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DARK SUMMER (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced by Ross M. Dinerstein
Written by Mike Le
Directed by Paul Solet
Starring Peter Stormare, Grace Phipps, 
Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell, Keir Gilchrist

The first horror effort in eight years from the promising director of the motherhood jitters flick Grace, Dark Summer is a slight, minor yet diverting and stylish little flick.

Keir Gilchrist headlines as Daniel, who must spend the first summer after graduation under house arrest for stalking a pretty, yet socially awkward, female student.  The officer in charge of his case (Fargo’s Peter Stormare, clearly having fun) forbids him from leaving the property, from having minors in the house, and under no circumstances is he to go online (he’d hacked into the girl’s emails).

His two best friends, Abby (Stella Maeve) and Kevin (Maestro Harrell) come for a visit, untraceable laptop in tow.

Late, while surreptitiously chatting on Skype, Daniel witnesses a horrible event. Soon after, he’s convinced his house is haunted.

And of course, he’s unable to leave.

Decent setup is really a cross between Disturbia (directly referenced here by Abby, perhaps unwisely) and the little-seen-but-not-bad Famke Janssen-starrer 100 Feet. The three leads are all solid, with the aforementioned fun turn by Stormare, to boot; these performers do a fine job of holding our attention during the several lulls throughout.

It’s somewhat surprising that a film that runs 75 minutes before end credits (plus post-credits tag, mind you) should have any lulls, but Dark Summer’s story is actually a rather thin one.

The direction is stronger than the writing, thankfully, and there are some very cool, creepy and visually exciting moments and stretches. The score is also effective.

Dark Summer has a nice twist in the home stretch, and the ending wasn’t at all what I expected (it’s not blazingly original, but it’s not run-of-the-mill, either).

Overall, there’s not much here for horror fans to get all in a tizzy over: the genuine chills here and there are mostly nothing new, and it’s never flat-out scary.

Still, it’s an enjoyable, if unremarkable, variation on the haunted house sub-genre. Go in with lowered expectations and you’ll likely be entertained.

Dark Summer will be in Theatres/VOD January 9th

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