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Summer Camp (2015)

Lionsgate
DVD Released: 8/2/2016

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/15/2016

Many people don't seem to realize that plot and story are not the same thing, and those two elements of fiction are often confused. Plot is the basic premise of the tale. It's the skeleton onto which everything else is hung. Story are all of the minute details which flesh out the plot. If you would like a food analogy, plot is the broth and story are all of the ingredients which complete the soup. In theory, you can't have one without the other. However, many, many movies try to get away with just having a plot and completely disregard the need for a story. They figure that as long as they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, that everything will be OK. Well, unless the movie is extraordinarily special, it most certainly will not be OK, as we see in Summer Camp.

Summer Camp is set at an English-language immersion camp in Spain. Will (Diego Boneta), Christy (Jocelin Donahue), and Michelle (Maiara Walsh) have come from the United States to help Antonio (Andres Velencoso) run the camp. These four, along with the small kitchen staff, are the only ones at the huge manor which serves as a base for the camp. As the group has spotted some squatters in the nearby woods, they try to stay inside the house. Despite the fact that the camp and the accommodations aren't quite what the Americans had expected, things are going smoothly. That is until the night when the four twenty-somethings are left alone and they all begin to act strange and then violent. Will anyone be able to survive the night?

Summer Camp comes from Executive Producer Jaume Balaguero, who is one of the main voices in modern Spanish horror cinema. After garnering some attention with Darkness and Fragile, Balaguero changed the face of the found footage movie with 2007's [REC] and the sequels. Those films dealt with a rabies-like virus with turned people into homicidal maniacs. The first two films were set inside of an apartment building, while the fourth took place on a ship at sea. (The third one occurred at a wedding.) The point being that the movies showed what it would be like if a group of out-of-control murderers were trapped in a specific location with their victims. Alberto Marini makes his directorial debut with Summer Camp, having written movies like Extinction, and it appears that he's attempted to take the [REC] formula to a new location.

Unfortunately, Marini and Co-Writer Danielle Schleif have taken this concept and...what's the opposite of "ran with it"? The movie starts out promisingly as we are offered a somewhat unique location. The title may make one assume that this a Friday the 13th clone, but this is not your typical summer camp setting. This is more of an elite camp and the manor actually places the film into more of the "old dark house" genre. The fact that there are only four characters almost guarantees that the movie won't be overly convoluted (but it also makes things feel a bit cheap). So, we have the setting and the characters, and then the plot arrives -- I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that the characters want to hurt one another. And then we are treated to what amounts to a 60-minute chase scene.

I came of age in the 1980s, so I've sat through some incredibly boring horror movies which were all dialogue and no action. Due to this, I used to long for horror films which featured plenty of excitement. However, past experience has taught me that non-stop action can equal no brains and that's exactly what we get with Summer Camp. After the premise arrives, the movie is just one scene after another of people growling, people running, and people hiding. It's incredibly redundant and offers no true suspense or excitement. The movie wants to redeem itself by offering a twist on the [REC] formula, but this doesn't make the film any less pedestrian or predictable. And the fact that the film basically opens and closes with the same scene may seem poetic, but it can't make us forget the nonsense in-between.

The details surrounding Summer Camp are actually more interesting than the movie itself. I realize that it was a flop, but after Diego Boneta was the lead in 2012's Rock of Ages, it's surprising to see him in a little movie like this. In addition to that tidbit, Summer Camp was shot in 2014, and it was over a year before it saw the light of day. The best thing that can be said about the movie is that the primary explanation given for the events in the film does give way to a better one. If you want to see some people running around and growling, then this movie is for you. Otherwise, just watch [REC] again.

Summer Camp is not a good advertisement for European camps on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no truly distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and, even though most of the movie takes place at night, the image is never overly dark. The picture is somewhat flat, but it is rarely soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver impressive sound, featuring the bass response created by the growling. In addition, as the characters are being chased through the woods, the stereo and surround effects bring attention to the sounds occurring off-screen.

The Summer Camp DVD contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long