A woman receives a visit from a cult member, there to help her transcend her problems.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 10: “She Talks to Angels”
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Home Sweet Home” – click here
The finale is directed by none other than Friday the 13th Parts II and III alumni, Steve Miner! Very exciting, as we finish off Dead of Summer‘s wildly fun and unpredictable first season.
Amy (Elizabeth Lail) has been fully taken over by Malphas, as the rest of the crew are left without much clue. Jessie (Paulina Singer), Deputy Garrett (Alberto Frezza), and Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) only have the camera with all of Joel’s (Eli Goree) taped material. At least they have some kind of proof. For now, if Malphas doesn’t decide to eradicate that, or them, too.
They shove off from Camp Stillwater, each unsuspecting of the evil still lurking in Amy. When the cop car Garrett drives goes dead, the battery suddenly shutting off, things get spooky. The demon in Amy reveals itself, saying that Holyoke (Tony Todd) left the “last piece of his soul” inside Jessie. Worst is when Amy brings out the dead t0 help her – Joel, Cricket (Amber Coney) – and now everything is scarier than ever before.
Garrett sees his father Jack (Dan Payne) out on the dock at Camp Stillwater. He disappears into thin air. Then he wakes up. It’s the day before all the counsellors show up for summer in 1989. He tells Sheriff Boyd Heelan (Charles Mesure), a.k.a the teacher. But no real help there, clearly. I guess hanging out with a weirdo you don’t yet know is a weirdo would be much better than where they are now, running from Malphas and his legion of undead.
“How do we stop a demon?” asks Alex. Right before they discover a bunch of murdered corpses in the cabin. Afterwards, Malphas drops in to cause a bit of mischief. Meanwhile, bussing all the kids away from camp Drew (Zelda Williams) and Blair (Mark Indelicato) get an eerie, urgent warning from the little boy who used to see Holyoke. He tells them to go back; their friends need help.
And they do. Garrett’s hurt, although he makes sure Jessie and Alex know: “This is bigger than us.” They’re forced to leave him behind. Such is the case when you’re in a supernatural horror mystery for real, I guess.
A flashback takes us to Blair before camp. Cricket comes to see him with a new mix tape. He’s busy washing HOMO off his car; so sad. She tries to assure him things will change now that they’re finished high school. He’s a romantic, though, and wanted to meet a guy. Sadly they take about it being “me and you forever” and things we know can’t come true because of her untimely death. In their present situation, Blair and Drew try calling the cops. I don’t know if that’ll do any good. Kudos to the writers: not often in horror does anybody actually try the police.
Lots of creepy shit is happening now in the woods. Alex and Jessie come across Blotter’s severed head on a tether-ball pole. At the same time, Malphas-Amy is calling out to anybody left at camp to play a game of capture the flag. Except the flag “is Jessie,” the demon cackles through the speakers. That scene honestly felt like it came right out of Stephen King. Dig it.
When the cops arrive at Stillwater they’re greeted by Amy – similar to how she looked as child, informing the firefighter her family is dead: “They‘re dead. They‘re all dead.” Only problem being that she now has the place totally under control. Over the speakers, Malphas-Amy talks in the policeman’s voice; the one she’s dispatched. Because the demon needs more blood to fill the lake.
Alex tries going head-on with the demon. He gets an axe to the chest, savage and bloody. Yikes. A quick and nasty death for the poor Russian immigrant, just looking for a better life. Now, Jessie is on her own out in the forest with the demon hunting her down. Soon enough she finds Garrett, Drew, and Blair.
Either way, Jessie lures Malphas-Amy into a cabin where they circle her inside purified water along the floor. In the other cabin Garrett plays the music from Holyoke’s recording, but there’s nothing on it anymore. Remember when Amy stroked the wax before they discovered she was still possessed? I knew it. God damn you, Malphas!
Well the shit hits the fan. Undead Joel, Cricket, Deb, they all show up.
Ah – Garrett remembers the tape. It has the music on it. So he broadcasts it through the walkie into the cabin, causing Malphas-Amy and the undead great pain, repelling them.
And when Malphas is weakest, Jessie plants an axe right into Amy’s head. The blood runs out of her, the demon returning to Lake Stillwater and disappearing below the surface, hopefully never to return again.
They’ve survived, those who are left – Garrett, Jessie, Blair, and Drew. Out in the water, the dead wade back down to the depths. A fitting goodbye to them all, as the friends watch them all go.
