A 17-year-old is on house arrest for the summer while his mother is away on business. A horrifying incident occurs leaving an ominous presence in the house.
At first glance, Dark Summer looks like it’s going to be a horror tinged retread of Disturbia, itself a yoof-orientated unofficial remake of Rear Window. However, replace the rear window for Skype and add some ghostly voodoo mischief. Disturbia never tackled the spirit world, did it? No. Take that, LaBeouf.
Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) is under house arrest after getting a little stalky with one of his classmates, Mora (Grace Phipps). Yes, he’s a youthful techno-delinquent, but don’t be too judgmental because, as he says, he was never able to hack into her iCloud. Well, that’s alright then.
With his mother away on business – seemingly not bothered about her son’s penchant for following the unsuspecting – Daniel is left to his own devices with only the occasional visit from local law enforcement in the shape of Stokes, played by a rather hammy Peter Stormare. Stokes’ main input into Dark Summer appears to be sticking to Daniel with all the intensity of Mos Def on Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman. In short, it’s all a bit too intense. However, all is not lost as Daniel’s friends sneak in a visit to Daniel, brandishing a way for the incarcerated teen to Skype, twitter and Facebook to his heart’s content.
Things spiral wildly out of control when a forbidden Skype call results in Daniel witnessing Moira’s horrific suicide. Realizing that he can get in a hell of a lot of trouble for being online, Daniel decides to keep schtum, only to bring his friends into his confidence when sudden paranormal shenanigans surface to suggest Mora is back for revenge.
Dark Summer is a schlocky horror squarely aimed at the PG-13 crowd. Not that this should be seen as a slur. Far from it. Despite some rather pedestrian ‘quiet quiet, LOUD’ misdirection, director Paul Solet (Grace) manages to craft some nifty scares with only the occasional splash of claret. And whilst the film’s denouement is particularly pulpy (and blackly comic) to great effect, Dark Summer isn’t about pumping out the gore. It wants to get under your skin, without actually having to rip it off.
Then there’s the way our late teen heroes learn how to exorcise ghosts after a couple of hours on the Internet. Imagine if they had Google glass, the world would bow down to their every whim! Though, joking side, therein lies one of the film’s weaknesses. Those crazy kids come across a bit too clever after some web surfing on ghost busting and, as they spout off paranormal nonsense like Ray Stanz, it becomes a little bit too convenient. Yes, the internet is a trough of information ripe for the picking, but a film like this should never be ashamed to work in an actual paranormal expert into its script to advise people. It helps with the suspension of disbelief in a confident matter.
Speaking of disbelief, we’re admittedly talking about a film where a teenage delinquent fights a malevolent spirit. However, when we begin to reach the great reveal of Daniel’s spooky misfortune, we’re asked to accept something happening that doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Dark Summer not only asks us not to think about the ramifications of said reveal, but also to believe that this could ever have been possible in the first place. Think about how those flyers for hookers got into the vault in Ocean’s Eleven and you’re on the right track. In addition, whilst I am happy to praise the scares, there will be some amongst you who may find it very similar to a join the dots puzzle where the final image is obvious from the offset.
Putting all that to one side, but keeping a sneaky on it anyway, Dark Summer is able to hold its own long enough that it becomes easy to just settle in and let it wash over you like blood out of an elevator and you the only sponge in sight.
- Audio Commentary With Director Paul Solet
- Atmosphere And Style Featurette
- Director Paul Solet Featurette
- The Art Of Dark Summer Featurette
- The Music Of Dark Summer Featurette
- A Conversation With Peter Stormare Featurette
- The Kids – Cast Interviews
- Theatrical Trailer