Movie Review - Dark Summer
At first glance you might mistake the premise of writer Mike Le's indie-horror house arrest film, Dark Summer, for last year's Housebound. Though I can assure you that the only thing the two have in common is the main character's ankle monitor, other than that these two movies could not be more different from one another. While Housebound takes a more direct and comedic approach to the subject matter, Dark Summer is more abstract and subtle in its' narrative. The tone of the film floats listlessly in and out of reality like a hazy fever dream, all under the skilled direction of the extremely talented Paul Solet. Hauntingly beautiful and strikingly original, Dark Summer is a visual masterpiece. Now available on iTunes and VOD, I highly suggest you check this one out.
Daniel, a shy but gifted seventeen year-old computer hacker, is put on house arrest while his mother is out of town on business. After being caught hacking into the social media accounts of a female classmate he is banned from using his computer as a condition of his sentence, but he quickly finds a way around this in order to Skype with his friends. But after foolishly answering a video message from Mona Wilson, the same girl that he was found guilty of cyber-stalking, he is suddenly drawn into a tangled web of lies and guilt. Could it be his crumbling psyche that is causing his hallucinations and nightmares, or could it be something much more ominous and sinister than that?
The cast of Dark Summer was absolutely phenomenal across the board, with a deft cast of young actors who belie a maturity beyond their years. Maestro Harrell (The Wire) has an amazing onscreen chemistry with his co-stars, and brings a grounded realism to Daniel's charismatic and outgoing friend, Kevin. Stella Maeve (The Runaways) shines as Abby, whose unrequited feelings for Daniel create a palpable tension that make for sheer electricity between the two. Grace Phipps (Tales of Halloween) commands nearly every second of screen time with both profound agony and explosive rage, as Mona Wilson. And heavy-hitter Peter Stomare (Fargo, Clown) lends some serious gravitas with his rugged, no-nonsense performance as Officer Stokes. But Kier Gilchrist anchors the film as it ebbs and flows around him, with an effortless naturalism that is beyond captivating. He gives a nuanced and understated performance as the protagonist, with an uncanny ability to say as much with his facial expressions as he does with the dialogue.
Solet would credit his cinematographer, Zoran Popovic, with the arresting visual tone of the film, and for good reason. Every shot he frames feels like a work of art. The long lilting takes of various set pieces leave the viewer wondering whether or not they will become significant, building the tension steadily and seamlessly toward the films shocking conclusion. And his alternating use of a washed out color palette and a much more bold and vibrant one is utterly captivating. When I asked the director what film makers had influenced his style, he cited Kubrick as a personal favorite, and it shows throughout the film. Although this is much different from his previous film, Grace, both films showcase his ability to take psychological horror to the next level. I truly look forward to seeing what he is working on next. In addition the script by Mike Le provides for some amazing twists and turns, and yet still leaves the film makers plenty of room to build tension at their own deliberate pace. Lastly a special shout out to Benjamin Cassou and the multi-talented Josh Ethier for their work editing this stunning piece of cinema.
I am a strong believer that if more of us would support indie-horror films with our hard earned dollars, then perhaps they would get the opportunity to be seen by much larger audiences or even get a bit of a marketing budget behind them. And Dark Summer is the kind of film that you won't mind paying money to see. So now's the time to support indie-horror and indie-cinema in general. You can start now by going to iTunes or VOD and renting this film. Then turn out the lights, sink back into your couch and enjoy the ride. Cheers.