Plus, Townie and Braces are once again together. Or are they? He’s just a ghost. I knew it, again! He died out on that bench in the woods. Love allowed him to linger on as a spirit; the light from Holyoke gifted him the extra time to help. That’s better than what I predicted before – him becoming another undead during the last big fight.
The three remaining souls walk themselves out of Camp Stillwater, for the final time. Ghostly Garrett heads into the water of the lake, to his friends, and his father. A place for everything and every thing in its place. Life moves on with Jessie going to college, Blair and Drew road tripping to Seattle for a Bowie concert (and totally in love with each other). All is well once more.
I honestly loved this show’s first season. Hoping there’ll be a Season 2. While it wasn’t perfect, it both played up to the horror genre tropes and also subverted expectations in that regards, as well. It didn’t have to be perfect. The nostalgia, without going too overboard, along with decent writing and interesting characters made for lots of fun.
And now Stillwater’s up for rent. What could happen there? Oooooooooh.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 9: “Home Sweet Home”
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Ian B. Goldberg
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Devil Inside” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “She Talks to Angels” – click here
Heading into our penultimate Season 1 episode, Joel (Eli Goree) is dead, and the others have now discovered that Holyoke (Tony Todd) isn’t the madman they thought he was, nor is anything as it seems.
A young woman hitches a ride to Camp Stillwater, saying she’s worried about a friend. Hmm.
Amy (Elizabeth Lail) is possessed. Everyone is prepared to do what they can to turn her back into who she was once upon a time. At Holyoke’s cabin, Garrett (Alberto Frezza), Jessie (Paulina Singer), and Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) prepare to do a “purification” on Amy, to try and get the demon out of her. Holyoke explains what must be done, as well as the fact it’s not going to be easy. At all.
While the counsellors are trying to get rid of the demon, Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) busses the campers off, as Blair (Mark Indelicato) and Drew (Zelda Williams) make preparations of their own.
Everybody’s waiting to face off with the big bad demon. Soon enough.
Back to 1980 – a young Amy doesn’t get much love from her family, mostly just annoyance and misplaced aggression. Her brother is the worst, telling his younger sister their parents don’t want her anymore. She winds up killing her brother’s pet rat, by accident. And we can see that Amy has always been a little different, a little innocent. Meanwhile, in ’89, Holyoke is explaining things about the demon to the young people now helping him. “We must call to the spirits of light,” Holyoke tells them. It all starts with a few hymns on the piano. From the lake something rises. Then Holyoke himself is evaporated into thin air, blood and bone and all.
Nobody is safe.
Once again in ’80, Amy’s brother plays a trick on her. He locks the little girl in their garage and she’s there until morning. A firefighter comes in to find her laying on the floor. This act of childishness by her brother wound up saving her life: Amy’s entire family die of carbon monoxide poisoning after the flue in the fireplace closed. Wow. That’s god damn heavy.
In ’89, the young counsellors and deputy try figuring out what went wrong. Garrett wants to go the original recordings of the hymn Holyoke played. But Jessie wants to “be the spirits of light” on their own. She thinks by using the knowledge they have, the books and notes, so on, they can do the ritual themselves. In order to save Amy’s soul. Reluctantly, Garrett and Alex go along. Not as if they’re wrong to do so. Jessie has her heart in the right place, and also – who the hell knows how anything works in a world filled with ghosts, demons, Satanist cults, and more? Either way, Jessie, Alex, and Garrett do their best to call Amy back to herself, away from the demon. That demon Malphas doesn’t make anything too easy for them, though.
Blair, Drew, and Deb bus the kids through the woods. Yet the further they go, the thicker a mist appears in front of them. Like a wall. Until blood starts raining down over the bus, covering the windows, frightening all the children. The bus driver heads out to make sure they didn’t smash something onto the road. Big, big mistake, as he gets dragged off into the misty horizon. Something outside scrawls LET ME OUT on the bloody windows.
At the cabin, Malphas uses Amy to toy with each of the counsellors – talking to Garrett in his father’s voice, coming on to Alex with seductive Russian. Not a good time. Jessie and the boys press on with the ritual, and it isn’t any easier on Amy than it is on them. All the pain of her life flows outward. She later bites into Garrett’s neck. Malphas fights to stay in his vessel and they fight against him. Things get real wild once Malphas takes full control, tossing people around the cabin and manipulating everyone/everything in his path. He has Amy prepare Garrett for a hanging, unless Jessie opens the cabin door to let him free.
