What I'm Watching: Dark Summer
Since we're now in the middle of July, this seemed like a really good time to do a quick look at Dark Summer, a little indie haunting flick that caught my eye.
Or maybe it's just because I just watched it, and that's why I'm reviewing it...
The plot centers around a young kid who made a big mistake by invading a young girl's privacy, and he gets punished by being put under house arrest by Peter Stormare. Which is a great device to keep the movie contained, both for budget reasons and for tension reasons, really making it a 'you can't escape' idea.
Not long after, the girl calls Daniel over the computer, and commits suicide right there while he's watching, and the implication is because of what he did to her.
Which brings us to Mona's restless spirit haunting and tormenting Daniel, and Weird Things start to happen.
From this point onward, it's a reeeally slow burn, and since I was just talking about good and bad kinds of slow burns, that's another good excuse to get to this movie now. In my opinion, it slides a little too much towards the 'bad' kind of slow. There's a bit too much of JUST Daniel wandering around his house, in silence, staring at the Weird Stuff.
Now, there's enough Weird Stuff to hold interest, and there are other characters in his two best friends, but they really needed to be around the plot just a bit more, and the dialogue could have been a bit more interesting.
This is going to come down to personal preference, but it JUST barely lands on the side of being too slow for me. If the movie was longer, if there were fewer characters, if there was fewer interactions with Mona's spirit or less Weird Stuff, this would have been a different experience. It's not quite a deal breaker, and it held my attention JUST enough, but it came sooo dangerously close to being too little, too slowly. But again, other people will have different ideas on the pace.
Fortunately, the third act? The third act I loved. It borders on amazing, for me. The plot really picks up, as Mona's torment picks up, things get more dangerous, more desperate, and the kids actively try and do something to find out what she wants, and how to stop her.
And the big reveal of what Mona wants, is actually kinda great. Genre savvy fans will probably be able to figure it out quickly, but the movie laid it out well, and the detective work by the kids is solid. But oh, oh it gets even better, because what looks like the final reveal is only the start of things.
Another thing I talk about is movies that twist, and how often they twist too much, and end up devouring themselves. This movie does keep twisting and twisting, but it does it JUST right, and I absolutely love it. It's tough for twists to catch me off guard, but the final, final twist really snuck up on me, and I give the movie credit for that. Also, and most importantly of all, the movie actually plays fair with the audience, and seemingly innocuous things that made sense at the time, are seen in a whole new light once all the cards are on the table, coming together so well. Repeated viewings absolutely hold up to seeing how it all works.
I talked earlier about Peter Stormare, and he's a huge fave of mine, and he's always fun to watch. The rest of the main cast is solid, although Maestro Harrell feels like he's just kinda there and not given much to do, although he's a welcome addition to the cast, and having that one extra voice to bounce things off of, and react to Daniel and Abby is important. Grace Phipps does a good job with the multilayered role of Mona, whom you have to believe was driven to her death, and later completely sell the terror her ghost is delivering upon Daniel, as well as the things that don't become clear until the end of the movie.
My biggest problem, besides the slow burn, is Kier Gilchrist's character of Daniel. It's tough to empathise with the little creeper, although you can chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, and the movie wisely doesn't dwell too much on just what Daniel did, aside from using it to set up his entrapment. Still, that sort of character will turn some people off, and say he gets everything he deserves.
So, Dark Summer boils down to being a mixed bag, with a slightly too slow of a pace for my tastes, but if you can get through the first half of the movie, the second half really takes off, and rewards you for your patience. It delivers on action, some slight scares, and an effective story. I definitely give it a recommendation.