From Amber Coney

Dead of Summer – Season 1, Episode 5: “How to Stay Alive in the Woods”

Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 5: “How to Stay Alive in the Woods”
Directed by Norman Buckley
Written by Erin Maher & Kay Reindl

* For a review of the previous episode, “Modern Love” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dharma Bums” – click here
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We open on a young Joel (grown up version played by Eli Goree) and his older brother. Of course Joel has the camera out, but his brother’s more concerned with looking fresh for the ladies, as one would. They’re quite different, though the older one looks out for his brother. Through their window a strange noise comes. Does he know more about Camp Stillwater than he lets on?
Well, out at camp in ’89, Joel and the others are together. Everybody’s wondering where he go to with camp supervisor Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell). For his part, Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) thinks they hooked up. Once they start talking about hookups, everyone realises nobody wants to talk any further.
So the counsellors are all out with the kids, hiking in the woods and getting ready to do some camping. Just so happens there’s a “blood moon” coming out tonight, too. Cricket (Amber Coney) leads the little campers, as Jessie (Paulina Singer), Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Drew (Zelda Williams), Blair (Mark Indelicato) and the rest follow along. Despite any of their faults the group seem pretty damn good with the kids. When little Francie (Lia Frankland) has her asthma act up, Jessie and Joel help her calm down.
Out of nowhere, The Tall Man (Tony Todd) appears. Amy’s face runs with blood, an open wound in her head. Joel tries to catch it on camera then realises there’s nothing there. Amy’s fine, no Tall Man. Ahhhh, damn.
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Another flashback to Joel’s younger days, watching everybody get ready for prom. Only his older brother Michael isn’t ready yet, still upstairs. When Joel goes to find him he discovers his brother dead in the bathroom; a suicide. An awful, terrifying moment in this boy’s life. Further than that it is probably the most hardcore scene so far on Dead of Summer. Surely this event left a mark on young Joel, forever scarring him.
In ’89, Joel is helping “pitch Debs tent” and the others are out doing their thing, hanging with the kids, so on. Meanwhile, Jessie is still bitching at Amy for supposedly digging Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza). Amy doesn’t remember kissing him, though Jessie seems to believe she saw it. A vision, or reality? This isn’t the only confusion going around. We come to wonder: is Joel imagining more than we’ve seen? Has he hallucinated having sex with Deb? When he semi brings it up, she doesn’t act like she remembers. So many strange things happening.
When flashing back to his own prom, Joel starts seeing The Tall Man, just like his brother did. I only hope the end to his story does not finish like that of Michael.


While out in the woods, Cricket saves Alex from stepping into a bear trap. She also has paranoid thoughts about everything going on at camp. She knows there are odd, possibly evil things going on around there. One thing I love is that she has a shirt that says DREAMER on it; coincidence, as she’s had creepy dreams about the camp. More worried about Joel, though. He sees The Tall Man frequently. And then the apparition tells him ominously: “Kill Amy tonight, or someone else will die.”
Blair feels bad for what happened in the previous episode between him and Drew. Although there’s no resolution quite yet. Then there’s the fact Joel is hearing The Tall Man constantly over his shoulder, commanding him to kill Amy. How long until it all breaks, or Joel breaks? Zipping back to Joel’s prom, we see that he essentially inherited the same madness which plagued his brother, leading him to suicide. Such a tragic plot. I never expected Joel’s backstory to turn out this way. Especially seeing as how he’s hallucinating much more than The Tall Man. He’s making up whole events in his mind, only serving to drive him farther into the darkness of his mind. When he checks the tapes he made, nothing he remembers is how it once seemed. Catching Deb in the window with her shirt off now shows her reacting like most would, shutting the blinds, and Joel has to question everything he’s seen up to now.
While everyone else is having fun, roasting marshmallows and relaxing around the fire, Joel keeps hearing The Tall Man in his head. Requiring a sacrifice. Strangely enough, as we flash back to Joel’s prom, we see a large blood moon-like prop behind the DJ playing the music. Just like the blood moon out during their night at camp.


