A group of teens are faced with a life-changing experience when they meet a deranged drifter.
As a viewer, you must be patient with Summer Scars, because even with a running time of just over an hour, it takes a while for things to really warm up. Towards the end things get pretty disturbing though, so most horror fans won’t be disappointed. Perhaps what makes Summer Scars scarier than most is the fact that it was inspired by a true story – by Julian Richards (director) own experience. If that name rings any bells with you, then some of you might recall The Last Horror Movie which was another film of his and proved to be a cult sensation.
This British thriller is best described as being Stand By Me meets Eden Lake (a famous British horror featuring Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly), with a bit of This Is England thrown in for good measure. It takes the urban element of the ‘hoodie’ – an overwhelming fear for the British middle class folk – and somewhat subverted it to instead humanise the hoodie. Apparently, Julian Richards even had discussions with the director of Eden Lake about the similarities between their films, but I feel that both movies explored the similar themes in completely different ways. In Summer Scars, the ‘kids’ are the innocent party (aside from stealing a moped and driving it into a guy then running away) and they are preyed upon by a mentally unstable loner in the woods.
The cast are all young actors (mostly first time actors) and so this brings across the naivety and innocence of them. After all, they’re just children on the brink of adolescence and so not yet the angry thugs which are shown in Eden Lake. In this respect, Summer Scars is a lot more like Stand By Me, with a bunch of kids going to the woods for an adventure together. There is a nostalgia about the film, perhaps because it was inspired by the directors own experiences, as these kids are spending time outdoors, away from the technology of the modern age. For this reason, the film could be set in any era, in any culture, and so I think this is what makes Summer Scars so identifiable to many audiences. Brilliant performances are put in by all involved, which is impressive considering the complex storyline and ever-changing relationships.
Because Summer Scars is set over the period of one day, the audience really gets to experience every terrifying moment that the children spend with the creepy man. We witness every bizarre mood change and every argument started and every violent act that sneaks in, more and more frequently. Tension arises gradually and the viewer is left on the edge of their seat as they are made to wait to see the conclusion – which we all know is not going to be a happy one! A criticism I have is that maybe the film was too drawn out, considering that much of the content was potentially unnecessary dialogue. It was almost as if there wasn’t enough actual story to last for the length of a full feature length so the director tried his best to stretch it. This means that there are large pieces of the film which could be removed but the overall gist retained.
Interestingly, when Al Wilson originally sent Julian Richards a script, it was written in biro so Julian wouldn’t initially read it but eventually succumbed and realized how much it hit the spot as far as he was concerned. It’s crazy to think how close Summer Scars came to never have even being made in the first place. I also find it amusing that during the production stage it rained severely many times, causing filming to be delayed and also the location got all muddy. This did create a nice bleak atmosphere though, which Summer Scars benefited from. You’ve got to love British weather for always living up to its name.
Summer Scars has gone on to do well for itself, winning two BAFTA Cymru awards, ranking 61 in the HMV DVD charts and being released worldwide. This means that it is easily accessible to anyone and is a great little coming-of-age film with a dark and sinister twist. Its grittiness and realistic nature makes Summer Scars creepy without being too explicit about anything. Fundamentally, it’s about the relationships between the group and how they are tested in extreme circumstances. I think that Summer Scars proves what can be done with young actors who have not really worked before, with the use of just one location to carry an entire film and without the use of any high-budget special effects. This is horror at its very basics.
Summer Scars (2007)