The Horror Honeys: Dark Summer: At least it’s not found footage

Dark Summer: At least it’s not found footage

A Supernatural Honey New Release Review by Suzanne

Dark Summer (2015)

Back in 2009, director Paul Solet brought us his first feature film, Grace. I had some less than happy feels about that film, although I admired the execution. The short film it was based on was much scarier. Six years later, Solet gives us something new to chew on.

Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), a high school hacker, is on house arrest for cyber stalking Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps), a loner, goth chick whom his friends deem not worthy of obsessing over. One evening he gets a Skype call from Mona who shoots herself in front of him. This sets in motion a string of supernatural events, which threaten Daniel's safety and sanity. Aided by his friends, Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve), the latter of whom is suffering from unrequited love of Daniel, they try to uncover Mona’s secrets and get sucked into a world of witchcraft and possession.

Dark Summer begins very much the same way as Disturbia, and Abby even references that when she and Kevin pay a visit to check out the monitoring device. Too bad for us, Disturbia was a much better film. Anytime a filmmaker tries to combine the supernatural with technology, it falls short, and it’s been attempted a lot over the last several years as we continue to stray from human contact and rely on the internet for socialization. No one has been truly successful at this pairing. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather see a practical haunting, like this year’s We Are Still Here (check out my review here), than using the interwebz as a gimmick. That format has yet to be successful, as far as I’m concerned.

Mirror, mirror... 
Gilchrist, who was one of the stars of the revered It Follows (check out my review here), is just as creepy here and was sort of a brilliant choice as the guy you’d believe would stalk someone online. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan and  I have a hard time seeing him as the object of anyone’s desire, but I guess we all have a type. He simply isn’t mine.

I’m pretty sure everyone loves Peter Stormare and I’m not an exception, but he’s so underused as Daniel’s parole officer as he makes the occasional passive-aggressive visit, and tries on an American accent, which comes off as Southern/Swedish and is a bit laughable.

From a story standpoint, it’s more than a bit convoluted. Daniel is assigned to house arrest with absolutely no parental supervision. The mother is apparently away on business and has no contact with her son for the entirety of the film. There seems to be an absentee father who Daniel makes one attempt at reaching out to, with no success. I have a very hard time believing any judicial system would allow a minor to be left alone for even a few weeks, let alone a few months, without an adult present - especially on "house arrest."

A slow moving film, Dark Summer feels much longer than its 81 minutes. When Kevin and Abby find Mona’s hidden talent for witchcraft, we’re into the third act and losing hope that anything interesting is going to happen. Mona’s revealed obsession really makes you wonder why any of the other stuff happened in the first place.

Where Dark Summer is successful is in its atmosphere, a dimly lit, hazy look that conveys humid, hot and uncomfortable. The score and soundtrack also add to the morbid, depressing feel of the film. The last ten minutes of the film, while a bit confusing, are worth watching. It’s not a huge payoff, but it’s something. The film also contains some interesting visuals and while there was one FaceTime trip through Mona’s house, I’m truly thankful it didn’t fall back on found footage considering the amount of technology used.

Also be sure to sit through the credits as there is an additional scene at the very end.

Dark Summer is available on Netflix streaming right now.

Supernatural Honey verdict: 2.5 ankle monitors out of 5

Let me ruin your summer...