Dead of Summer: Modern Love – A Sleepaway Camp Remix (Review)

ZELDA WILLIAMS

Last week saw Amy struck by lightning and Cricket being (wrongfully) targeted by the Satanists. On Dead of Summer “Modern Love” the focus is on Drew and his backstory. In a move that feels very much like a remix of  the 1983 cult classic Sleepaway Camp, Drew is  transgender in the late ’80s.

(“Sleepaway Camp,” starring a very young Felissa Rose featured a character who was also trapped in the wrong body…but with disastrous consequences for their fellow campers.)

This 1980s redux has chosen to mimic horror  films from that time period but has omitted the slasher element from “Friday the 13th” and “Sleepaway Camp.” (And many other popular slasher films from that time period.)  The threat in this series is a demon who  apparently lives in the lake beside Camp Stillwater.  Tony Todd, who plays a ghostly and vengeful character has yet to be identified as a cohort to the watery evil threatening the camp counselors.

“Modern Love” however is less about the lake and the demon than it is about Drew. The kid who grew up being called Andrea and was made to wear dresses. The child that knew before puberty that “she” was a boy grew up to  have  some pretty heavy emotional baggage.  As a kid  Andrea listens to David Bowie (who was the poster child for sexual ambiguity at the start of his career) and has a British flag on the wall of his bedroom.

He also has mother who, somewhat unsurprisingly in the ’80s,  is in complete denial; at first. Later the woman deserts her son Drew, literally moving house while the kid is at school.  It is laudable that the series creators developed a transgender character. However, the fact that Drew is gay also feels like they are trying too hard.

In some ways it feels like the punchline to a joke, in poor taste, that would terrify any ’80s parent. Somewhat akin the tasteless gag about  a husband being told that his wife has given birth to a five pound eye. “Oh my God,” shrieks the husband, “What could be worse?”
“It’s blind,” is the doctor’s deadpan reply.

In Dead of Summer, it is as though Drew’s mother is in the shoes of the husband. “Oh my God. My daughter is a boy. What could be worse…He’s gay.”

(Not personally having any experience of the transgender community,  apart from supporting their issues,  I have no idea whether such a thing is possible  in this area. Anyone who does know, please respond in the comments section.  Am I being unfair to the show’s creators in this regard? Are they trying too hard?)

While Drew is haunted by his younger self,  wearing a dress and carrying a red balloon, (shades of M. Night Shyamalan) he also has to deal with his attraction to the only gay counsellor at the camp; Blair.  Later, when he confesses to Ramos that he used to be Andrea the young man leaves in distress.

Apart from the Drew storyline, Deb and Joel  act out their “The Graduate” scenario in the woods while Sykes searches for them both. Cricket and Alex go to Carpenter’s cabin and find the mask seen in Cricket’s dream. (Amusingly, the couple both manage to fit under Deb’s bed when she returns with Joel.)

PAULINA SINGER, ALBERTO FREZZA, ELIZABETH LAIL
Jessie, Styles and Amy

Styles finds Amy standing in the shallow part of the lake. A huge clawed hand reaches for her and retreats when the cop shows up. After kissing him she wakes from some sort of somnambulistic state. The Satanists are very pleased at this turn of events.

By the end of the episode, Drew turns to Jessie for comfort after Blair reacts so badly to her news.

Dead of Summer has characters who are aware that something is amiss at Camp Stillwater. Visions and bad dreams (as well as Cricket’s stolen boots) are putting everyone on edge. Although Joel is too preoccupied with his crush on older woman Deb to notice much of anything. (He actually brings up Jason – Friday the 13th – being struck by lightning while Amy is recovering from being struck.)

While the storylines are interesting the series has a very low body count – one – and the suspense is moving at a snail’s pace.  Foreboding only goes so far and thus far the show is, as the British say, “All shirt and no trousers.”

That being said, Zelda Williams is killing it as Drew Reeves and her character’s backstory was interesting even if the mother moving out did also feel a little like a bad joke.

Dead of Summer airs Tuesdays on Freeform.

CAST:

SNL: Adam Driver, Chris Stapleton & Liev Schreiber (Review)

On SNL Adam Driver has proven that he can, and did, follow up the Christmas pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who also had Bruce Springsteen as their musical guest) with a first guest-hosting gig that rocked.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41

On SNL Adam Driver has proven that he can, and did, follow up the Christmas pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who also had Bruce Springsteen as their musical guest) with a first guest-hosting gig  that rocked.  Even without Chris Stapleton (who rocked the show in a different way) and the hysterical cameo by Liev Schreiber, (and a somewhat uneven pitch in terms of comedy sketches) Driver killed it.

At least one other site (Vulture) has gone on record stating that the “Kylo Ren” actor is the new Jeff Goldblum.  That may be a bit overstating Driver’s skills, the man does lack that Goldblum patented art of delivery, but in all honesty the Star Wars: The Force Awakens star has his own modus operandi for comedy.

