MOVIE REVIEW – Indie horror film “Dark Summer” takes unexpected turns.
By Zaida Diaz, Valley Life Editor
In an age where the Internet makes everything so accessible, it is no surprise that people go to social media to snoop through other user’s pages, however, “Dark Summer’s” lead character takes it to a whole other level.
The film revolves around an obsessive teenager named Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) who gets placed on house arrest during the summer, after cyber-stalking high school outcast Mona (Grace Phipps).
Director Paul Solet (“Grace”) creates a restless setting by amplifying small noises such as that of buzzing flies inside Daniel’s room. This reflects Daniel’s own anxiety as he is confined to the space of his home. With Daniel’s mother away on business, it also highlights his solitude.
Daniel does, however, receives multiple visits from his friends Abby (Stella Maeve) and Kevin (Maestro Harrell), whose characters are unfortunately rather plain.
Although, the cast lacks much personality, we do see moments of vulnerability between Abby and Daniel. We get the sense that they are meant for each other, but Daniel’s sudden affinity for Mona leaves Abby in disarray. One can’t help but sympathize with her.
Shortly after Daniel is placed on house arrest he gets his friends to bring him a tablet and sure enough he’s back on social media.
He is surprised one day to receives a video message from the object of his infatuation— Mona. But it’s not exactly a love letter – the interaction takes a shocking turn.
Though the flow of the film feels quite controlled at first, the motions get progressively chaotic as the story unfolds. Daniel begins to experience hallucinations and nightmares. His home soon becomes a prison he feels is inhabited by a strange presence; rather than use excessive visual effects, Solet relies on the movie’s twists to generate the spook factor. Some scenes start as one thing only to be turned completely on their heads.
In a film where performances fall a bit flat, it is Solet’s technical abilities that really shine through. His concern for aesthetics is evident throughout the film, from shooting with diffused light in long takes to the use of handheld cameras. It’s stylized and fluid.
“Dark Summer” is a sophisticated horror film that examines the supernatural world while taking a closer look at the human psyche.
2 stars (out of 5)
“Dark Summer” is available on VOD and opens January 23 at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood.
Unrated. Some adult themes and language.