Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
SUMMER CAMP (2015)Directed by Alberto Marini
Written by Alberto Marini, Danielle Schleif
Starring Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue, Maiara Walsh, Andrés Velencoso, Àlex Monner, Xavier Capdet, Rick Zingale
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
The biggest surprise of the week for me was discovering SUMMER CAMP from filmmakers Alberto Marini and Schleif. While the premise of having a group of camp counselors encountering a virus in the middle of the woods is something we have seen plenty of (specifically in the CABIN FEVER series and remake), the addition of a smart script and fantastic actors make this one of the most entertaining films of this kind I’ve seen in ages.
The film is set in Mexico, as a quartet of counselors are setting up a summer camp for underprivileged youth and learning to work with one another in the process. The small group of counselors are comprised of douchey opportunist Antonio (Andrés Velencoso), bespectacled good guy Will (SCREAM QUEENS’ Diego Boneta), spunky outdoorsy gal Michelle (THE VAMPIRE DIARIES’ Maiara Walsh), and princess out of her element Christy (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL’s Jocelin Donahue) who are stuck together on this trip and forced to learn to trust one another so that they can take care of the ornery kids. Activities are planned and the grounds are explored, but what the group didn’t account for were the locals who seem to want them to leave immediately and an outbreak that turns people into mindless cannibal monsters. The catch is that this only last for short periods of time, so while one of the counselors is infected and chasing two others, at any minute, the infected could return to normal and one of those running from the monsters could become one him or herself.
This is a film about trusting others and it’s a clever one at that. The film opens with the counselors playing a trust game in order to build teamwork. One person is blindfolded and the other is supposed to guide the person through the woods with audible cues. This is supposed to build a good working environment where one has to rely on teammates in order to achieve a goal. When people start getting infected, once again, a game of trust is played, it’s just that this time, the stakes are much, much direr. It’s this type of cleverness that sprouts up all through SUMMER CAMP, making the familiar unfamiliar and fun as these counselors rotate in who is the pursued and the pursuer as the virus is passed between them. It’s this game of tag that had me engrossed in this unconventional way of making the old “virus infected person on the loose” story feel fresh and new.
The cast here are absolutely lovable as all of them have a myriad of flaws and attributes. Standing out is Jocelin Donahue who once again offers up a great genre performance as Christy, who could be your typical vain bitch role, but the way she plays this role and the way she functions in the narrative is really strong. Maiara Walsh is also awesome as the more compassionate of the gals, and again, this role matters greatly in the way things work out. Using the behaviors shown in the beginning of the film during the trust games, the film smartly revisits later when the stakes are higher. This is a level of storytelling sophistication you don’t normally see enough of in horror and one I appreciated immensely.
I also loved the dark comedy at play throughout this film. In one scene, two uninfecteds are hiding in two different places. When one of their cell phones ring, it is thrown away in order not to alert their infected pursuer only to land inches away from the other hiding uninfected. This play on space and comedic timing are excellent here and makes for one of the more rambunctious and unpredictable rollercoasters I’ve experienced recently.
Just when you thought it was predictable to see a summer camp horror film, SUMMER CAMP comes along with tons of laughs, shocks, twists, and gore. It’s a film like many you’ve seen before but done in a way you haven’t. Highly recommended.
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!