Any horror film aficionado knows that it’s hard to resist the impulse to yell at the screen whenever the characters insist on remaining inside an obviously haunted house. Director Paul Solet‘s (Grace) latest effort neatly solves that problem by depicting its teenage protagonist as being under house arrest. It’s too bad, then, that the rest of Dark Summer doesn’t display the same level of originality.
Being confined to his home isn’t the most painful aspect of 17-year-old Daniel’s (Keir Gilchrist) punishment for cyberstalking a female classmate. A typically perpetually connected teen, he’s horrified to learn from his no-nonsense police officer overseer (Peter Stormare, easily conveying villainy even here) that he’s restricted from using the Internet and his cell phone.
But Daniel’s best friends Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve) — the latter clearly suffering from a barely concealed crush — sneak in a tablet computer with which the young whiz kid manages to get online thanks to a neighbor’s Wi-Fi. With his single mother away on a long business trip, he has plenty of time to indulge his technological desires and further keep track of Mona (Grace Phipps), his object of desire.
But things quickly go wrong, with the young woman taunting him via a video chat and then committing suicide right before his eyes. It isn’t long before things begin to go bump in the night, with Daniel being haunted by Mona’s pesky spirit and buffeted by mysterious phenomena.
It’s at this point that the film settles into familiar ghost story tropes, with the filmmaker piling on the gotcha scares featuring jarring edits and sudden loud noises. Although a scene of an ill-advised seance includes some creepily disturbing moments, the rest of the proceedings pale in comparison to the endless poltergeist-infused horror films that have come down the pike in the last few decades.
Making the most of its low budget with its necessarily claustrophobic setting, the film displays a technical competence at least. But the rote performances and uninspired screenplay by Mike Le will inevitably consign Dark Summer to VOD viewing by undiscriminating consumers.
Production: ContentFilm International, Preferred Film & TV
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell, Grace Phipps, Peter Stormare
Director: Paul Solet
Screenwriter: Mike Le
Producer: Ross M. Dinerstein
Executive producers: Jamie Carmichael, Kevin Iwashina
Director of photography: Zoran Popovic
Production designer: Ariana Nakata
Editors: Benjamin Cassou, Josh Ethier
Costume designer: Chantal Filson
Composer: Austin Wintory
Casting: Elisha Gruer, Michelle Levy
No rating, 82 minutes