Dead of Summer “Mix Tape” Review (Season 1 Episode 3)

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This week on “Dead of Summer,” it was Cricket’s turn at the flashback bat, as we learned how she got the way she was- though, alas, not how she went from Carolina to Cricket- and the plot thickened with the local Satanists, in “Mix Tape.” Here, the mixtape of the title was both literal- as in the kind people used to make back in the heady pre-recordable CD days of cassettes- and figurative, as in the act of making something well-considered for someone you liked, to show your affection.

I myself made my fair share back in the day, though I easily own more CDs than cassettes. However, not exactly being made of money, it was some time before I was able to afford a recordable CD set-up, so I continued to make mixtapes long after it was de rigueur, so I know a few things about making one for someone you like.

At one point, God help me, I even made one for actress Sarah Michelle Gellar during the height of my “Buffy” mania. I never heard back, but it’s just as well as it probably would have been to deliver me a restraining order, lol. Anyway, there is a sort of art to it, to be sure, to create some semblance of what one was feeling at the moment.

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Sure, sometimes, to quote the Beastie Boys: “Life ain’t nothin’ but a good groove, a good mixtape to put you in the right mood.” But other times, not so much. Sometimes it was the way of dealing with a bad mood, a way over a heartbreak, or yes, a way to show one’s love for another human being, whether platonic or romantic.

I became somewhat notorious for mine- people used to commission them from me all the time, to the point that I had to turn them down or I never would have gotten anything done. I’ve no doubt some of mine are still out there floating around somewhere, and I hope they continue to put people in the right mood, whatever that may be.

In the case of “Dead of Summer,” it came in the form of one left behind by the late Blotter, who was kicked out of camp last week when the devious Alex slipped him an acid Mickey and caused him to act out, resulting in his unceremonious dismissal.

AMBER CONEY, MARK INDELICATO, JOHN C. MACDONALD, HARRISON MACDONALD

As we discovered this week, his absence had direct repercussions, as Alex struggled with managing the kids in his wake, Amy was still angry with Alex because of what he’d done, and in the end, it even cost him a burgeoning relationship with Cricket- or at the very least, a hot hook-up in the cabin.

Though I wouldn’t count Alex out of the game just yet. As we saw at the end, after the appearance of Blotter’s mixtape caused Cricket to have second thoughts about hooking up with Alex, it also directly resulted in Alex having second thoughts about Cricket, in that finally he saw her as what she was- a beautiful young woman with a rockin’ body- rather than another conquest or notch in his belt to be taken and then disposed of afterwards.

Of course, some of that was potentially Cricket’s fault, given her penchant for leaving self-defeating messages in graffiti all over the camp, which, as it turns out, was getting her all the wrong sort of attention. I think the plan was to get Alex interested by virtue of appealing to his seedier side, which proved to ultimately succeed, even if Cricket had second thoughts at the last minute.

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Unfortunately, it also got her the wrong kind of attention, as it drew the scrutiny of not only horny little boys, who drilled a hole into her cabin to peep in on her, but also the skeevy Damon, who used Cricket’s negative attitude about herself to swoop in for the kill- quite possibly literally.

Fortunately, her friends picked up on Cricket’s dubious decision to go “for a ride” with Damon, talking Deputy Garrett into going after her when she left with the shady character. Although it was indeed Jesse’s idea for Cricket to use Damon to make Alex jealous, which proved effective, though she took it a bridge too far by taking off with him.

It almost cost her, as the wild-driving Damon could have possibly killed them both while likely driving drunk and way over the speed limit, one assumes to impress her. But then Cricket spotted a telltale marker in his glove box and realized that it was him who set up a meet with her previously when he “answered” her graffiti earlier on in the episode.

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Thinking her gambit to lure Alex in had worked, she ostensibly went to meet him at the docks, only to find Damon and his creepy thugs waiting for her, not Alex. Thankfully, Garrett intervened here as well, breaking things up before they potentially got nasty.

In the case of Mr. Damon’s Wild Ride, it was Cricket who put a stop to things, attacking him with a knife she also found in the glove box and causing Damon to drive them off the road. No sooner had they done so than Garrett and company rolled up.

Damon made the mistake of referring to Cricket as a slut, which set Alex off and they two got into it, with Alex making mincemeat of Damon, which might come back to haunt him later on, given what we found out he was into. On the bright side, it did bring Alex and Cricket closer together, but one would argue, for all the wrong reasons.

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Thankfully, that titular mixtape put a stop to things before they went too far. Interestingly, it turned out that Damon had seemingly been targeting Cricket for a specific reason, but as we learned at the end of the episode, after seeing Damon and his buddies perform some sort of Satanic ritual, they had the “wrong girl.”