Deputy Sykes ends up at the eerie old cabin, the one where we’d first seen The Tall Man in the premiere. Jessie winds up there, as well. He explains the story of the man, Holyoke, and how he was a spiritualist leader of some sort; a cult. Garett believes there are Holyoke followers still lurking around Stillwater. Oh, how right he is. In the cabin Jessie comes across a door in the floor containing an old doll, a cuff link belonging to Garrett’s own father, as well as a recording of Holyoke.
As Joel heads to try and help the little asthmatic girl, Sykes and Jessie listen to Holyoke’s recording; he urges his followers to take the “potion” and to relieve themselves of the world. Ah, good ole suicide cult. Plays more into Michael, what he did. But will it play into Joel’s next chapter? Back at prom, he beat a guy to a pulp thinking it was Holyoke when it was just another student. In the woods at camp, he finds himself alone in the woods with Amy despite trying to keep away. She sees the fabric of his reality slipping, as Holyoke, unseen, commands for Joel to kill her. Before the poor guy puts a knife to his wrists she helps stop his delusions.
Joel lets Drew, Amy, and Blair into his life. He tells them about his brother’s suicide, the apparitions, and admits to having the same “sickness” now. His worry is that he’ll turn out just like Michael: “I need help,” he asks, as they all support him. Everything starts coming together when Jessie comes back with a picture of Holyoke. There’s still scepticism on some parts. But Amy definitely knows there’s a dark presence there. When the little Russian boy tells the counsellors he’s also seen Holyoke, everybody finds their summer getting a lot scarier.


Amy: “This place, it feeds on our weaknesses.”
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In the woods Alex waits for Cricket. Problem is, she gets thrown onto a bear trap in the dark by one of the masked cultists. Dead and gone. I loved her. So sad. And she was only heading out for a bit of young love.
What a good episode! Loved this one. Tragic, creepy. Even some veritable nastiness at the beginning. Can’t wait for the next episode – “The Dharma Bums” – another chapter moving us closer

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Dead of Summer – Season 1, Episode 4: “Modern Love”

Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 4: “Modern Love”
Directed by Tara Nicole Weyr
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Mix Tape” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “How to Stave Alive in the Woods” – click here
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After the terrifying events of the previous episode, we open on Chicago in 1978. A little girl named Andrea draws a picture of herself. As a boy. When her mother reinforces the gender obvious to her, Andrea replies: “I am a boy.” This is most certainly Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams) as a young girl. Before Andrea became Andrew. “You cant hide what you are,” her mother tells her. In Summer of ’89, Drew does his best to conceal the gender given to him at birth.
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Jessie (Paulina Singer) acts like a bitch, as usual, questioning Drew why he doesn’t shower where everyone else does. But quickly that gives way to normal, everyday stuff. Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) acts like a dick, too. Cricket (Amber Coney) brings the mail around, Joel (Eli Goree) reels of movie references (Friday the 13th Part VI this time), and so on. Everyone is concerned about Amy (Elizabeth Lail) seeing as how she was hit by lightning. Just like Jason Voorhees. Then up shows Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) to assure everyone the girl is fine.
At the diner, Deputy Garret Sykes (Alberto Frezza) tries his best to take care of the post-lightning strike Amy, bringing her chocolate shakes and trying to make sense of everything. She talks about seeing a face in the water, in the redness, that looks just like the stag’s skull on the map Sykes is carrying around obsessing over. He, of course, doesn’t reveal that he is much more interested in all the occult stuff floating around than he lets on. Probably just to try keeping Amy from freaking out.


Drew sees a creepy vision of a little girl holding a red balloon. He slips into the water, soaked to the bone. He gets a towel from Jessie, who knows Drew is Andrea. Though he has a secret on her, as well. But there’s a rivalry now. One that’s definitely going to get worse. There’s plenty other madness happening. Cricket starts to worry more about her supposed dreams of the masked people; she finds out from Joel that Camp Stillwater has a bit of history with those types of things, the fact Deb has one in her closet. Everybody’s got something darker plaguing them. Mostly, poor Drew finds himself flashing back to being forced to be a girl by his mother, not wanting to try on dresses and lamenting the boys allowed to be themselves. In a dressing room Andrea, still young, receives her first period. “This isnt supposed to happen to me, Im a boy,” she pleads with her terribly reluctant mother. In ’89, Drew can’t stop seeing the girl and the red balloon. Everywhere.
The whole crew is beginning to question their collective sanity. Amy talks a bit about the history of the land, though she gets shut up quickly. Until a kid runs out with Cricket’s boots from the lake. More to make Cricket wonder.
Flashbacks let us in on Drew going to therapy with his mother. She continually tells her “My name is Drew” and only wants her acceptance. “As long as youre in my house you will be Andrea,” her mother replies. A divide that may never, ever close, a wound that likely won’t ever heal.


