Ask a Dork: Summer Movies
“What are some of your favorite summer/tropical themed movies?”
I’m not much for fun in the sun summer movies. I’ve never seen The Sandlot, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Dazed and Confused, or Weekend at Bernie’s. It’s awful, I know. There’s nothing wrong with comedies, especially these ones, but an unnatural set of circumstances had kept me from their viewing pleasure… and I haven’t sought them out since. That being said, I am a horror movie fiend and a number of my favourite cheesy slashers take place in the bug-ridden days of summer. Not to mention a number of coming-of-age movies. Oh, and Field of Dreams. We can’t forget Field of Dreams.
Sleepaway Camp and its precursor Friday the 13th are two sides of the same coin. Both movies are set in *ahem* sleepaway camps in the sticky heat of summer. Both movies feature teen-age promiscuity, implied drug use, lame humor, and mysterious serial killings. Both films adhere to the same set of morally related life-or-death rules. Both films have shocking endings. The devil is in the details, though. Friday the 13th is interesting due to the motivation of the villain, Jason Voorhees’s mother. Her son died of neglect, and she blames Jason’s drowning on the fact that two counselors were having sex and weren’t watching him. She gets decapitated after giving one of the girls chase, but that isn’t where the film ends. It’s clear that there is something supernatural about the lake. Sleepaway Camp, on the other hand, exists in the realm of reality. Even if that reality is a strange one. The killer, later revealed to be a male camper who has been identifiably female up to the film’s conclusion, kills due to her troubled upbringing. Both films are clichéd and suffer from terrible follow-up sequels, but I continue to go back to both each summer.
Then there’s Jaws. This was the movie that taught land-locked Americans everywhere to fear sharks, even though shark attacks are extremely rare and great whites in particular are incredibly docile around humans. Jaws created an over-reaction which led to sharks, as a species, being misunderstood. Although, you can clearly see why; these are some scary looking bastards. That didn’t stop vacationers from heading to Amity Island. Amity is analogous to a few tourism-centric towns where I’m from – places that live or die based on how many outsiders drive through it each summer. I guess that’s why I’m a bigger fan of the people-centric interactions than I am the shark attacks. Still, this is a vacation move that parodies that entire concept of going on beach vacation (and I love it). Bruce the shark is still extremely realistic, at least to me, and the film has aged fairly well. Sadly though, it has also suffered from a number of horrible sequels.
The summer of 1959. Four almost-teenaged boys. A dead body. Stand by Me gets a lot of things right. It’s a period piece that manages to encapsulate the coming-of-age experience of creating an adventure out of nothing with your friends. Relationships change, characters grow, and Kiefer Sutherland is a bully. It’s hard to believe that this is based on a Stephen King novel, but it is. For a summer film, it also gives you a lot to think about.
Field of Dreams. Field of #*@$*ing Dreams. “If you build it, he will come.” Let me tell you, I don’t even like baseball and I will still watch the crap out of this movie. I may even tear up. Kevin Costner, Shoeless Joe, the 1919 White Sox, estranged fathers, Americana, baseball, corn, book burners, and ghosts. This film as everything. It is the ultimate, stereotypical man movie. And it’s summer.