Director – Alberto Marini, Screenplay – Alberto Marini & Danielle Schleif, Producers – Julio Fernandez P. & Peter Safran, Photography – Pablo Rosso, Music – Arnau Bataller, Visual Effects Supervisor – Luis Tinoco, Visual Effects – Onirikal Studio, Special Effects Supervisor – Lolo Lopez, Makeup Effects Supervisors – Pablo Perona & Lucia Solana, Makeup Effects – May Effects, Production Design – Sylvia Steinbrecht. Production Company – Pantelion/Castelao Pictures/Rebelion Terrestre Film/The Safran Company.
Diego Boneta (Will Thompson), Jocelin Donahue (Christy Allen), Maiara Walsh (Michelle Robin), Andres Velencoso (Antonio Hombrado), Alex Monner (Marcos), Xavier Capdet (Javier), Rick Zingale (Tattooed Man)
Three Americans arrive to take jobs as camp counsellors at the El Buho English immersion summer camp in Spain. As they start to party on their first night there, the local camp head Antonio suddenly froths at the mouth with black ichor and attacks Will. Will is forced to kill Antonio to defend himself. After Christy walks in and finds Will over Antonio’s body, she thinks he has killed him. She and Michelle flee in the vehicle but Michelle then becomes affected and turns crazed at the wheel. Will and Christy try to survive her frenzied attack. Realising that the effect only lasts for a limited time they wait it out, while searching for the cause, only for others of the group to become infected.
This was a Spanish-made film, shot in English-language and clearly intended for international release. It was a directorial debut for Alberto Marini, a long-time associate of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. Marini acts as producer on all the [Rec] films and wrote the scripts for Paco Plaza’s Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004), as well as for Extinction (2015), Retribution (2015) and Feedback (2019). Balaguero acts as a producer on this film.
The title Summer Camp suggests something innocuous, at first glance maybe not even a horror film at all. And when you do start to think of Summer Camp as horror, it immediately suggests a slasher film in the vein of Friday the 13th (1980) and its numerous imitators during the original slasher cycle, which frequently used the summer camp as a key locale. Summer Camp is quite different to that – for one, the locale is actually an English language immersion camp at a villa in Spain, which look nothing like the summer camp in a US slasher film, while the principal cast is limited to four (in actuality three in that one of them is killed off fairly early on).
More than that though, Summer Camp is not a slasher film so much as it is a mass insanity film in the vein of The Crazies (1973) and a good many films that took their lead from that such as Impulse (1984), Warning Sign (1985), The Signal (2007), Pontypool (2008), Dead Air (2009), Nine Miles Down (2009), Salvage (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Patient Zero (2012), Urge (2016), Mayhem (2017), Mom & Dad (2017) and The Sadness (2021)
Alberto Marini does a rather good job. The film is kept tightly contained to a single location for the greater part. There is some great out of the blue horror, particularly when the infection first begins. We are initially distracted by Diego Boneta being bitten by a possibly infected dog and expecting that something is going to happen to him, especially with the ominous cuts we get away to his oozing bandaged hand. It becomes a surprise when he is instead attacked by Andres Velencoso and forced to kill him. Next, Jocelin Donahue walks in to see Boneta standing over Velenosco’s body and thinks has killed him and flees in the SUV with Maiara Walsh, only for Walsh to become infected at the wheel of the vehicle and crash.
Thereafter, the film ingeniously whips about either having one infected person pursuing the others, one of the others thinking someone else is infected when they have cleared up or vice verse. The film twists around these complications with considerable vigour and Alberto Marini drives home the tension with fantastic regard.
The film manages to be relatively light on bloodletting, although there is the way-out image of Diego Boneta pulling his foot back through a door after a power drill has been driven into it and is spinning around still attached to his foot. The film reaches an effectively grim ending, followed by a nasty slingshot twist as you see things are about to get even worse.