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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Popcorn Frights Film Festival Movie Review: Final Summer

Final Summer is a Nostalgic Trip Back to the Slasher Classics From the 80s
-by Mike Imboden

Imagine, if you will, your last summer before heading off to college.  High school graduation is in the history books and the days of big hair, glam rock, and the rest of the decade of excess is getting farther behind you in the rearview mirror as the 1990’s loom in front of you, full of possibilities.  You need some extra cash and so, like the last few years before this one, you sign on as a counselor at a summer camp, certain that THIS year will end in the exchange of phone numbers with a certain someone and - if you’re lucky - the exchange of something a bit more. You’re not the only one with summer plans, though, and while yours are like many others, there’s always one who has decidedly… different ideas of how to spend their summer.
Not the person you want to see on the last night of summer camp
It’s 1991 and Camp Silver Lake is closing its doors on its last season before it’s sold.  This news comes as a surprise to the counselors who are tasked with getting everything put away and cleaned up. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, though, when it’s revealed that “accidents” have befallen the camp every year and are attributed to the camp’s urban legend of a former groundskeeper named Warren Cooper, who was believed to be a bit unstable.  When a masked figure wielding an axe shows up, what was a night of work and camaraderie becomes a night of survival.

Final Summer, writer/director John Isberg’s throwback homage to the slashers of the sub-genre’s heyday, is a welcome sight in today’s horror market. While other  modern slasher films try to deconstruct or layer with socio-political messages from one side of the spectrum or the other, Final Summer gives fans what they need; a straight-up, old-school style, summer-camp “whodunnit” slasher with a memorable antagonist.  While some of the acting is a bit uneven, Jenna Kohn (Lexi), plays her part well giving a good mix of sass, smarts, and innocence which adds up to a solid turn as a “final girl”, and seeing Thom Matthews (The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)), again, if only for a too-short amount of time, is fun.
On the creative side, there are a couple of CGI shots that could have been better served by practical effects (as the vast majority of gags in the film are), even if that meant a less “extravagant” kill. but those can be forgiven thanks to the fun callbacks and tips of the hat to 80s horror, like a painting on the wall of the camp’s founder who looks suspiciously like Tom Atkins (who was associated with the film in its early planning stages - not sure what happened there), to outright references of Jason Voorhees, among others.  There are also elements that Isberg uses like soft-focus “memories”, red herrings, camera angles that hearken back to the classics that help give the film a nostalgic feel.

Final Summer is definitely worth a watch.  As a huge fan of “retro slashers”, this has been on my radar for quite some time and I’m quite happy to say that it, for the most part, lived up to my expectations.  

Final Summer made its World Premiere and is available to stream as part of Popcorn Frights Film Festival which takes place as a hybrid event, in person in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and with a virtual program online and runs from August 11-21, 2022. For more information, visit www.popcornfrights.com

Final Summer
Directed by: John Isberg
Written by: John Isberg
Genre: Horror
Starring: Jenna Kohn, Thom Matthews, Bishop Stevens
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rated: NR
Premiere Date: August 13th, 2022

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