Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Wet Hot American Summer follows the goofy, ridiculous, raunchy adventures of the counselors and campers at Camp Firewood. Drug use, young love, dancing, fridge humping, and crashing satellites ensue.
This is a great spoof of summer camp movies with mastermind David Wain at the controls. It’s a fantastic comedy in general because it’s sort of that perfect blend of parody and tribute. They get some really good summer camp stuff in there as well. How do you make out with your hottie of a fellow camp counselor AND keep the campers from drowning? It can’t be done.
Friday the 13th (1980)
“There's a legend around here. A killer buried, but NOT dead. A curse on Crystal Lake, a death curse. Jason Voorhees' curse. They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back. Few have seen him and lived. Some have even tried to stop him. NO ONE can.”
Friday the 13th is so beloved as a horror film that many people might overlook the fact that it’s a summer film as well. The flick spawned a series (damn near a genre) of summer camp slasher films. The original film may not quite fit the bill of that quote above (which is from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood), but the spirit is there. And, sure, the films don’t always revolve around Camp Crystal Lake (I’m looking at you Jason Takes Manhattan), but the spirit is there. Horny camp counselors getting picked off by Jason Voorhees - what’s more summer than that? In fact, if I’m being honest, these films make me want to rent a lakeside cabin for the summer.
Summer School (1987)
Gym teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) is all ready for his summer vacation in Hawaii with his girlfriend Kim when weasley vice principal Phil Gills forces him to teach english for the summer. Under normal circumstances Shoop would turn down the request but he’s trying to make tenure.
What follows isn’t your typical “summer” movie. Sure there are visits to the beach, amusement park rides, and raging beach parties, but all of the fun-lovin’ teens involved are technically in summer school. The film ends with the class coming together to pass a big test, everyone learns to apply themselves, and to be happy with the best you can be, yadda, yadda, yadda.
If you haven’t seen Summer School I suggest you do it quick because its name is about to be tarnished by a remake orchestrated by none other than Adam Sandler.
Summer Days, Summer Days, Oh how I love these blistering hot days . . .
That’s right, kids, Summer 2013 has officially begun and we’re kicking it off proper here in the Hatch! Each one of us has chosen some specific movies to get things started right and my two selections come from the two opposite ends of the summer spectrum. I’ve chosen one old and one new, one scary and one funny . . . well, if I’m going to be completely honest, both are freaking hilarious.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
I’ll jump out of the gate with my oldie, but goodie; 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, directed by Robert Hiltzik, who you’ve probably never heard of, and starring a bunch of people who I know you’ve never heard of. Released in November of ’83 and scoring a surprising 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, Sleepaway… tells the tale of young, shy, bullied Angela Baker and her cousin Ricky during a short shorts kind of summer at, you guessed it, summer camp. The movie is chock full of gay overtones (and undertones), the acting is lame, the dialogue is beyond ridiculous, and the characters are the penultimate definition of disturbing, most notably cousin Ricky’s mom, Aunt Dr. Martha Thomas. Aunt Martha sends our two protagonists to Camp Arawak for some typical fun in the sun, however, as soon as the duo arrive things start to go horribly awry. Turns out someone is knocking off the dirty, sexual deviant, camp counselors, the pederast cook, and all the young campers who are mean to poor Angela. Released when slasher flicks were at their peak, we get some nifty kills from our murdering madman, including deaths a la boat, bees, butcher knife, axe, hair straightener (you’ll have to see it to believe it), and an arrow to the throat. We’re never shown who the killer is, not even a shape, until the end of the movie, and it most assuredly is the end of the movie that warrants the 73% rating. It is far and away one of the most surprising movie endings I have ever seen. I rank the surprise better than the ends of The Sixth Sense, Memento, Identity, and Fight Club, just to name a few. Now don’t go spoiling it by reading the Wikipedia page, spend 90 minutes of your lives and be as surprised as Robert and I were the first time we saw it together. And thank your lucky stars that you’re no longer attending summer camp in the 1980s. “No, that wouldn’t do at all.”
