Friday, June 19, 2015

DARK SUMMER (2015)

DARK SUMMER (2015) 

Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight
Release Date: July 7th 2015
Region Code: A
Duration: 82 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen
Director: Paul Solet
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Maestro Harrell, Grace Phipps, Peter Stormare, Stella Maeve


It's been six years since director Paul Solet brought us the indie horror film Grace (2009), a solid film dealing with some disturbing and unsettling maternal issues, a film I would call a success, yet we had to wait six years for his follow-up feature, what is up with that? Apparently having a solid debut film under your belt does not mean that financiers will come crawling out he woodwork to finance your next movie, or maybe Solet's just not in a hurry to get to the next project, I have no idea, but whatever the reason for the delay it was worth the wait.  

Dark Summer has a set-up that will be familiar to most, it brings to mind Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with an awkward young man named Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) having been placed under house arrest for committing cybertsalking, having hackd into the online account of classmate Mona (Grace Phipps), an odd young woman whom daniel  has had a crush on for years. However, he's a bit awkward and unsure of himself and has never had the courage to approach her in person or ask her out on a date, which is too bad, as the film plays on you will see why. 

Daniel is assigned a probation office named Stokes (Peter Stormare) who placed an ankle monitor on the young man and explains that he is not allowed to leave his property, cannot use the Internet (they are tracking his IP address) and cannot have his friends over. Of course, as soon the PO leaves his friends Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve) show up with an iPad connected to wi-fi from another home, and he immediately sets about hanging poolside with his cohorts smoking weed before attempting to hack into Mona's cloud storage, this guy just doesn't wanna do right, but somehow he comes across as a likable guy. 

That night alone inn his room he receives a video chat from Mona who then proceeds to ramble off some cryptic words before putting a gun in her mouth and shooting herself dead. Afterward Daniel is understandably devastated, believing his violation of her online privacy might be the reason she committed suicide. Soon after he begins to experience a strange haunting of sorts, it seems that Mona's spectre is haunting him and she may be out for revenge against her cyberstalker. Not sure what the spirits motives might be Daniel and his pals begin to pry further into Mona's troubled life, all while keeping it on the down low from Stokes who comes off as slightly sinister himself.


I like the set-up, I like how they reference the Rear Window knock-off Disturbia (2007) which itself I believe was on the receiving end of a lawsuit for ripping Hitchcock, or the writer of the source material off. On top of the familiar thriller elements they layer in a supernatural and occult angle and the story takes a detour along the way, straying from what it originally seemed to be, which I appreciated. It's not too often these days anyone actually comes up with a twist that is nt broadcast from quite distance, and this one managed to keep the surprises pretty close to the vest. 

I am on board for pretty much anything Peter Stormare chooses to be part of and his presence here is appreciated, a soft-spoken but menacing authority figure who bares witness to the strange goings on from the outside looking in. The trio of cast members who make up the teen protagonist and his best friends are solid, Keir Gilchristis believable as an awkward sort of creepy cyberstalker, aloof but with a genuine presence, likewise his friends are decent teens too, but you do have to suspend your disbelief to a point when they go about sleuthing Mona's home in the dark of night, they go full-on into it without batting an eyelash, but when I was a teen I made a lot of stupid decisions, too. There's a decent subplot of Abby having had an unrequited crush on Daniel,, she having been off to the side admiring him from a distance and f course he never noticed, till now, which angers the vengeful spectre. I also enjoyed the way the movie subverted the creepy-stalker aspect of Daniel and Mona, turning that on it's head as the film progresses, not unloading all it's secrets at once, but slowly feeding them to you until the finale, which again turns on itself. 

The occult and supernatural elements are handled nicely, the movie is stylish and well shot, the supernatural elements are heightened by the atmospheric visuals further enhanced by a great score that takes advantage of haunting piano and cello orchestrations and electronic manipulation, it makes for a nice blend of the electronic and organic, creating a great tone and atmosphere throughout the movie.

I don't have any negatives about this one, unless you consider the languid pace a detraction, which I do not. I love a slow burn and at just 82-minutes it would be difficult to call it slow, but the pace can be a bit languid and measured, but with a purpose. I loved the twists and turns of the plot, but I can see the somewhat abrupt end not sitting comfortably with a few folks, though I have to say that I liked they way they brought it to a close and left it slightly open.

Dark summer arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of a fruitful distribution deal with Scream Factory and IFC Midnight which also brought us The Babadook (2014) and Extraterrestrial (2014) from the Vicious Brothers. The disc has some decent bonus content several short interview with director Paul Solet, the cast, composer Austin Wintory and a lengthier one with actor Peter Stomrare who speaks fondly of Solet and talks a bit about the acting lessons he picked-up on from working with cinema legend Ingmar Bergman. Additionally there's an audio commmentary from the director and a theatrical trailer, plus a slipcase cover. 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With Director Paul Solet (2 Mins)
- Atmosphere And Style Featurette (2 Mins)
- Director Paul Solet Featurette (2 Mins)
- The Art Of Dark Summer Featurette (14 Mins)
- The Music Of Dark Summer Featurette ( 8 Mins)
- A Conversation With Peter Stormare Featurette (16 Mins)
- The Kids - Cast Interviews (2 Mins)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 


Good to see Paul Solet making movies again, I hope it doesn't take another six years to see his next project come to surface. Dark summer is very good supernatural themed teen movie -- and there's not a lot of those these days -- the sort of movie you wished all those Twilight fans would support, its smart, stylish and doesn't play down to the audience. 3/5

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