Paul Solet is at the helm of an intermittently scary but rather po-faced horror
A teen horror with an indie movie aesthetic and a self-consciously solemn vibe, Paul Solet's Dark Summer has promising elements at the outset: a distinctly creepy protagonist with whom it’s uncomfortable to have one’s sympathies aligned; and a pertinent acknowledgment of the fact that modern teenagers exist to a large extent online, where friendship, romance and even death can acquire a dangerous intangibility.
Keir Gilchrist (It Follows) plays schoolboy Daniel, who has been placed under house arrest for stalking female classmate Mona (Grace Phipps) with whom he remains preoccupied. When she turns the tables by pursuing him, matters quickly turn nightmarish, with psychological issues taking on apparently supernatural manifestations.
Unfortunately, the story’s early promise ebbs away somewhat as the film drops much of its initial mystique in favour of conventional haunted-house trappings. Nor do things quite hang together in stylistic terms. Evidently uncertain as to whether it wants to be an arty investigation of youthful self-destruction, or a standard multiplex shockathon, the film seems influenced by the work of Larry Clark in its grim atmosphere and murky images of skulking teens, but in other respects – most notably a tiresome soundscape of grindy, time-to-get-scared-now noises – it leans heavily on predictable horror tropes.
The result is a film that’s quite silly, but resists allowing its audience to have the slightest bit of fun – and while the winking irony that stalked the millennial teen horror movie became pretty wearing, it’s equally hard to get behind a genre film that takes itself so seriously that none of the characters ever cracks a smile. Had it stuck to its promising concept of haunted social networks, and cut back on its unsubtle efforts to make you jump, Dark Summer might have been something quite special. As it is, it’s a fairly standard chiller with some above average ideas and decent scares.
Selected release from Fri 20 Mar.