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Next, we find ourselves back in the modern day . . . well, again if I’m being completely honest, the setting takes place before Sleepaway Camp, 1965 to be exact. The movie comes from Hatch favorite Wes Anderson and the movie is his latest and nearly greatest, Moonrise Kingdom. This was easily one of my favorite movies from 2012 and I’m saddened that it didn’t get the recognition it deserved at the Oscars, but oh well, I’m not going to gripe here. Similar to Sleepaway…, we find our main protagonist at a summer camp, Camp Ivanhoe, for Khaki Scouts, and while there are no gay tones, it’s still one of the most delightful films ever made, and the ending, while not very surprising, is just as delightful as a warm summer Sunday evening. Our plot follows the adventures of two young lovers, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, as they weasel their way across the fictional island of New Penzance in the bright light of true young love. What ensues is the stuff dreams are made of. If you’ve seen the movie, then you know how easily this can fit into the “summer movie” collection and if not, give it a try and take notice of the summertime style of the plot and setting . . . camping, swimming, dancing, stormy weather, etc. Being still a relatively new film, this one hasn’t quite reached the cult status that Sleepaway… and other Wes Anderson films have, but I’m confident that it will soon get there. Each star actor, and there are a lot of ‘em, gives a great performance in their respective roles and the plot really is nothing short of an adventure through and through. If you were to ask me to rank Moonrise… among my favorite Wes Anderson films, I’d answer ‘two, because “once a frogman, always a frogman,”’ but that’s a discussion for another time. Have a great summer, kiddos!
One Crazy Summer (1986)
Hoops McCann (John Cusack) needs to get away from his life so he heads to Nantucket with his friend George (Joel Murray). On the way to the island, they save Cassandra (Demi Moore), a rocker damsel in distress. With the help of George’s friends, Ack Ack (Curtis Armstrong), a.k.a. Booger and the Stork twins (Bobcat Goldthwait and Tom Villard), they're able to help Cassandra save her grandfather’s house. Meanwhile, George’s Uncle Frank (Bruce Wagner) spends the entire summer trying to win a radio contest. Let’s just say it’s an explosive ending.
Summer love at it’s best. This is probably a shocker to my Hatch mates but I genuinely think that Grease is one of the best musical movies of all time. Just in case you haven’t seen it, Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) have a summer fling but when Danny returns to his “normal” life, he’s nothing like the boy Sandy fell in love with. Sandy, who is from Australia, enrolls at Rydell High instead of returning home. It doesn’t take long before she finds out who Danny really is. Fellas if you think that you're too manly to watch this movie let me try to persuade you with these six words: Sandy in skin-tight black pants.
The Sandlot (1993)
Being a kid that grew up playing baseball all summer long with my friends, The Sandlot had to make my short list of favorite summer movies. Set in 1962, The Sandlot tells the story of the new kid in town, Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), hanging out with the neighborhood kids and through America’s past time making friends for life. I don’t care if you like baseball or not, there's something for everyone in this movie, including Squints’ (Chauncey Leopardi) first kiss with the sexy lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn (Marley Shelton). If you pass on this one, all I can say to you is, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
I don't remember exactly how old I was the first time I saw Jaws - I'm guessing around eight or so - but I know it only took seeing it once for me to never be the same (hell, was anyone?). To provide some background on this life-changing moment, I was a beach baby. My mom was a beach baby. Our summers were spent at.the.beach. In the water. We splashed, we played, we dove into waves, we boogie-boarded all the way back to shore, never once thinking about what evil, monstrous beast with never ending rows of teeth might be in the water with us.
Then, Jaws happened. Not only did I stop enjoying swimming in the ocean, I stopped going in the ocean. Over the years I built up the courage to go back in, but I now maintain a waist-deep limit (and believe me, even then I'm staring at the water around me the entire time for that menacing gray fin to surface).
So why is Jaws an awesome summer movie? Well...it taps into something that's a part of most of our lives and memories - summer vacation. July 4th weekend. Independence Day. Family fun. And it makes it all slightly terrifying…and more than a little exciting.
Aside from that, Jaws has all the trappings of a summer movie - sun, sand, babes in bikinis, and a handsome police chief, Martin Brody, who just wants to keep the citizens and vacationers of Amity Island safe, gotdammit! Once the beast of a shark has killed enough people to convince local officials that they really won't make many tourism dollars if their tourists are being eaten, the hunt for the killer begins. So Chief Brody, along with Hooper (lovable hippie-rich kid-marine biologist) and Quint (old battle axe-shark hunter) set out for the fight of their lives, complete with booze, a late-night sailor's serenade and a cat-and-mouse game between man and shark where we really don't know who is hunting whom. The movie ends with the shark exploding in a very gory, satisfying way, but not before Quint is chewed up and swallowed by it (and really, was there a more fitting death for that old bastard?).
But the main reason Jaws is a definitive summer movie is that it lives in us. It lives in my brain...and in your brain. In that place where we experience extreme fear. Don't believe me? Head on out to the beach this summer. Swim out in that cool blue water. Feel the waves move over you. Lay back…relax. Until that feeling hits you. You’re in dark, deep water. You can’t see your legs. Hell, you can’t see anything. The people on the shore look awfully small. No one else is around. It’s just you…and that giant, bloodthirsty, man-eating beast that is undoubtedly swimming up toward your dangling feet.