Dead of Summer “She Talks to Angels” Review (Season 1 Episode 10)

ELIZABETH LAIL

On the slam-bang, full-throttle season finale of “Dead of Summer,” the show kept up its forward momentum until the end, as we saw the ultimate fate of our main characters- or what was left of them- in “She Talks to Angels.” Along the way, we got some unexpected deaths and a finale that managed to leave the door open just a crack without neglecting to deliver the goods, action-wise.

This time around, the main sources of inspiration were some of the most classic entries of all-time in the horror genre, the likes of “The Shining,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and especially, the Evil Stepmother of all summer camp horror movies, “Friday the 13th.”

As such, it was only apropos that they brought in one of the masters of the genre, the justly-celebrated Steve Miner, who directed some of the better entries in horror, including, yes, not one but two of the “Friday the 13th” flicks (Parts 2 & 3, for the record), along with the series-resurrecting “Halloween H20,” and the underrated “House” and “Warlock.”

Nowadays, Miner rarely delves into the genre, mostly doing TV- in fact, he’s an ABC Family regular, on such series as “Make It or Break It,” “Chasing Life,” and “Switched at Birth”- so it was nice to see him return to the field in which he cut his teeth and show that he can still draw blood with the best of them.

Indeed, there were some definite nods to his past works, notably the “FTT”-isms of Amy stalking the remaining counselors, which was all very typical of the franchise, but in the best of ways, managing to tweak the clichés without surrendering to them, i.e. Amy jumping through the window to get at the survivors out of nowhere, or stalking Jessie in the bathroom, Pamela Vorhees-style, as Jessie hid in the rafters, ninja-like.

ALBERTO FREZZA, PAULINA SINGER

It was also gratifying to see that the show continued to not pull punches, as a good half of those still standing went down, making for a relatively unpredictable finale. I mean, sure, I think most of us figured that Amy/Malphus would ultimately be defeated, but I didn’t see the twist involving Garrett coming, and I just loved the way the show briefly resurrected its victims, with Blotter’s gruesome appearance a bloody highlight.

Yes, the sight of Blotter’s head speaking and his headless, handless corpse was just this side of ludicrous- how could it not be, under the circumstances? But given how silly it could have been, Miner was remarkably resilient when it came to delivering the grisly goods.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was scared at any given moment of the series, much less the finale, but then I’m a bit of an old hand at the genre myself, having grown up on a steady diet of horror for most of my life, including an early love for the admittedly formulaic-but-fun slasher genre in particular.

As such, it takes a lot to rattle me, but I was nonetheless on the edge of my seat for most of the finale, which is saying something. The scenes in which Amy and her risen victims went after the remaining survivors were thrilling and intense, and you legitimately wondered at times if anyone would be left standing, especially given that we knew going in that, if the show were to continue, it would be going backwards, not forwards, to the 70’s, so that was hardly a guarantee that everyone would make it out alive.

PAULINA SINGER, RONEN RUBINSTEIN

As it turned out, only three did- Jessie (Paulina Singer), Drew (Zelda Williams) and Blair (Mark Indelicato)- while Alex (Ronen Rubenstein) and Garrett (Alberto Frezza) met their untimely end, along with a host of unfortunate cops and Amy (Elizabeth Lail) herself, in admittedly spectacular fashion.

In addition to the resurrected victims- Cricket (Amber Coney), Joel (Eli Goree), Blotter (Zachary Gordon), and Deb (Elizabeth Mitchell), some of who we saw in flashback form as well, we also got some cameos from various family members, including Garrett’s late father (Dan Payne) and Sheriff uncle (Charles Mesure) and Jessie deadbeat mom (Sharon Leal), which was nice.

All of this served the show well in coming around full circle, even if the finale wasn’t without its faults. For instance, how in the world did Jessie know about Amy’s past in enough detail to tweak her with the taunt “Who’s in a cage now”? And who closed the door in the bathroom to make Amy think Jessie had already left the building in that scene?

That said, I liked the subtle nod that the evil remained when we saw it seep into what was left in the canteen after Amy received an axe to the head, thus managing to squeak out of seeming defeat on the sly while the others were otherwise occupied.

That means that, though the lake was ultimately purified in the end by Holyoke’s spirit after it departed Jessie, and all concerned were able to rest in peace, the evil is still there, waiting to be found later on by some unfortunate soul, and with the camp back on the market- it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

NATHAN WITTE

Indeed, though the show’s creators have already mentioned that, if “Dead of Summer” is renewed, they will next go back to the 70’s and shed some light on what went on with Deb back in the day- where it was alluded to that she did something nasty that may have led to her ultimate demise in the present of the show- they also said that, if the show makes it to a third season, it will then move forward in time to the early 2000’s, possibly with one of the survivors returning in adult form to the camp, to stop a new evil (or the old one left behind), so there’s that to look forward to, potentially, which is cool.

