Review: DARK SUMMER (2015){0}

An occult thriller about the repercussions of cyber-stalking seems more than a little timely this year, and when a new indie film seems like it was torn out of a current newspaper, it’s important to figure out if the film is brave and insightful – or if it’s simply tacky and opportunistic. Given that Dark Summer was produced well before recent issues like ‘Gamergate’, it seems that the filmmakers were simply one step ahead of the headlines.

Plus “tacky and opportunistic” is simply not Paul Solet’s style, and if you have fond memories of his 2009 horror film Grace, then you’ll be pleased to know that his second feature is another clever combination of familiar ideas, new wrinkles, and well-timed scares. What starts out as a potentially familiar tale of “haunted house arrest” material quickly evolves into something rather odd, novel, and compelling.

The story is pretty simple, although cleverly told: Daniel (an excellent Keir Gilchrist) is under house arrest for invading the online privacy of a girl he really likes. That we’re asked to come to empathize with Daniel, even after he’s done some rather despicable things, is one of the cooler subversions found in Mike Le’s screenplay. (It also allows Gilchrist a lot of room to grow, character-wise.) That the object of Daniel’s affections ended up killing herself ups the ante in a big way, mainly because her spirit is now harassing her former stalker – and the viewer is left not knowing who to pull for. If anyone.

To say much more would rob the viewer of a few cool twists and turns, but suffice to say it’s always nice to see an indie horror film that avoids the obvious in favor of the darkly unexpected. Although Dark Summer is most assuredly a horror movie, complete with loud noises, creepy ideas, and a few bloody dispatches, it’s even more interesting as a character piece that focuses on a nice guy who did some really awful things and has to live with the damage he’s done.

Toss in some colorful support work from Peter Stormare as a gruff cop with a small streak of humanity – and a fantastic score by Austin Wintory – and you’ve got a crisp 80-minute horror movie that may take a few scenes to get rolling, but also showcases some very interesting ideas and a great lead performance, as well as a nice batch of paranormal nastiness once a few devious twists hit the screen.


Scott Weinberg

 DarkSummer poster 707x1024