TIFF 2023 | Hell of a Summer (Finn Wolfhard, Billy Bryk, US/Canada) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman

Hell of a Summer marks the feature co-directorial debut of Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard; it’s a good bet that without his name on it, it wouldn’t be here. Not to begrudge Wolfhard and his collaborator Billy Bryk their evident shared love of both slasher movies and Wet Hot American Summer—passions worth having and indulging—but they do their heroes no favours with this limp, weirdly indecisive pastiche, which feels trapped in between toothless millennial satire and gorehound gratuitousness beyond its means. Form dictates that I tell you the story here involves a socially stunted summer camp veteran who returns to the primal scene only to find his fellow counsellors have grown tired—or worse—with his pie-eyed nostalgia; as day turns to night, the group are methodically stalked and executed by a masked killer bearing an even harsher grudge. It’s a tough trick to deliver the genre goods while hovering smugly (though ostensibly lovingly) above them, while Hell of a Summer’s failure on this score isnt exactly notable, it isn’t noble either. I defer to an actually good and funny movie about the blood, sweat, and tears of sleepaway camp:”it just doesn’t matter!”

anayman@cinema-scope.com Nayman Adam