I know some might be disappointed that the show won’t be going forward before it goes back, especially as there’s no guarantee that it will last that long, but I actually like the idea of it being set in the 70’s, which would open the door to a whole new feel for the show.

As dedicated horror fans know, the 70’s era of horror exudes its own vibe, and it’s a very different vibe from that of the late 80’s, which is what we got here. Instead of being sort of slick and somewhat breezy, 70’s horror was dark, gritty and often a bit on the sleazy side, for those who know the Grindhouse subgenre. That could be really interesting for a show to explore, even if the show is a little constricted by network standards.

ELIZABETH LAIL

Still, it’s not as if they didn’t get away with murder here, between heads being lopped off and speaking, to people being brutally axed to death, to one character having his tongue cut out in pretty grotesque fashion- not to mention deaths by bear trap, slashed throats, and stabs to the neck and shards of glass in the stomach.

Not too shabby for a network that once called itself ABC Family! This show definitely puts the “free” in Freeform, that’s for sure. (On a side note, there was even a decapitation on “Pretty Little Liars” that same night!) It would be a shame to not see the show continue, but I think, what with it being reasonably well-received by fans in particular, and “PLL” leaving the air as of next year, it might not be a bad idea for the network to let the show stick around, if only for one more season.

Granted, I was among the few critics that really dug the show, but then, as a longtime horror fans, I’m sort of used to professional critics crapping on the genre time and again. If they had stuck around and given the show a chance, like us fans did, they would have seen that this was not only a solid entry in the genre, but one that only got better and more unpredictable as it went along.

ELIZABETH LAIL

Not only was the show clever enough to tweak the clichés, such as making the so-called “Final Girl” the one who initially seemed like the “bitchy” character who traditionally gets it early on in a typical slasher flick, and making the obvious “good” girl be the ultimate villain; but it was also quite forward-thinking, deftly dealing with things that resonate with today’s culture, such as homosexuality and transgender issues.

I know that some grumbled about the fact that Blair’s character was too readily accepted by everyone, which you’d almost never see in an old-school slasher (though the fact that life was not always so rosy for Blair was alluded to in the finale in a flashback), or that some of the flashbacks were a little weak (notably Alex’s, which I don’t disagree with, though they retconned it somewhat in the finale as well), but overall, it was a surprisingly adept entry into the horror TV genre that ranks among one of the best television has had to offer, IMHO.

To be sure, I’d take it over the likes of “Scream: The TV Series” or even the oft-witty and fun “Scream Queens,” which lacks the substance of what we saw in this show by a country mile. Not that “SQ” is trying to be sensitive and relevant to today’s youth culture, really- it would rather tweak the current generation than speak warmly to them- but nonetheless, there was a lot to glean from some of the plotlines here for those paying attention.

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I’m not just talking about the obvious, like a tolerance for those that are “different,” as we saw with Drew’s flashback episode, “Modern Love,” but an overall tone that didn’t talk down to younger viewers, and avoided a lot of the more stereotypical character-driven pitfalls of a lot of the movies it was paying tribute to.

All too often we give older movies a “pass” for being politically incorrect by saying “that’s just how it was back then,” but rarely do we see it addressed retroactively and explored in an intelligent way like we saw here- and that’s quite an accomplishment for a horror-themed show, a genre which isn’t typically associated with anything resembling a PC nature generally.

That’s something that should be celebrated, not dismissed out of hand, as I saw a lot of critics doing early on, in their knee-jerk reaction to the show as being flat and typical. It’s something I see more and more of these days- people not having the patience to stick with something long enough to get the big picture and give a show time to breathe and grow- and that’s really unfortunate.

ALBERTO FREZZA, PAULINA SINGER

In the past, shows were given a little more leeway- would “Seinfeld” or “Buffy” be as popular as they are today, retroactively, if they hadn’t continued on for an extended period of time and allowed to get better? These days, people are all too quick to get rid of something over giving it time to prove itself, which is too bad. Hopefully, “Dead of Summer” won’t fall prey to that, as it’s a show worth keeping around to see what it gets up to next.

I can’t help but feel that, if certain critics- or viewers, for that matter- had stuck with it, they would have realized the same thing. Maybe, now that the first season is in the books, people will discover it after the fact and binge-watch it, where I suspect it will fare much better as a sort of mini-series type experience, rather than as a week-to-week one. It’s definitely a show that’s bigger than the sum of its parts, I think.

Until then, I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the show, and I legitimately hope that Freeform allows it to stick around and prove its worth with audiences and critics alike. It’s a show worth fighting for, I think, especially for horror fans. Hopefully, the higher-ups in charge will agree and let it live to scare another day.

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What did you think of the first season of “Dead of Summer”? Were you satisfied with the resolution? Would you also like to see the show get renewed? Would you rank it as one of the better horror-themed shows you’ve ever seen, or do you prefer some of the other shows I mentioned- or those I didn’t, for that matter?

Let me know what you thought down below, and be sure and let Freeform know via Twitter and the like that you want to see the show stick around while you’re at it, if you’re a fan!