Alex decides to use Joel’s camera to figure out more about Deb. They find the videos he takes of her. They also notice the box she seems to hold so tight. After Joel comes back he isn’t happy. However, when they let him on her suspicious behaviour he only becomes more divided from the group. As usual, a typical slasher-style trope has the group dividing. Meanwhile, Drew and Blair (Mark Indelicato) talk together. He gives Drew a tape of David Bowie, as well as talks about meeting a friend at camp who just immediately got him, his sexuality, his choices – Cricket. The Bowie tape helped him come out and gave him confidence. Now he tries to give that Drew, too. I love Blair. He’s an awesome dude. I hope that the devil worshipping cult doesn’t kill him.
Furthermore, Jessie is blackmailing Drew by taking video of him showering. Nasty.
We flashback once more to Andrea, forced into wearing the clothes she’s mean to, as designated by her gender. Alone in his room Drew wears the clothes in which he feels comfortable, then sneaks out of the house to live a little. Heading for a Sonic Youth show it seems.


Cricket and Alex are going to Deb’s cabin. They find the closet and the box, but speak of the devil, Deb comes back and interrupts things. Then Joel arrives, as the other two hide. He’s there to see the box, after which he and Deb leave. Damn. The mystery is thick.
Leaving camp, Drew finds Jessie coming to catch him. She reveals there was never any tape. Likewise, Drew says he was never going to tell anyone about Jessie and her court dates. They actually have a human conversation. About being scared, about “trusting the wrong people” and other things. Jessie does the right thing and tries talking Drew into coming back. A nice moment that makes Jessie a lot less shitty than she seems initially. The typically pretty, stuck up girl who acts like she hates everyone just to hide how she feels about herself.
The possibility of a demon being awakened is real. This is Deputy Sykes’ thought. Although he’s more concerned with tracking down the crazies making the attempts to do so. And we can’t forget there’s at least a bit of craziness in Deb. She brings Joel to the forest and takes a book from the box she keeps. You can tell there’s a sinister element lurking beneath the surface. For the time being they embrace in the night, out in their secret little place.
At the masquerade dance, Drew kisses Blair. They share a passionate moment, as Drew takes charge for once in his life. Then we get another flashback to Drew dealing with his mother. She’s willing to accept everything. “I saw you, Drew,” her mother agrees in an emotional moment of acceptance. So emotional it almost cripples Drew at the start. Wow. That absolutely killed me. Such a great moment to cut back and forth with the kiss at the masquerade. And so while they share their passion, as do Joel and Deb privately share themselves. Love is in the air. Or steamy sex, I don’t know.
Amy’s not getting any loving tonight. She and Sykes are both on their own in the forest respectively. He’s got the most trouble, as he sees Amy wander out to the lake where she holds the hand of a horrible monster from under the water. Now, she gets herself a bit of loving, too. Some presence came over her. She doesn’t even remember the past few moments. Eerie.

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When Drew takes a moment, not wanting to reveal himself quite yet to Blair, he finds a ton of red balloons piling up in the bathroom. This is also cut with a flashback to Drew finding out his mom isn’t so accepting after all. She’s left a picture of the daughter of long ago, Andrea, and her red balloon. With a note saying see you later. Mom can accept, but can’t accept. And this continues to torture Drew. He goes to Blair revealing he – Andrea – was the one to give him the tape years ago. Yet even Blair doesn’t quite accept it all. That’s a fucking heart breaker right there. By the fire Jessie consoles her new friend Drew and they find solace, if only for a moment.
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This was a nice episode. Held back on the horror to provide us more with character development. There was a bit of psychological horror, as well. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s It. Next episode’s title is “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” and I’m looking forward to a dose of blood. We need it. Still, a great episode that worked wonders for me. The character of Drew is beyond fascinating. Zelda Williams does so well with the role. Give me more!