But I can’t help worry for Deb, out in the woods alone, as Drew and Blair try getting the bus to move. She finds the bus driver, dead and bloody, and something growling in the nearby woods. “If you want someone, take me,” she says in the darkness. Keith (Dylan Neal) comes out of nowhere. To comfort? No, to kill. He strangles Deb telling her all the young people will die, because of her: “You brought her here – the perfect vessel.”
And in the cabin, Jessie allows Malphas to take her as the vessel.
In he goes. So what next?
Alex puts Jessie in the lake water, closing her in. Keith disappears into the lake, the blood clears from the bus and it starts again. All is right once more. Well, not everything. At least Amy’s alive, Garrett is safe, so is Alex. Except Jessie gave herself over to defeat Malphas, which isn’t something Amy feels good about. So she pulls her friend out and tries doing CPR. After a properly dramatic wait, Jessie spits out the water, breathing hard. And defying the prophecy of Holyoke that nobody could survive the process; Jessie is one pure lady!
When all is said and done Amy takes a moment alone. To say goodbye to the place.
We go back to a month before Camp Stillwater opened. Amy meets Deb at the edge of the lake. She finds that there’s no space for another counsellor – unless a counsellor doesn’t show up, or drops out, the like. So we go to that night when Amy and her friend Margot went to the party; that fateful night. Now, the events are shown in a much different light. All to get to Camp Stillwater, Amy lets her friend go. “Unfortunately there is only room for me,” she chillingly tells Margot before letting her grasp slip. That girl from the opening scene of the episode – it’s a friend who witnessed the aftermath at the party. That’s intriguing. Even more so once she shows up, only to get murdered with an axe by Amy.
Yikes. Poor Deb has really been through the ringer. She has to deal with an axe-wielding Amy, confessing to killing her own family and all the evil she’s been up to, even before Malphas came along. She was an evil little seed, anyway. The demon only made things more epic in nature. Oh, yes – Deb gets the axe, too.
A nice little montage takes us through the deaths at Camp Stillwater, each perpetrated by Amy herself under one of those eerie cult masks made out of wicker. She was there, lurking everywhere. Behind Garrett when he shot the Teacher. When Blotter got his head cut off. Every single death.
And for the time being, Malphas has everyone convinced he’s long gone.
Wow – this is my favourite episode so far! I loved it. Death, blood, wild revelations, some backstory. All sorts of madness. The finale is titled “She Talks to Angels” and I’m so excited to find out what Dead of Summer has in store for us.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Devil Inside”
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Steven Canals & Richard Naing
* For a review of the previous episode, “Townie” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Home Sweet Home” – click here
Chicago, 1988. Jessie (Paulina Singer) arrives back at her place to find her mother partying, the place filled with smoke. Seems like she’s living in a place not built for what she wants to do, which is study, try to get into a good college and likely get up out of that neighbourhood. Her mom convinces her to let loose and have a bit of fun. Cut to ’89, she talks to her mom on the phone. They’re in a much different place than they were last year. What happened that night?
Well, right now there’s stranger things afoot. Camp Stillwater is rocked by the “terrible things” that have recently gone on. Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) says everything’s over. She is shutting the place down, to the chagrin of Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Joel (Eli Goree), Blair (Mark Indelicato), Alex (Ronen Rubinstein), Drew (Zelda Williams), and Jessie. Nobody’s pleased. Although they’re setting out to make their last couple days at camp memorable.
I’m sure Holyoke (Tony Todd) is looking to do the same. And when a solar eclipse begins to darken the sky, Jessie’s mind begins to darken. She sees a dead Cricket (Amber Coney), who warns about the dangers at camp: “It‘s not over. It‘s awakening.” She says Jessie has to take Holyoke’s bones to the lake. But it doesn’t feel like she’s there as a helping hand. Maybe this is more Satanic madness. No telling yet.
The counsellors go out to play Blind Man’s Bluff. Of course, Jessie is first. As she spins, voices encroach on her sanity, she hears strange noises and whispers. Amy notices. Jessie tells her about what she saw, what Cricket prophesied. But Amy believes it’s Holyoke trying to manipulate further events. “The only people we can trust are each other,” she assures Jessie.
