Dead of Summer: The Dharma Bums – Deb (Review)


Dead of Summer  starts with Cricket’s effects being taken from the camp. “The Dharma Bums ” continues with a trip down memory lane for Deb. 1970s America included Camp Stillwater and Jack Kerouac for the young camp director. It also included Keith, a poetry writing Kerouac wannabe who was in love with  Deb.

This episode gave some brilliant backstory to the director and featured a great “beyond the grave” love story.  Keith comes to visit and apart from consummating their love, offers some advice. “You may be able to save these kids,” he says before vanishing in a cloud of fog rising from the lake.

Cryptic, a little cool (with shades of Ghost) and a chance to see what really makes Deb tick. Interestingly this woman is a Harvard lawyer, not a good fit as she seems too naive in many ways.

Still the flashbacks, which got a little confusing at times,  gave great insight into the optimistic nature of the young Deb. There is a little bit of a discordant note being struck here though.  Would such a “save the world” young woman have a satanic mask in her wardrobe?  And…how can she so effortlessly get caught up in Keith’s visit from the grave.

This ghost is corporeal. He touches Deb, in more ways than one, and can even start campfires.  The younger Deb found the man dead of an overdose and even, apparently, scattered his ashes at Camp Stillwater. (Coincidentally, her trip to the closed camp revealed it was for sale. Ergo Keith was responsible for the camp being reopened.)

So how could she so willingly go along with not only walking and talking to her dead boyfriend but presumably shag him as well?  Are Harvard lawyers so willing to suspend their disbelief?

Collecting Ingredients for a seance

Leaving Deb’s love story aside, Blair decides to speak with Cricket’s spirit and find out what really happened. He and Alex collect a “spirit board” (Which looks suspiciously like a Ouija Board.) and some ingredients from the kitchen.  Ginger and chicken’s blood are essential to a successful spirit chat, according to Blair’s abuelita (granny) who was a Santeria.

The rest of the counselors are united in their belief that something bad is happening at the lake.  Joel opts out of the spirit board seance though.  Once Blair gets the ball rolling, things get pretty exciting. Amy is possessed and not only does Cricket come through but so too does Holyoke.

Poor Amy, not only is she the “doorway” but she also needs to die before whatever evil plan Holyoke’s has can reach fruition.  Jessie does some spirit drawings which she later takes to Sykes.

The possession included white eyes, no pupils, a bit of back popping and Amy awkwardly trying to slit her own throat. In essence some pretty good stuff. Not as impressive as those hands, or whatever those white things were, flailing at the windows. That was easily the creepiest bit of the entire seance.


Jessie and Sykes try to follow the clue left by his dad. (Earlier the lawman discovers his dad’s old cufflink had a clue hidden in it.) When Braces turns up with the drawing, Sykes figures out that this is the missing piece to his puzzle.

They begin digging up buried items placed in the shape of a pentagram. The deer heart is found but  when they look for the skull, aka Blotter’s head, they find blood only. The thing has been moved.

Sidenote:  And here is the only real problem with this episode. The head, which should have been uber creepy, was obviously fake. Someone did not realize, apparently, that when the masked figure  plopped  the head in its new grave, he/she was going to push it onto the ground. The head “gave.” In other words, it was clear there was no skull in Blotter’s decapitated bean.  Seconds later, even the shovel of dirt caused the head to “give.”  Sorry chaps but that little moment stole every bit of thunder this episode had.  

Despite the monumental cock up with Blotter’s skull-less head, “The Dharma Bums” was pretty good. It increased the mystery and allowed those pesky Satanists to mention “the teacher”  again.

There were things that did not set well.  The Harvard lawyer bit still does not feel quite right for Deb for instance.  Plus the whole I’m not going to question the dead guy making love to me bit was a bit odd.  But overall, leaving out  the severed head debacle,  the story is progressing nicely.

However, there really needs to be a bigger body count and less build up. Dead of Summer has left behind its allusion to “Friday the 13th” type horror and is sloppily meandering between sub-genres of horror.  *Come on guys. Pick one or two.*

On the plus side, great focus on Deb as she really was far too one-dimensional for so long.

Dead of Summer airs Tuesdays on Freeform.


Guest starring Dylan Neal as Keith

Author: Mike's Film Talk

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

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