the decency to shake up familiar genre beats to forge something pleasingly original. Cue long-serving writer/producer Alberto Marini, who’s finally decided to broaden his ambit with a directorial debut, Summer Camp.

Marini’s designs for messing with conventions (and our heads) are apparent right off the bat as a young girl runs blindfolded through the woods. Duped into thinking she’s fleeing from a violent captor, it’s swiftly revealed to be nothing more than a harmless trust-building exercise for a disparate group of summer camp counselors: stud-u-like Antonio (Velencoso), geeky charmer Will (Boneta), frisky extrovert Michelle (Walsh) and buttoned-up  beauty Christy (Donahue).

Although surprisingly frustrating at first as it takes a lot longer to warm up than a microwave pizza, all’s easily forgiven once increasingly fraught chemistry and an unexplainable rage-inducing infection sledgehammer everything into screaming-paced shape. Stilted starts aside, Marini quickly wrings every squeezable drop of foreboding menace out of his small cast once they fall prey to said mysterious virus, and Walsh goes way beyond the call of duty in particular, playing her raged self to the absolute hilt.

Marini’s enduring friendship with the film’s exec producer, Jaume Balagueró, has certainly worn off on him too, with the rabid protagonists as tenacious and terrifying as [REC]’s monstrous inventions. Gorehounds can rejoice safe in the knowledge there’s also plenty of  full-bore carnage thanks to a myriad of belligerent mano-a-mano confrontations involving whatever impromptu weapons are close at hand.

Talking of [REC], many a fan of said franchise really hated the third entry as it deviated from its pure horror origins in favour of campier comedy. I personally loved said entry, and whilst Summer Camp is nowhere near as comedy-centric as that, it really benefits from Marini and co-writer Danielle Schleif’s devilishly dark sense of humour when it comes into play. The fact they are able to slip in laugh-out-loud moments slap bang in the middle of some the film’s tenser set pieces without numbing the audience’s fear in the slightest is more than admirable. A certain cellphone moment towards the end is priceless and still has me chuckling whilst writing about it now.

But Summer Camp’s real triumph lies in the fact that the rage effects wear off, meaning bashing your friend’s brains in isn’t quite as justified as it usually is in zombie movies – at least not at first. This wrenching plot twist brings a completely unconventional quandary into play for the protagonists and results in a refreshingly ambiguous and, ergo, disquieting experience. When all is said and done, it’s the protagonists who prove to be the real monsters when coherent survival instincts kick in and true colours are revealed.

Buoyed by Marini’s cocksure direction and some solid spectrum-navigating performances, Summer Camp conflates and reconditions every proverbial horror movie staple in the book to formulate an experience that is almost, just almost, as novel as the original [REC] was back in the day. A glorious final reel throws the door wide open for a sequel, and I, for one, would love to see this turned into a franchise. In the meantime, Summer Camp is one highly contagious infection definitely worth catching.

  • Film
User Rating 3.6 (20 votes)


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