Back to ’88. Jessie is straight laced, she’s going into work and also preparing for her North Western interview. Something has clearly caused a huge change in her within that one year from where she is now at Stillwater, to where she was then.
In ’89, Jessie talks with Garrett (Alberto Frezza). He worries because the teacher, his supposed old family buddy, says he didn’t kill the counsellors. Who did it? For the time being Garrett believes the ritual awakened the demon. He goes on the journal of his father. He worries about the eclipse, as it’s a sign the demon has been conjured. Only the journal says they have to “kill the vessel” – and the vessel = Amy. Jessie tells him about what dead Cricket advised her to do. They have to throw Holyoke’s bones in the lake.
Joel feels compelled to end things because of his brother Michael’s torture at the hands of Holyoke. He wants to burn down that old cabin, to somehow cleanse the place of that evil presence.
Meanwhile, Jessie is sneaking out to the morgue just as Joel finds his way into the creepy cabin. This is an excellently edited scene, cutting as back and forth. Jessie finds the bones and gathers them up. However, the dead bodies of the cult members come to life, Damon (Andrew J. West) speaking in the voice of her mother. The place turns into a horrorshow. Simultaneously, Joel discovers a book full of Satanic writings. He rushes to find Jessie – Holyoke is indeed trying to trick her. The demon needs those bones to go in the lake. Jessie and Garrett believe otherwise; that Amy, the vessel, has already been possessed by the demon. Drastic measures ahead.
Garrett and Jessie go to Amy, they ask her about Malphas and whether anybody said the word in that cave. They’re testing her. That golden cross Jessie wore is given over to Amy, as protection. There’s no real reaction, though. Soon, Alex bursts in and lets Amy in on what’s happening. Uh oh. Trouble in the ranks. Maybe this is what Holyoke wants, dissent between the friends. A little while later dead Cricket comes to Jessie again, revealing a vision of the demon headed for them if the bones do not go into the lake.
We switchback quickly to ’88. Even though Jessie almost missed her interview, due to her mother messing up and not being there to bring her on time, everything went well. There’s still something coming here, something that will change the mother-daughter relationship.
Drew and Jessie have connected. They have trust in one another. Drew tries to make Jessie believe in herself and trust her own thoughts, follow her own path. Not so easy, I guess. Considering whatever happened in Jessie’s past.
Well, the bones get tossed in the lake. Then the sky goes completely dark, all light disappears. It’s as if Joel and Jessie are now in a different time. They see Holyoke (Tony Todd) leading people into the lake, followed by Satanic cult members who start murdering everybody. Seems Holyoke was framed for being a crazy cult leader bringing people to suicide. When all along the eerie cult has been responsible. Joel and Jessie are led back to the cabin. “What you think you know, you do not,” Holyoke explains to them. He says the demon still resides in Amy. He wants to save the girl: “Let no harm come to her. That will only empower the demon.” Oh, Holyoke! You’ve turned into someone completely different than we imagined back at the beginning. So exciting.
We get one more glimpse into ’88. Jessie fights with her drunk mother. Mom is a selfish woman who believes she’s being left behind by her daughter, a.k.a Jessie’s going to college to better herself. So they get in the car, drunk mom driving. Then a car smashes into them. We can see this coming a mile away: Jessie takes the shit for her mother. This dashes her chances at a great college. So, so tragically sad.
The gang are all mostly on the same track. They even let Deb in on it. Problem is the fifth point on that map Garrett found is where Amy and Alex are with the camp kids. Once they find Amy, she puts a knife right to Alex’s throat. Joel manages to stop. Before she sinks the knife into his throat instead. “Fooled you,” she taunts while holding up a palm branded with a cross.
And rather than do what Holyoke intended, Garrett tries blasting Amy away. Doesn’t work that easy. Not when a demon’s involved. Holyoke then appears to haul Amy and the demon inside her away. Whoa! What a turn of events. Plus, another camp counsellor down as Joel bleeds out from his neck wound.
Out at the cabin, Holyoke sets out to try exorcising the evil spirit within Amy.
I’m so pumped! This Mick Garris-directed episode was great. Unexpected, too.
