This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"Final Summer attempts to pay homage to much-loved alumni of the camp slasher sub-genre but fails to bring anything new to the table."
BY BECCA JOHNSON SEPTEMBER 20, 2023
A directorial debut from John Isberg, Final Summer is a new summer slasher set at Camp Silverlake during 1991. In the wake of tragedy, a group of camp counsellors find themselves fighting for their lives against, you guessed it, a masked killer. Final Summer attempts to pay homage to much-loved alumni of the camp slasher sub-genre but fails to bring anything new to the table, resulting in a carbon copy rather than an ode.
Despite the genre being oversaturated, there is something quite familiar and cosy about slasher flicks set at summer camp, and Final Summer is bound to become a spooky season watch for a few horror fans this year. Luckily, the movie hits the nail on the head with the overall vibe. The camp setting is perfect with decent production value, the score is immersive, and it sets the tone just right to match others in the genre. It’s very cheesy, the cast fit into their desired stereotypes, and it instantly feels familiar and digestible. It’s clear that Director Isberg knows what he’s doing, and he shows competence in his filmmaking and story creation; It’s a low budget independent horror film that does exactly what it says on the tin. Unfortunately, this is where the positives end.
Final Summer really fumbles the bag with its main attraction – the horror. It has little to no horror or gore, which automatically takes it down a peg or two. There are certainly some kills in here, and we do have a weapon-wielding villain, but it often cuts away before we see any blood, and anything that is included doesn’t look especially realistic. There is most definitely some fun to be had watching our killer track down our group of teens, but his mask design leaves a lot to be desired and he fails to truly frighten. Looking like nothing more than an average-build teenage with a balaclava on, he is not going to stand out amongst the plethora of masked villains we already have. Some blood, guts and gore would’ve at least added another layer to Final Summer, something for horror fans to enjoy, but it decides to omit this almost entirely.
Horror aside, the story is also lacklustre. The dialogue is often cringeworthy and its meta references to other horror flicks feel forced in. There is a line of dialogue that refers to The Lost Boys not being horror but being Jason Patric, which is both unfunny and a poor attempt at appealing to a younger audience. We don’t get much of a backstory for many of our characters excluding the lead, meaning they are difficult to root for and extremely disposable. It can be argued that some other entries into the genre, including 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, doesn’t develop it’s characters very far, but at least that entry makes them so unlikeable that it’s fun to see them meet their demise. The cast of Final Summer are both underdeveloped and lack energy, meaning the audience don’t feel either way about them. The story itself is merely teens walking around in the dark with flashlights throughout the short 82-minute duration – it lacks urgency and fear factor. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, but it doesn’t do much with the time it has either.
Final Summer suffers from a poor script that lacks any sort of depth. Despite Isberg’s obvious love for the genre and strong directorial skills, as well as the fun that can be had with this setting, Final Summer is a mess that fails to bring anything new to the table. Perhaps it’s biggest faux pas of all is that it lacks any horror, meaning it’s not even worth sticking on for a bit of fun. Director John Isberg is worth keeping an eye on, but unfortunately Final Summer can be skipped.