Dead of Summer – Season 1, Episode 3: “Mix Tape”

Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 3: “Mix Tape”
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Barney Rubble Eyes” – click hereclick here
* For a review of the next episode, “Modern Love” – click here
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So the episode name’s been changed to “Mix Tape” and that’s fine because instead of sticking to song names, this one sort of encompasses the idea of being born in 1980s, or having lived through it. I was an ’80s baby, but obviously grew up in the era of mixtapes. I know the pain (and pleasure) of recording one tape to another, messing with the PLAY and RECORD buttons, all that. Nice slice of nostalgia we all love.
This episode opens on Carolina “Cricket” Diaz (Amber Coney) after stepping out of the camp showers. It’s a typical eerie slasher scene. Including flickering lights, darkened halls, a bit of piano music in the background. And of course Cricket heads out into the dark to get back to the cabins, putting her in harm’s way. Luckily for her she gets away with no incident. Only in the forest surrounding her lurk people in strange masks, almost occult-like or pagan masks. Something else lurks about Camp Stillwater.
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Being set near the end of the ’80s, Satanic Panic is in full swing. We get a look at Cricket’s home life before camp, as her mother worries about the whole issue (or non-issue, as it turns out). The Diaz family are loving. While Cricket worries about her weight, her father Hector (Alex Fernandez) tells her that she’s “special” and it doesn’t matter that she isn’t exactly like women on television. At camp, Blair Ramos (Mark Indelicato) catches Cricket writing those nasty things about herself on the wall. What’s her endgame there?
Everyone else is doing their thing with camp in full swing. Alex Powell (Ronen Rubinstein) is dealing with the fallout of Blotter getting dosed – Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) isn’t exactly convinced of Alex’s innocence. Of course Jessie Tyler (Paulina Singer) is being her usual asshole self while Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams) continues to glide under the radar, mostly.
We get a look at Cricket and Blair in high school, before camp. The title of the episode comes from Blair telling her she wants something more than sex, she wants something “mix tape” – romantic and all that. Now we know, Carolina only wants to get laid. Back at camp, she finds a note that neither she nor Blair wrote on the wall.
A great moment of editing and writing collide here. When Cricket wonders who else could’ve written on the wall, the scene switches to Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza) looking at a picture of The Tall Man (Tony Todd). Perfect.
When Cricket goes out to where the note suggested, she finds a fire blazing. Around it in the darkness stand those people in the pagan masks. A chase ensues. Then Cricket wakes up. Nice play! That next morning, Carolina is distracted and off in another world. She tells Amy and Jessie about the masks, the fire, all the strangeness of that dream. There’s a lot of paranoia already floating around. Excellent ingredient for any slasher horror, or horror mystery, however you want to categorise the show.
In high school, we see more of Cricket. A guy approaches her at a party and the slightest bit of attention leads her into the house with him.
Back to Stillwater. Deputy Sykes is out at the old cabin, the one where we initially saw The Tall Man at the series start, he looks at the piano. He finds a strange key that doesn’t make any noise, one marked with the same Satanic-like symbol as The Tall Man’s book in his picture. Hmm, interesting. All the while the pagan masked people watch Sykes.
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Out to meet her admirer, Cricket comes across Damon (Andrew J. West) the drug dealer. Sykes interrupts this little moment, of course. But mostly Cricket seems disappointed to have not found Alex. Back to high school, Cricket sees the aftermath of having gone with that guy into the house, as he totally blows her off, laughing at her in the hallway. When we cut to camp, Blair is still trying to help his friend. Cricket is still plagued by having issues with her body, wanting to be a slut simply because that’s the high school marker of popularity.
In other news, Joel Goodson (Eli Goree) is trying hard to continue the burgeoning relationship with Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), the camp’s head honcho. He even drops a Harold and Maude reference, talks about Five Easy Pieces. Some admirable references, I must say.
The danger is gradually coming towards Cricket. She thinks Alex is after her, but he’s more interested in Amy, who in turn is not interested in him. However, a lie concocted by Jessie and perpetuated by Cricket gets them all out on the town, in the bar, away from Amy. When Cricket realises things with Alex aren’t going anywhere, she gets into a bit of uncharted territory. She wants to make him jealous, but the way through being Damon doesn’t exactly make anything less dangerous.
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Joel is busy splicing reels together for their big film night, as Amy hangs out and they chat about reality, Time Bandits, all kinds of things. We find out, more than we already knew, that Amy is “super zen” – how Joel puts it. She doesn’t care about meeting guys. She wants to make friends and enjoy herself at camp. Meanwhile, we zip back to high school where Cricket is still struggling, hard, with boys and body image. When she goes home after school Cricket finds her father having just hopped out of bed with a younger, more thin woman than her mother. Yeah, because that’s going to help her issues. Poor girl.
Cut back to camp – Damon takes Cricket for a ride. She figures out he wrote the note in the cabin and even punches him in the face. “Every camp has a whore,” Damon says in front of the whole group. Alex takes a swing at the guy, knocks him around pretty good. Fairly eventful.
At the same time as Alex and Cricket head back to the cabin together, Drew locks lips with Blair. Yowzahs. Everybody’s making out now with Alex and Cricket following suit. Bitter irony: as they fall on the floor, likely about to have sex, she finds Blotter’s mix tape that he made her. What a juxtaposition that is to see. Back in high school, Carolina tells her mother about seeing her father with another woman. Seems that mom knows. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and this really bothers her daughter. “Women like us, sometimes we have to settle,” her mother says in a sad, tragic moment. But at camp, this memory propels Cricket away from the mistake she’s about to make with Alex. She and Blair meet up later and now she’s finally realised he was right about wanting the mix tape-type love.
Simultaneously, Jessie and Sykes – Braces and Townie – are rekindling their old romance. However, Sykes stops short of embracing her. Is he now interested truly in Amy? Or just not interested in Jessie? We’ll see.
Around the woods still waits the pagan masked cult. They’ve even got Cricket’s shoes, the ones she thought were lost, the ones that were in the mud in her supposed dream. When the shoes get dumped in the lake, we also get a look at Blotter’s cut off hand still holding a baby bottle full of juice. Nasty, nasty business.