Insofar as that goes, we also saw that the ritual involved dark robes, a freaky-looking mask that looked like a goat’s head and appeared to made of wicker (shades of old-school classic “The Wicker Man“- not to be confused with the lamentable Nicholas Cage version), a human skull (likely the one found by Blotter in the last episode) and the heart of the deer found slaughtered in the premiere, which was stabbed with the aforementioned knife of Damon’s.

As this was done, Damon said the following: “We found her, now take her. Her blood will bring yours.” Interestingly, though, it proved to be Amy that was the target, not Cricket, despite all her nightmares and hallucinations over the course of the episode, as she saw the masked figures coming after her.

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Also interesting was a scene Cricket had with Amy earlier in the episode, which would seem to confirm some people’s theories that what was going on here wasn’t too far removed from the “Lost” purgatory model, in that, once one had made their peace with something they had reservations about in their life, they could get on with their lives. (Or death, I suppose, in the case of “Lost.”)

Amy pointed out that she’d been hallucinating things as well and having bad dreams, but they stopped once she made her peace with a past event, in her case, the unintentional death of her best friend, who accidentally fell off a ledge of the house she and Amy were partying in when the cops raided it and she overreacted. But was Amy really over it, after all? And does coming to terms with it really get one out of the line of fire?

Well, it certainly didn’t in the case of Blotter, who was confirmed to, at the very least, to have been attacked, his severed hand resting at the bottom of the lake. I suppose it’s possible he might have survived, but I hope he’s ambidextrous if he did. Otherwise, if they got the wrong hand, he’ll need to learn to be.

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Meanwhile, Amy herself was struck by lightning in a freak storm that arose after Damon and company completed their ceremony. My guess is that she’ll live, but now she’s really got a target on her back, as Damon now has his sights set on her as “the one,” whatever that means.

Couple this with the info we got on the “Tall Man,” who would seem to be known as “Holyoke,” and who was reportedly accused of mass muder and leading a cult, who worshipped and killed in the name of a spirit that supposedly resided in the lake at the camp. Holyoke was confronted, dragged out of the cabin while he sat at the piano and subsequently killed by enraged locals, who blamed him for the rash of deaths that had occurred in the area.

Other details: the problems began after the slaughter and disembowelment of a deer, just like the problems at the camp in 1989. As in that case, certain parts-notably the heart- were taken from the deer, for unknown purposes. After the death of Holyoke, things seem to improve for the community, leaving them to think they’d gotten rid of the problem, but was that truly the case?

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Theory time! I think that Holyoke was falsely accused and was probably trying to stop the evil cult involved with the lake. I also think he’s the one that’s been warning various characters of the evil afoot, including Cricket here via the janky “Speak ‘n’ Spell” knock-off, and Blotter and Anton in previous episodes.

I think the Satanists/cult members are actually townies, and they were the ones who killed all those people long ago, likely in some “Wicker Man”-style ritual intended to bring the town good fortune and the like. Obviously, as per the journal, it worked, but in doing so, it also put a sort of curse on the camp and the lake and surrounding area, hence the fact that freaky stuff has been happening ever since.

Note that we still don’t know what caused the camp to close the last time- and probably won’t find out much, as the creators have alluded to the fact that, if there is another installment, it will take place in the 70’s, when the camp was shut down last. I think the problems happen in cycles, with the evil stuff happening until the spirit haunting the lake is “appeased,” as it were. Just a theory, but we’ll see.

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Now that Amy is “marked,” it will be interesting to see if she’s possessed by the spirit in question, or if she’s more of a foe to be defeated by the evil contingent of the show, i.e. Damon and his buddies. Also note that Deb had one of those masks hidden in her dresser. Was it, in fact, a “piece of junk” she found and kept, or is she in on it?

Theory # 2: Deb is indeed in on it and part of the older contingent in town that are part of the rituals that have to be done time and again to appease the spirit of the lake, or else all hell breaks loose. As we already know that she was a former camper herself, I suspect that she was there when the last rash of murders occurred and witnessed something or the other which made her decide to join up with Team Evil.

Given that she obviously has fond memories of the place and spearheaded the movement to get it back up and running, I suspect that she was recruited to that end by someone at the camp or in town that said they’d help her do so, if she joined up with the cult. She agreed and so the camp came back, with her in charge, as well as being the “inside woman,” as it were.

ELI GOREE, ELIZABETH MITCHELL

I also think that she might be supposed to sacrifice a virgin at some point, which would account for her flirtation with Joel. She’s supposed to seduce and kill him or lead him to his doom. The reason she rebuffed him at one point was because she was having second thoughts about it and trying to push him away for his own safety.