Lorne Michaels, and his staff of writers, must have been doing cartwheels when they realized that Driver possesses some impressive comedy chops. Unlike most guest hosts, the actor did “back-to-back” skits where he literally knocked the humor ball out of the SNL park. (Admittedly, some of the skits were not “killer” but Driver did well in all of them, with the exception of the last one in the episode, Dr. Rockhard.)

Considering that some of the gags were a bit like the show’s open (tepid) Driver managed to do very well.  The only skit that was a clear “fail” was the Dr. Rockhard sketch.  Another thing that may actually “grow into something” is the SNL writing staff still attempting to find modern versions of  Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner to guest anchor on Update.

Speaking of the writers,  this episode  worked even when Driver was not the focus of the skits. (Even Michael Che and Colin Jost were cracking up more than usual during the Weekend Update segment.)

While the start of this episode, number 1693, was a bit tepid with the usual suspects trotting out impressions of the political candidates and Driver’s opening monologue.  Since the new star is a “Noob” on the show, his spiel was kept very short and featured a picture where he does indeed look like a 12 year-old marine.

After the monologue, where Driver congratulates the Arizona Cardinals, to a less than enthusiastic reception, and mentions that this is the first SNL of 2016, the first skit, a riff on the NFL and Pete Davidson’s “Schlepp” receiving a horrific injury, gave an example of that uneven quality of the evening.

While the repeated viewings of the injury was amusing, it was essentially a reworking of the Eddie Murphy gag, way back when, where Buckwheat  is shot in front of a nightclub. To be fair that particular bit of comedy has the footage shown throughout the episode and each time more gunshots are heard. Essentially, however, the two gags (the NFL injury and Buckwheat has been shot) are the same.

“Weekend Update,” despite the fact that Michael Che found it very funny, felt a bit forced.

The skit about “social puppeteering” was good with some creative ideas, like “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Vampired…” Kudos  to whoever came up with the “21 Jump Street” gag…

In this sketch, the whole “Vampire” bit was brilliant, especially the opening premise where Driver’s character says.

“I got this weird albino dude to bite him and then fed him Molly.”

Before the best sketch of the evening, musical guest Chris Stapleton performed Parachute and proved just why he has all those awards. If there was any doubt he sang again later on and his performance was still top notch.

Fred Armisen presented the episode’s memorial to the late David Bowie that really could have been longer but time constraints being what they are on television was cut short.

The Golden Globes sketch, where Liev Schreiber has a hysterically funny cameo, and driver dangles his Golden Globe award between his legs, drunkenly proclaiming:

“Look, I’m Liev Schreiber!”

was brilliantly done. A “pre-recorded” skit, the husband and wife team who have left their kid’s home alone, to attend and receive their writing awards was funny and the ending, where Schreiber comes out wearing only an apron and starts cracking eggs, in front of the kids was almost perfection.

Adam Driver was let down a little with the doctor’s sketch, sort of a “gay” tribute to Vaudeville perhaps (?) but over all, the actor did extremely well on his first SNL gig.  In some ways, despite Vulture attempting to force Driver into the Goldblum slot, the performer feels like a tall Justin Long. (look at the below picture, it is there…)

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Adam Driver” Episode 1693 — Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon and Adam Driver on January 12, 2016 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

The two standout sketches of the show were the Golden Globes and the “social puppeteering” bits and the “GG” came in first place mainly  because of Schreiber.

It could not be an enviable position, coming after the powerhouse duo Fey and Poehler, but Driver does a great job despite the up and down quality of the sketches.  SNL continues to keep the aim high and Lorne Michaels still has that touch, although he should crack down on those “repetitive” writers a little.

 

 

American Horror Story Freak Show: The Day the Music Died

American Horror Story Freak Show: The Day the Music Died

In American Horror Story: Freak Show the Pink Cupcake episode was the day that Elsa’s music died. Her splendid rendition of Life on Mars fell on deaf ears and the crowd booed the singer’s performance and threw popcorn at her. Mars leaves the stage in tears, confused and upset as Jimmy, aka Lobster Boy, leads her away. Meanwhile Stanley sits in the audience with a smile on his face, one that looks suspiciously satisfied. It certainly seems like his plans are going very well.

American Horror Story Freak Show: Criminal and Farewell to the Geek

American Horror Story Freak Show: Criminal and Farewell to the Geek

In American Horror Story this week, the twins perform, with Dot knocking it out of the park with Fiona Apple’s Criminal, and it is farewell to the Geek who the new strong man sets up to take the fall for the missing detective that “lobster boy” and co got rid of in last week’s season premiere. The show also takes the masks off, Elsa shows how she really feels about her new headline act and the clown’s big grin is knocked askew by one of this captors and what is underneath those huge gnashers is terrifying in the extreme.