Summer Camp Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Directed by Alberto Marini
Written by Alberto Marini and Danielle Schleif
2015, 81 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on August 2nd, 2016
Diego Boneta as Will
Jocelin Donahue as Christy
Maiara Walsh as Michelle
Andrés Velencoso as Antonio
Àlex Monner as Marcos
Xavier Capdet as Javier
Sometimes, a movie flies under the radar. For whatever reason, there is little talk surrounding it, but when a viewer sees it, they are gobsmacked that it hasn't been screamed from the rooftops. While the critics last year crowed the deserved praise for The Babadook and It Follows, Summer Camp deserves just as much praise for beautiful scenery and innovative twists to the genre.
Four American camp counselors arrive in Mexico to teach English at a summer camp. Before the campers arrive, an infection takes hold of several people, causing them to rage and kill the uninfected. The counselors are forced to fight for their lives, and to try identify the cause of the infection and help their friends that are stricken.
The synopsis seems to describe a 28 Days Later fast zombie knockoff, but this is one of the many fakeouts that occur in the movie. Happily, the filmmakers and cast seem to gleefully break audience expectations and leave them guessing at what will happen next.
First time director Alberto Marini is not new to the business, just new to the big chair. Unlike many that have gone before him, he does not fall into traps of choosing style over substance, or sex appeal over story. Yes, Marini does pull out his bag of tricks to show us what he's got, but instead of the typical music-video-meets-softcore-directing littering today's horror films, Marini focuses on the fundamentals first. His horror doesn't live only in dark halls and corridors, it can be found anywhere in his lush, bright shots. He also shows a penchant of using reflective surfaces to catch both a speaker and listener in a scene when only a pan and scan shot would have been available. He uses handheld shots, but only sparingly and always interspersed with longer static shots to create anxiety. Indeed, things escalate very quickly, with only the necessary prologue to start the viewers on their ride. Perhaps his crowning glory is an extraordinary tracking shot through a room, out of a window, and around the corner of a house in one fell swoop to show what he felt he needed. With only slick camera work and solid scripting, the movie explodes with a frenetic pace and manic feel that rarely lets up, thanks again to the script.
Marini and cowriter Danielle Schleif honed an impeccable story, with believable dialogue and characterization, and a pace on paper that translates in harmony with the finished product. They adhere to the process of "show, don't tell" and allow the actors to do their jobs selling the story without needless verbal banality. The audience is allowed to watch the characters think in real time and convey their fear, anger, and despair with their action. Marini also understands that directors can choose what they want to show, and that sometimes less is more works. As the characters have to kill an infected German Sheppard, the camera instead follows the reactions and the effect this act has on them.
Interestingly enough, the cast as a whole seems to gel into a perfect performance. No one swings for the fences, or makes it there, but all put in solid performances that never takes the viewer away from the story. Each actor gets their chance in the spotlight, and each does their level best to contribute to the story. Each also gets a chance to try their hand at playing one off the infected, which had to be a truly fun experience.
Should Marino decide to work in the genre again, that flick will be a "Do Not Miss".