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The next day Amy tries building a bridge between her and Jessie. She knows Jessie’s grandmother didn’t die, as the concocted story went earlier, but does so with a tongue firmly in cheek, trying to make Jessie feel bad as possible. In other news Sykes is tracking down more information relating to The Tall Man, Camp Stillwater, and whatever madness has been linked to their joint history. He finds a soldier’s journal from 1871 talking about Holyoke, some kind of occult leader, as well as all kinds of further craziness. We understand now that The Tall Man is known as Holyoke. Though his boss doesn’t believe any of it, Sykes is stuck. Will he uncover more truths long buried?
There’s still mystery circling around Ms. Mitchell, too. The box she keeps at her cabin is shrouded in dark, purposefully kept secret. She places it in a closet. Inside, there’s also a pagan mask. Much like the one worn by those people creeping around the camp grounds. Oh, Ms. Mitchell; what treasures you hold! Then we also see Damon slipping into one of those masks, a couple friends along with him. All the while things from that soldier’s diary repeat – the deer eviscerated, the cult. Things are getting incredibly dark.
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With a bit of Jane’s Addiction playing in the background, Cricket puts on her nice bikini and hits the beach for a bit of volleyball. Her body almost knocks Alex flat. But the real good stuff is happening with Damon, those masked people, as they conduct a ritual. They even brought along The Tall Man’s skull – ahh, now we understand what he wanted with those bones. The skull, a deer’s heart, and the promise: “Her blood will bring yours.”
And when Amy goes into the lake to retrieve an errant volleyball, she witnesses the water boil with blood. A horrific image appears to her – a stag’s head. The sky above gets dark suddenly and everyone starts running inside. Amy gets struck by lightning and floats face first in the water. At the shore, Damon and his cult buddies realise it isn’t Cricket they needed; it’s Amy.
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Very cool episode. Everything’s not perfect, but it is exciting, dark, and has a lot of interest going on with various characters. Some people and reviews claim the characters are thin and underdeveloped. I don’t know what show they’re watching.
Stick with me. “Modern Love” is up next. I can’t wait to see what more macabre delights this series has in store.