04th Sep2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Summer Camp’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Diego Boneta, Alex Gonzalez, Jocelin Donahue, Maiara Walsh, Andres Velencoso | Written by Alberto Marini, Danielle Schleif | Directed by Alberto Marini

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With a title like Summer Camp you’d be forgiven for thinking that this film would be yet another stalk and slash fear flick. It isn’t. The film, helmed by longtime Filmax producer Alberto Marini – in his directorial debut – follows similar story beats to some of his most well-known films including the [REC] franchise and former Frightfest movie, The Last Days.

Looking for fun times as counsellors at a European summer camp for children, four Americans never suspect their first experience abroad might be their last. For the rapid-fire spread of an extreme rage-inducing infection plunges the group into a dark vortex of horror and madness catapulting them into a race against time – and each other – to find the source of the mystery contagion and make it out alive.

Yet another Spanish movie about an unexplained infection turning people into flesh-eating psychos may sound like [REC] 3.5 but this film, featuring an American and Spanish cast, is less a REC pastiche and more a morality play exploring themes around friendship and trust. There’s a twist, which I won’t spoil, which changes up the film from the all-too familiar zombie-esque plotting to some completely different, opening up the film allowing Marini to use the story to explore deeper themes regarding egocentrism and the brutality of man (or woman). The twist also ramps up the tension, the audience being privy to information the cast are not, really putting you on the edge of your seat.

If there’s any issues with Summer Camp its the stilted opening, as the multi-lingual cast struggle with not only the clunky introduction of their characters but also the early exposition which has to get all the plot points out of the way and set up the issues between the four counsellors. But once the horror ensues and all hell breaks loose, the film hits a fast-paced stride and never lets up – at least until the epically poignant finale when the real horror of the situation, and the horrors of man come to the fore, revealing the truth about the infection and showing the real character of the counsellors…

With Summer Camp producer Alberto Marini has shown he’s as skllied as a writer/director as he is as producer, joining a long line of filmmakers holding up the Spanish scaremongering tradition. Here’s looking forward to his next film.

***½  3.5.5

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