Next is the penultimate Season 1 episode titled “Home Sweet Home” – I can only imagine what sort of things will come out. Very, very excited.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 7: “Townie”
Directed by Mairzee Almas
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dharma Bums” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Devil Inside” – click here
In 1982, a pair of little dudes ride bikes and then head to their principals house to “redecorate his car” a.k.a smash the shit out of it. One is more reluctant while little Garrett is the more angry of the two. Then Jack Sykes (Dan Payne) shows up with his partner. He takes his son for dinner, to try and explain to his young boy he needs to calm down. He’s trying too hard to buck back against his dad’s rules, his profession. “You‘re fourteen now, it‘s time to decide what kind of man you want to be,” Jack tells his boy.
In ’89, grownup Garrett (Alberto Frezza) is laying out what he knows so far about the creepy cabin up near Camp Stillwater for Sheriff Boyd Heelan (Charles Mesure). He talks about the ritual the Satanist cult members are trying to finish. Next up is “sacrificing an innocent” – or, murder like Garrett makes painfully clear. But does Heelan know more than he lets on? I believe so.
And remember that little kid with Garrett? That’s one of the Satanists, Damon (Andrew J. West). Whoa.
Boyd and Garrett have a plan. They bring it to Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), although she’s not at all pleased with having all the campers, the counsellors in harm’s way. Sykes wants to use Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) as bait, seeing as how she’s the cult’s main target, so it seems. Well, at least Heelan doesn’t seem too greasy. Yet.
Everybody’s in either way after Amy says she’s willing to do what is necessary. Drew (Zelda Williams), Alex (Ronen Rubinstein), Joel (Eli Goree), Blair (Mark Indelicato), they’re all prepared to help however they can.
At the same time, Damon and his cult are getting ready, too. They have a sacrifice: a nice tongue. A bit of blood never goes astray in serious Satanic worship.
Before anything else, we skip back to ’82 after young Garrett is forced to go to camp. He meets a younger Jessie (Paulina Singer). They begin a bond that will last a long, long time, as he takes part in a team with her for tug-of-war. Mostly he proves how volatile of a temper he has after somebody makes a nasty joke about his mother. We also get the first utterance of their little nicknames – Braces and Townie, though they’re said in anger.
So now in ’89, Sykes and Heelan initiate their plan. Amy sets up for camp games pretending to be unsuspecting, as Heelan hovers waiting in the trees. Then he sees one of the eerie wicker masks drawing him away.
When Garrett goes to check on Amy and talk with the Sheriff, he finds neither of them nearby. Only their radios are found. Further out, Amy wanders as if in a trance until meeting Damon and his cult members, blowing a bloody horn to call her. Now that’s some creepy madness.
’82 again. Garrett’s dad shows up, but not for him. Someone is having visions of a cave, needs to be checked into a psychiatric wing. Hmm. Is that Michael (Lovell Adams-Gray), Joel’s older brother?
Quickly, we’re back to ’89. Garrett frantically looks for Amy, calling back to Deb who further asks everybody to come back in. Blair and Drew are on lookout, not wanting to go back, and he ends up twisting an ankle. Uh oh, that definitely means mayhem coming up; when a character in a horror trips and falls, hurting themselves, you just know there’s a death or a near miss soon. And we get an answer on Michael – when Joel, Jessie, and Alex bring Garrett a picture the young boy Anton (who sees Holyoke) drew earlier: the same cave Joel’s older brother once drew. Daaaamn. That was the summer that really messed up Michael’s head. All these elements add up to make Garrett incredibly suspicious of what’s about to come next.
At the Satanist ritual, Amy hangs by her torso from a rope, as Damon tells her the “teacher” will arrive shortly. They’re all geared up to finish, to summon up the demon for which they hope to dearly. “We‘re just gonna need some of your blood,” says Damon.
Amongst everything evil going down, Drew and Blair get a little closer, talking about their respective experiences. I love this little plot between them because they were semi-romantic, and yet they still are, despite any biological gender Drew might inhabit. I’d love to see them come together further because regardless of any orientation, there’s an obvious connection happening.
Another brief flash back to ’82 makes me wonder exactly what Boyd Heelan is holding onto. I can’t tell if he’s complicit in anything, or if he’s a decent local cop who’s unaware of the depth of all the events surrounding Camp Stillwater.
In the cave with the Satanists, Amy is graced with the presence of their teacher finally come to claim his prize.
Drew: “Far as ways to go, death by Satanists is pretty punk rock.”
