John Isberg’s directorial debut ‘Final Summer’ is a homage to the 1980s and the golden age of slashers. With narrative and visual inspiration from flicks like ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Sleepaway Camp’, Isberg makes his own unique take on the beloved genre. Brimming with nostalgia, brutal kills, smooth night shots, and a haunting atmosphere, ‘Final Summer’ is a feature to add to your favorite summer slasher list.
‘Final Summer’ takes place in 1991, at Camp Silver Lake. Lexi (Jenna Kohn) is a counselor struggling after a tragedy at the summer camp. The camp’s owner informs Lexi and the rest of the staff that, because of the incident, the camp will close its gates forever and the land will be sold to developers. They’re tasked with getting the camp ready for closing; as they ride out their final night in the woods, it becomes abundantly clear that they aren’t alone—and that many of them won’t survive the night. A masked killer is on the loose, and he’s got an axe at the ready.
It’s evident where Isberg got his inspiration; the film is clever and self-aware, in that some of its characters even reference ‘Friday the 13th’ in comparison to the situation they’re in. In that way, ‘Final Summer’ adds comedic elements to the otherwise dark narrative; between its slashings and blood squirts, the counselors are teens with a keen sense of humor.
Despite being Isberg’s first film, ‘Final Summer’ has impressive shots and even cooler kills. The nighttime sequences, which take up a majority of the story, are notably hard to film. Despite this, Isberg perseveres and creates a clear, eerily atmospheric movie that sets you deep within the narrative; as the killer sprints through the towering trees after Lexi, it’s almost impossible to not feel like you’re there with her. The shots feel creepy, as if they were all filmed while Isberg was standing in a sliver of moonlight in an isolated cabin. The kills here are commendable, most notably a few involving a screen door, a swimming pool, and a massive trophy. They’re thematic and resourceful kills that stand out among slashers in recent memory, including that of Netflix’s ‘Fear Street’ series.
‘Final Summer’ is a haunting, thrilling debut that conjures nostalgia—for the summer, the seasonal camps of youth, and most notably, the golden age of slashers.