DARK SUMMER (2015)
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MINOR SPOILER WARNING: To discuss certain aspects of the film, I had to go into details which may be considered spoiler-ish, though I tried to remain as vague as possible.
Dark Summer tells the story of Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), a teen who is put under house arrest after cyber-stalking classmate Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps). Alone in the house with his mother away and his parole office (Peter Stormare) keeping a close eye on him, his incarceration looks to quickly become a living hell. A living hell indeed, as Mona phones him online, one night, only to commit suicide right in front of him. Soon after, it appears there is a malevolent presence in the house with him and it might be her. Fearing she is with him in the house to exact some sort of revenge, Daniel enlists the help of his best friends Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve) to help him put a stop to it. The more they investigate Mona, though…and a way of ridding the house of her dark presence…the more they realize Daniel’s object of affection was not who they though she was…and he may truly be in grave danger.
There were things I liked about this teen-centric horror and things I didn’t. On the negative side, there are some clichés that we’ve seen time and time again that could have been used more inventively, such as the usual levitations and the Scooby-Doo-ish investigations by sleuthing teens. The biggest problem for me was that Daniel comes across as not only as a creep for cyber-stalking the girl, but a real jerk for the way he callously blows off Abby, who really cares about him. True, there are certain revelations later on that might explain some of this, but for a good hour, he remains unsympathetic to us, despite what is happening to him. If you don’t sympathize with the victim, the film looses impact. The positive is that director Paul Solet (Grace) does manage some creepy moments from Mike Le’s script and I will say the last act had some fun reveals and the film wraps up on a very disturbing note. So, you take the good with the bad and overall it’s a moderately entertaining low budget flick that ends effectively. I would have liked to have seen Stomare’s parole officer be more than just a creepy cop, but at slightly over 80 minutes, such character development is not given enough time and when you think his Stokes is about to become more interesting to the plot, the film ends. Solet’s 2009 Grace was a disturbing flick, so he knows what he is doing. Maybe he works better with his own scripts.
The cast are all adequate, but nothing to grab our attention. Gilchrist is fine, but the way Daniel is written, we never really come to like him or feel bad for him much. Even after all is revealed, we still don’t feel all that sympathetic towards him. Suburgatory’s Harrell has little to do, but look concerned, as the film focuses more on the efforts of the long-suffering Abby. It is Stella Maeve as Abby that generates the most sympathy and does the strongest work as a girl who has fallen for someone who doesn’t see her that way…and that same boy is currently haunted by a malevolent spirit of the girl he stalked. That sucks for Abby. Stormare is a veteran, but here just seems to be punching a clock as the creep of a parole office. Not even sure what overall purpose the character served other than the situation warranted he be there.
Overall, Dark Summer was a decent enough watch with some effective moments and a last act with some nice surprises and a disturbing final scene (part of which comes after the credits). Not everything worked and sometimes the clichés just got silly and it was the unlikability of the leading character that lends to detachment from sympathizing with his plight. Even though there were supernaturally extenuating circumstances, he still acted like a jerk on enough levels to not feel bad when faced with supernatural payback. Worth a look and has some spooky moments, but don’t expect too much.
2 and 1/2 laptops that should never be used to stalk you classmates.
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If “Dark Summer” hadn’t been so stultifyingly boring that it nearly put me to sleep, I’d have been irked at the director’s misguided efforts to force his audience to feel sympathy for a pervert stalker. But it was such a tedious movie I could hardly muster the effort it took to turn it off.
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