During ’82, Garrett is drawn into a trap while playing Capture the Flag. Instead of them getting the upper hand Garrett distracts them long enough for Jessie to sneak the blue flag away and back to win the game. “You did it, Braces – you won,” Garrett cheers her on.
This time, in ’89, Garrett has a team behind him again. Except he’s by himself when he comes upon the cave. Within it he finds the horrifying ritual underway, a now conscious Amy screaming for help. Damon and Garrett, those old buddies, they’re confronting one another for the first time in so long. Damon tries to sell his one time friend a good load of bullshit about being “powerless” and so on. He’s deluded by the cult.
Then one of the craziest things yet occurs – the cult members all slit their own throats, mixing their blood with that of Amy’s. Speaking of her, she slips from the rope and falls into the pools of blood and water below, disappearing in its depths. Garrett dives down to save her. Until something deep down comes up to grab her; a scaly, creepy hand. It lets go after Jessie turns up in the cave to pull the rope for Garrett. Yay Team Stillwater! Poor Amy, though. She’s left scarred emotionally and physically. Safe for the time being.
As is the Sheriff – could he be the teacher? I’m really beginning to wonder.
Back at camp, other things are happening. We FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY get a kiss between Drew and Blair. Yes! Lots of good things. Plus, Jessie, Garrett, Alex, Joel, each of them are on the same page together. They all know about Holyoke, the cult, the eeriness of the cave. Yet Garrett is now convinced it’s all just people, no demons or ghosts or anything. Joel especially, he believes otherwise. Also, Garrett’s lying to them and himself about seeing anything unexplained (that fucking hand!).
Ah, the slip up. Boyd mentions Damon taking his own life. He didn’t know that officially. He’s revealed himself as the teacher. Luckily, the younger of the officers is able to draw his gun. Then he discovers what he told Boyd, back in ’82, is why his father was killed; he got too close to Michael’s visions. Boyd claims none of the dead bodies lately were his doing. So, we can be sure Holyoke is about, doing. If you didn’t already know. Heelan wants Garrett to join the cult. When he underestimates Sykes, he takes a few shots to the chest.
In the distance, a wicker-masked cultist lurks, watching. But who’s left? Deb? Who could it be?
Excited for “The Devil Inside” because I feel the show gains steam as the episode wear on. Loving some of what’s happening, digging most. Stay with me, fellow fans.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Dharma Bums”
Directed by Michael Schultz
Written by Richard Hatem
* For a review of the previous episode, “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Townie” – click here
At Camp Stillwater in 1970, a young Deb and a young man named Keith obsessed with Jack Kerouac are out in the woods burying a book by the author, so that if they ever need to remember they can just dig up their greatest summer. The episode’s title comes from the Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums.
Back to their present – 1989. Cricket (Amber Coney) is dead, her things are being cleared out. A grown up Deb (Elizabeth Mitchell) counsels everybody, allowing them to call anybody they need to, whatever’s necessary. Poor Cricket’s family is left devastated. As are Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Joel (Eli Goree), Blair (Mark Indelicato), Alex (Ronen Rubinstein), Jessie (Paulina Singer), and Drew (Zelda Williams). But Deb blames herself, for not leaving “the past in the past” and trying to recapture her own glory days.
Then in her cabin, Deb finds Keith (Dylan Neal). He’s turned up after all these years? Something is definitely afoot at Camp Stillwater.
Joel still thinks Holyoke is the culprit responsible for Cricket’s death. The others sceptical, though anything is possible. Blair and Alex look throughan old cellar until they come across an old Ouija board. There’s talk of Santería, Blair’s abuelita was into the whole thing. They all agree to meet back there later to try talking to Cricket beyond the grave.
With Deb, she’s not particularly interested in having Keith around. Although it’s what drove her back to Stillwater that part of her life is over. At least that’s what she feels in the moment.
We flash back to Deb at a Children’s Defence League table outside a building. She reads poetry by Keith, asked by a friend about him. Deb gets a little sass from a lawyer, before being hit on. We see that she’s very passionate, in many ways. Another flashback later, Deb is in a big office, and the lawyer that sassed her is now her man. She went from hippy to big shot lawyer, married to another lawyer.