However, I do think there’s a potential window that might also allow for the defeat of the evil at hand because of this. Because Deb seems to genuinely like Joel, she might allow him to escape and perhaps inform him of what he needs to do to stop the cult. Likely it will come at the cost of her life, just as with “Lost.” We shall see.

All of that said, this was a fun episode, with lots of details to discern and pore over, from the journal entry we got a clear look at, to the whole cult thing and the rituals going on. Note the ever-present Satanic documentary that always seems to be playing in the background- I think it’s a bit of a fake-out.

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I’m not so sure these even are Satanists, but if the “Wicker Man” thing is intentional, possibly Paganists instead. Think “The Lottery,” where a sacrifice must be made for the town’s well-being and to ensure it’s prosperity.

As per usual, some good music was featured, including one of my favorite bands, Jane’s Addiction, here represented by their classic “Jane Says,” which, yes, was indeed released way back in 1988. Feel old yet, Gen X-ers? There was also the cheese-tastic INXS non-power ballad “Never Tear Us Apart” to contend with. (It still makes me cringe when I see that version of “Donnie Darko” that opens with it- ugh.)

I wasn’t able to readily identify the rest, but I think the sample-heavy one might have been M/A/R/R/S, of “Pump up the Volume” fame, and the other could have been The Cocteau Twins. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong- in fact, please do, as I’d like to know what they were for certain, as I dug both songs. Nice mentions of directors David Lynch and Hal Ashby, too, as well as some sweet “Five Easy Pieces,” “Harold & Maude” and “Time Bandits” talk. (Can you just imagine a bunch of tween campers watching “Five Easy Pieces”? Lol.)

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On a side note, someone pointed out to me that the fashion wasn’t as on point as I might have thought, looking more like 90’s-era clothes than late 80’s. I can’t say for sure one way or the other, having been too young at the time to recall- as I told the commentor, my first real notion of fashion was actually the anti-fashion of the mid-90’s, aka “Grunge” wear, i.e. plaid shirts, jeans, battered t-shirts, combat boots and the like.

So, if that’s true, my bad for saying it seemed spot-on. However, it is worth mentioning that fashion often has a “trickle down” effect, where something is popularized in one region before slowly making it’s way to others, so it’s possible what we see here might actually fit that bill.

I don’t know enough about fashion in that region at that time to comment, but one would like to think the wardrobe department did their research, though I suppose it’s also possible they took some liberties, thinking no one would notice. If so, guess what? Someone did.

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Beyond that, I do think the show exudes a genuine summer camp horror movie vibe that is very much in keeping with the stuff I grew up watching on cable, most of which was made in the late 70’s-early 90’s. If that’s what they’re trying to emulate, and I think it’s safe to say that’s the case, given the overall premise, then mission accomplished, as far as I’m concerned.

Yes, granted, they can only go so far on the network-formerly-known-as-ABC Family, but there has been drinking, weed smoking, acid dropping and implied sex (Cricket’s tryst with that a-hole in her flashback), so they’re pushing the limits as much as they can. As per usual, violence is no problem these days, when it comes to network TV, much less pay cable. Ah, priorities!

So, so far, so good. While the show is indeed going into a sort of predictable pattern, what with the flashback structure, I don’t really mind it, as it allows us a chance to get to know the characters in a way that just wasn’t possible with a typical slasher movie, which I think is a positive development overall.

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I also like that characters that initially seemed unsympathetic are proving to be less so than we might have thought, which is good. I wouldn’t be surprised if that goes the other way, too- characters that we thought were “good” prove to be “bad,” as it were. But I think the show gets that, in reality, most people are more shades of grey, which is far more interesting than the cliches often found in the old-school slashers, anyway, IMHO.

Not that this is a slasher, really, TBH. It’s more of a supernatural drama, which is actually kind of cool and more original at this point, anyway, given how many slashers have been done at this point. It also separates it from the pack of new ones on TV, like “Scream” and “Scream Queens,” which is also good.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Dead of Summer”? Are you in favor of a Cricket/Alex coupling, or could she do better? (I mean, it has to be said- her in that swimsuit? Wowsers. Mama didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, just sayin’.) Why the hell is she called Cricket, anyway? (I suspect we’ll find out in Blair’s flashback ep.)

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Is Amy now a vessel of evil? Or is she the tool to defeat it? What are Damon and company up to? What is the cult about and what is their ultimate goal? Is Deb part of the cult? Who will be the next target? Whose flashback are you most looking forward to? (I’d have to go with Drew.) Sound off down below and see you next week!