19th Mar2015

‘Dark Summer’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Keir Gilchrist, Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell, Peter Stormare, Grace Phipps | Written by Mike Le | Directed by Paul Solet


When I think of horror movies that use the house arrest conceit my mind wanders to films like 100 Feet, Housebound and even Disturbia – although that one is more of a thriller, it is still a good example.  Dark Summer runs with the house arrest idea but this time adding in the idea of cyber stalking and using technology to power the ghost.

In Dark Summer, Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) is put under house arrest over the summer while his mother is away on business.  Banned from social media for his crime of cyber stalking and hacking he soon finds his way around it only to find the girl he is obsessed with making contact with him.  Telling him he will feel what she feels she commits suicide over video chat, him shell-shocked but very much not alone.

Even without the idea of house arrest to hold them there, sticking the main character in a house with minimal rooms and keeping his interactions with other people limited the mood is quite easy to set.  There are many times in the initial stages of the haunting act that you do question whether the things happening are just a case of cabin fever, but this is quickly dispelled when his friends Abby (Stella Maeve) and Kevin (Maestro Harrell) witness the events too, which leads to a change in pace for the movie, and also a change in tone.

I found the haunting in Dark Summer to be interesting because of its focus more on the psychological effects which help push towards the idea of cabin fever, it’s a shame that this is taken away when the haunting becomes less focused on one person.  There is a focus on trying to make the ghost creepy, but this isn’t really effective.  When the twist is revealed (and there are always twists) I found it interesting and something I wasn’t expecting it, though I’m sure some will have worked it out for themselves.  I’d not say that the film is inventive in the scares it tries to create, but there is more of a focus on telling a story and not just creating a few jump scares.

When it comes to the actors the limited cast really puts a focus on the importance of their acting ability.  Peter Stormare, an actor that can always be trusted to give a quality performance plays a good part of the person in charge of Daniel’s house arrest, always stalking in the background making sure the rules aren’t broken.  Stella Maeve and Maestro Harrell also play their parts well.  Most praise though has to be given to Keir Gilchrist for his portrayal of Daniel.  He manages to put an offbeat feel to the character, there is always a feel that something just isn’t right about him.  His obsessions and actions don’t paint him as a nice character, though for the most part he doesn’t seem as a violent person.  Gilchrist is able to put an edge into the character that makes the audience question just what it is about him.

When comparing Dark Summer to other movies in the same style like 100 Feet and Housebound, I have to be truthful and say that while it isn’t in the same league it is still interesting and manages to be entertaining for the horror fan looking for something new.  It may not be inventive in the creepiness it tries to create, but there is also a subtleness in the horror that breaks it away from being just another bland horror.

***½  3.5/5

Dark Summer is released in UK cinemas March 20th before moving to VOD and DVD April 6th.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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