Finally we’re back to Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza). He’s asking his mother (Janet Kidder) about what his father may have been investigating out at the cabin in the woods. In the cuff link Garrett found, there’s a tiny piece of paper with a file number on it. Something that likely got him killed. After Garrett starts looking he comes across the file. It’s filled with creepy drawings, and an ominous note left by his father to warn anybody that might be following “the trail” like he once did.
Blair gets a bunch of things together – like ginger, chicken blood. Y’know. Santería-type shit. When Deb shows up, he gets a bit pissed. He throws everything in her face, figuratively, and runs off. So we get another look at the old Deb, or the new Deb that came after the old one. She and Keith run into one another. He’s having a rough time financially. Being a poet isn’t proving much for the wallet. Keith wants them to run off and dig up their time capsule. Or really, he just wants to sleep with her. The conflict is clear in her. Perhaps why seeing him again at the camp in ’89 is more thrilling. Yet she’s still conflicted: “I don‘t deserve to be this happy,” she tells him while they dance next to the fire together.
In their cabin, Blair starts the Santería ceremony – he sets out three candles, brings out a white rose, then begins a recitation involving the chicken blood. “Don‘t do this,” Joel begs him quietly. But the boy is determined to contact his friend Cricket in the afterlife.
When nobody feels it’s working, the Ouija board rocks, the fire lights up. And something makes its way inside Amy, possessing her, nearly cracking her back in half. Through Amy, the voice of Cricket speaks to them. Blair weeps for answers. All they get is a cryptic message, someone coming for her. Then it’s Holyoke, possessing Amy to try and kill some more. Blair manages to quell the magic. However, Jessie gets a bit possessed, too. Her hand unwillingly scribbles an eerie Satanic drawing before the pen whips from her fingers, pinning it to the wall. Awesomely creepy stuff. A little while later they all try to figure out what to do next. Joel is optimistic that at least they’ve got a better idea of what’s going on, but there’s still plenty they don’t know.
Deb’s busy getting down in the woods with Keith. They’ve had quite a good reunion. Of course he’s ready to up and take off, which doesn’t feel too good after their romantic night. He basically disappears into the woods.
Simultaneously, Jessie goes to Sykes. He reveals what he’s found so far, about Holyoke, Satanic rituals, all that nasty stuff. He thinks he’s an idiot, that none of it is really happening. Once she hands over the drawing from their seance, this only helps compound all those weird things Garrett’s uncovered so far. When he puts the drawing over the map, there’s a suggestion of where the cult may be operating.
Worse is our flashback to Deb, going up to meet Keith. That’s where she finds him on the floor, drugs in his arm. Next to him a map of where they buried their capsule, the Kerouac book.
It’s now we finally understand that Keith is a ghost, an apparition. He’s there to remind her: “You have to stay here for them.” She wants to go with him, into the darkness of death. The ghost of her old lover reminds her that he’s always there for her. Although he warns of “dark things” on their way, coloured with a slight optimism that she may be able to help the kids under her care now. Another flashback shows us that Keith’s ashes were poured on the grounds of Camp Stillwater. So are there more ghosts to come? And what about Cricket, Blotter, will they turn up somewhere eventually?
In ’89, Deb has decided to take initiative. She admits her own faults, as well as the fact that talking to ghosts isn’t the best way; something she and Blair now fully understand. Deb uses the idea of the time capsule to preserve their memories of Cricket, everybody placing an object in the old box where once Deb and Keith kept their own memories. It’s a beautiful, highly emotional scene. One that also sees Blair and Drew get a bit closer in a sweet way. But everyone gets a chance to try moving on.
Elsewhere in the woods, Sykes and Jessie find a box with an unmentionable item inside. Furthermore, Garrett notices the points of the pentagram with the skull in it from Jessie’s drawing have numbers on it, each corresponding to where Cricket was found, Dave, et cetera. This leads them to the next number where they find a hole seeping blood.
Funny enough, the weird biker Satanists are watching, and even they don’t know who moved their bloody little treats. In another hole, a masked cult member buries what looks like Blotter’s head, or could be any head. The madness is getting madder.
Plus, there’s the next number on the pentagram. Who will meet death next?
A pretty intense, fun episode. I like the Deb storyline, as it sorts of amps up the ghostly aspects of Camp Stillwater more. Excited for the next episode titled “Townie” because I bet, by the name, we’ll get more on Sykes, and hopefully on his father’s connection to the investigation into Holyoke and the Satanist cult.
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
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.
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 Deb‘s 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.”
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