Dead of Summer: How to Stay Alive in the Woods – Finally (Review)


After last week’s focus on  Drew and his issues, Dead of Summer finally stops pussy-footing around and  delivers more Holyoke.  “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” also focusses on another counselor, Joel. It turns out that the next Spike Lee has known about  the Tall Man for quite a while.

Joel’s big brother Michael was haunted by the dead spiritualist and kills himself the night of his prom. Before slashing his wrists and writing “He will never leave me alone” Mike gives his dodger shirt to Joel. This is the shirt he has been wearing at Camp Stillwater.

In this episode Joel’s past dealings with Holyoke is shown in detail. The ghost of Camp Stillwater haunted him on the night of his prom as well.

The campers and counselors all head out for a camp out  in a meadow. Roasted marshmallows and watching the blood moon are on the agenda.  Cricket warns the children and her colleagues to be careful in the woods.

There are, she says, bear traps everywhere.  Later, while she and Alex are collecting wood for the campfires, he almost steps on one.  Cricket warns him to be careful and to watch where he is walking. Considering what happens later this scene reeks of irony.

Holyoke appears to Joel and tells him to kill Amy or “someone else will die.” At one point it looks like an asthmatic little girl will be the  spirit’s victim. Apart from Joel seeing the Tall Man, he seems to have issues with hallucinations or vision that do not deal with the dead.

Last week, Joel and Deb meet in the woods and had sex.  Joel now feels that he and Deb have made a connection. When he tries to  act on his feelings, Carpenter rebuffs Joel.  He hesitantly asks about the night before and Deb reveals that all they did was walk in the woods.

Apparently, the young man imagined the entire thing.


Joel uses his camera to show him what is real. Almost every time that the ghost appears he uses the device to filter out Holyoke. Although the last time he tried to cancel the spirit out, it failed. Joel can see the Tall Man on his camera and the ghost reminds the young man that he needs to kill Amy.

The camp cameraman sees other  things as well.  He sees Amy with her eyes coming unfocussed as blood streams down her face.  In an earlier episode he saw Deb standing at her window in her bra. He thought, at the time, she was flirting with him. When he reviews the taped event he sees that this was not true.

Joel confesses to his fellow counselors that he is being haunted by the Tall Man.
They are concerned that about their friend who reveals that the ghost is telling him to kill Amy.  Joel talks about his brother as well. As he recounts his long history with Holyoke, Anton (Allan Fisher) arrives.

The Russian lad reports that Holyoke has told him that it is too late to kill Amy. He says that someone else will now die instead of her.

Cricket is still infatuated with Alex and later she goes to meet him in the woods.  Alex has apparently turned over a new leaf. He asks Blair what Cricket’s favorite song is and he takes a flower along for his date.

As she closes in on Alex for their romantic interlude, she spies a bear trap. Cricket changes course and is met by a masked figure who gives her a shove. The girl flies through the air and her head lands dead center on the trap.

Cricket’s head is skewered by the the teeth of the device.


“How to Stay Alive in the Woods” picked up the pace and trotted out some pretty impressively  creepy bits.  More is revealed about the Tall Man’s backstory and it appears that Garrett Sykes also has  previous history with Holyoke.

The shock end to Cricket was done very well as was the brief scare when the masked figure  suddenly appeared to shove her onto the trap.  Kudos for the pretty decent jump scare at the old house as well.

At long last Tony Todd’s character has been allowed to speak.  This combined with the increased sightings and interactions with Joel have pumped this show up.  Todd gives great bad guy, he alway has, and his  presence was needed  to increase the fear factor.

Mad props to Elizabeth Lail and her “unfocussed” eyes during Joel’s vision. Super creepy and disturbing, her slight eye crossing along with that dazed, “I’m dying” look was spot on.

This episode was not only scarier, it was a tad grim. With one suicide, Joel’s brother, and then later Joel almost slitting his wrist as well, made for  serious viewing. It was heart breaking when Joel learns that his camera can lie after all.

(On a sidenote, the program makers warn that the show deals with suicide at the start.)


Cricket’s death brings the Tall Man’s victim count up to two counselors. He is also getting very pushy with his demands to kill Amy.  It was sad to see Cricket go, but honestly, she was marked for death last week.

Dead of Summer airs Tuesdays on Freeform.  Head on over and watch this one, it is picking up, as is the body count, and is worth a look, if for no other reason than to see Tony Todd do what he does best.


Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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