Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 1: “Patience”
Directed by Adam Horowitz
Written by Ian B. Goldberg, Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis
* For a review of the next episode, “Barney Rubble Eyes” – click here
I’ve anticipated this one. Good or bad, I’m rolling with the reviews for this season.
Our first episode opens in Stillwater, Wisconsin during 1871. The Tall Man (Tony Todd) plays a piano in candlelight, as a bunch of men come for him. They tie him. At the same time, there are flashes, visions of dead bodies floating in the water.
With that we’re transported to the summer of 1989, three days before Camp Stillwater opens up. There’s a camp reunion of people going back, though Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) is a newcomer. The rest of the gang seem to know one another, from camcorder-wielding Joel Goodson (Eli Goree) to Blair Ramos (Mark Indelicato) and more. They’re all fairly welcoming. Although we can already see the archetypal slasher horror characters set up. That’s not a bad thing considering the writers are going for that type of atmosphere. I dig it. Later when everybody gathers with the head honcho at camp, Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), another straggler appears – Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams). There’s a nice ’80s feel to everything so far, as well, and best part is that I don’t feel it’s forced. They don’t overdo it.
We know the place closed down in ’84. That’s our first clue to something having happened there. I wonder what the eerie secret is?
Well we’ve got the new girl in town, Amy, so that’s a nice setup. She has to navigate high school and being new around the place, which is of course not always easy. At camp, she has a bit more of a safer place to be herself, as Deb preaches to them. Maybe she’ll be able to open up and have some fun instead of being judged constantly. Around the campfire they all start to immediately talk about creepy stories, so much so it gets a bit too real. We get the obligatory jump scare from one of the crew sneaking around in the dark. Further than that we get more of Amy. In the woods, she comes across Dave (Darren Moore) the gardener, who prophetically tells her that she needs to leave: “You don‘t know what this place is,” he bellows.
The next morning things get going, from camp activities to recounting giving handjobs at the age of thirteen; ahhhh, camp! A semi-sexual moment happens when Joel is filming with his camera and catches Deb in her window, only a bra on – she doesn’t close the window, smiling slightly, as Joel wonders what the hell’s going on. Yowzahs. This summer is definitely going to get wild.
When a couple of the girls find a gutted deer in the nearby woods everybody’s a little disturbed. Amy tells Deb about Dave’s scary warning the previous night. We’re cooking with gas now. Already the paranoid suspicions typical of the sub-genre have begun.
Flash to Amy back at school when first arriving. We get more of her personality. She isn’t the type to get roped into anything bad. But there’s always something sinister lurking, at high school or at camp. Back at Stillwater, they’re all doing some nighttime swimming. There’s a brief moment where we see a bit of Carolina Diaz (Amber Coney), how she doesn’t want to take her shirt off and go in a bra; will that lead to some character development? Either way, when Amy finally goes in her luck ends up with a discovery of a dead body: Dave.
Cops arrive at the camp. Deb doesn’t seem too put off, though is clearly concerned with the camp counsellors. Nobody’s overly beat up about Dave’s death. That night when Amy goes to get some water she runs into an off-duty Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza) who wants to have a better look at things in Dave’s old cabin. He walks Amy back to camp. He endears himself to her, talking about his “first everything” and so on. Could this guy have sinister intentions? You’ll never be sure. For now, he seems perfectly on the level. Yet even the very earth and the trees itself seem to drip with evil.
Amy and Garrett go into the gardener’s cabin – stupidly, a police officer brings someone in there, in the dark at that. Nevertheless, these are tropes of the sub-genre. And they do find some goodies – fermenting appendages, a skull, strange old photos including one of the Tall Man from a little over a century ago. Either Dave was up to some strange shit or somebody’s planted it to look like he was a Satanist, or something eerie. Then a fire breaks out, nearly trapping the pair. Amy gets out, managing to chop out some boards from the side of the cabin to get Garrett out. A-ha. There’s definitely SOMEONE pulling greasy tricks behind the scenes. The supposed claim is that the fire was electrical. Garrett knows better than that. Even better he managed to slip an old map out; it points to the centre of a beast-like shape where the camp is located. Back at the other cabins, everybody speculates as to what happened with Dave. And more creepy little moments happen – Drew sees a little girl with a red balloon outside, before she then disappears quickly. Inside, the crew talk about movies from Rosemary’s Baby to the original The Wicker Man. At least before some cattiness goes on, Jessie Tyler (Paulina Singer) leading the way, as usual. Poor Amy, yet again, is tasked with going out into the dark, always on the losing end of the teenage call of NOT IT. Well, she and Alex Powell (Ronen Rubinstein) kiss, anyway. Not sure if that’s a good or bad call. What I enjoy is the cutting between past and present, that helps expand Amy’s character. Right after that we’re shocked when she sees a ghostly presence behind her and Alex. Then she gets sucked into a closet where dead hands grab at her everywhere. A terrifying vision.
The morning after, Amy sits by the lake. She flashes back to her and Margot (Morgan Taylor Campbell), preparing for a party, prior to the latter’s mother freaking out; one of those uptight mothers wanting their child to go to a certain school. They’re sneaking out for a party: “Sometimes you have to do things that scare you,” being their mantra. Back to the lake and Amy is confronted by a faceless, dark shape in the night. It stalks her before she runs into Garrett. Only she can see what’s coming for her, and this automatically puts her at odds with reality. Unfortunate for her. Back to when she and Margot go to the party, Amy drinks, she dances, as her friend feeds her shots. This is a great instance of writing and editing put together, which goes from the party to the lake and back again. On a wharf she finds hands grabbing her; hands that aren’t there. At the party, police officers arrive at the house and Margot panics trying to get out, which results in her tumbling out the window and hitting the ground – the only thing left after Amy tries holding on is the charm bracelet she still wears at camp. This is what drives her psychosis in the present timeline. Garrett helps calm her then they talk a bit more about the Dave case, albeit cryptically. Then more nighttime swimming. Camp goes on, right? Jessie isn’t happy when she sees Amy close to Garrett. And then Guns N’ Roses plays, the titular “Patience” of this episode. Everyone swims, has fun.
Up in her cabin, Deb pulls out a little box from under her bed. She also finds Joel taping her again, except this time she shuts the blinds. Mysterious. We start getting a look behind the mask of all these characters, each and every one of them with their own secrets, their own pasts and mysteries. This begins filling things out for us, even within the first episode, so that hopefully the writing will build off this good stuff. Finally we get a look at Drew, who is actually a woman if anyone wasn’t able to tell. More of a look at Jessie, too, as she reveals herself to be the Braces to Garrett’s Townie. Ah, so that’s why she looked so bitchy.
The end of the episode reveals, through the camcorder, an entity standing in the background while everybody swam earlier – is that The Tall Man? Or someone else equally as ominous?
Let’s find out together. Next episode is titled “Barney Rubble Eyes” and you can expect a recap/review very soon. Digging this first episode. There are silly moments, but I’m almost assuming those are meant to feel typical to the slasher sub-genre. Still, I’m willing to keep giving this a shot. I liked their first episode. Here’s to hoping the writers and directors can keep up the pace, the excitement, all tinged with some blood and horror. Who knows what’ll happen.