Logging Into ‘Dark Summer’ (2015)- Review

Most people have had crushes, but sometimes they can reach the point of obsession. This is the underlying theme to 2015’s horror flick, Dark Summer, though the story offers some technological, supernatural twists. What happens when the obsession has no limits?

Currently on Netflix, the movie Dark Summer offers a standard plot: Boy meets girl, boy stalks girl, boy is placed on house arrest for stalking girl, girl commits suicide online in front of boy, then girl’s angry ghost haunts boy. You’ve probably heard that one a million times, right?  The boy in this story is named Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), and the girl is named Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps). There are, of course, other characters in the movie, but not many. There are Daniel’s pals, Abby (Stella Maeve) and Kevin (Maestro Harrell), and Daniel’s parole officer, simply named Stokes (Peter Stormare). Stokes basically just appears to enforce the house arrest angle, then goes off to do whatever else Stokes do.

1421367055_i54b6b056054c9

The movie is somewhat like a supernatural Disturbia, which also relied on the house arrest plot device. And here, poor Daniel’s not supposed to use the internet either (though he still does). So, if someone can’t leave their lawn without getting arrested, what do they do? Most of us would just order pizza and watch a DVD or something, but Daniel and his pals get traumatized by a specter and wrapped up in all kinds of supernatural zaniness.  While it’s no masterpiece of a movie, it’s not terrible, and it doesn’t drag on too long. I’d just say it’s okay.  Grace Phipps does a pretty convincing job as a spirit/ghost/whatever, and none of the other performances are bad.

Like most modern horror movies, Dark Summer makes substantial use of the internet and technology. This is rather unsurprising, given how obsessed much of the world is with being online. However, this may be the film’s weakest spot. For whatever reason, the internet generally is not very scary (at least not for supernatural reasons). Personally, I’ve always had a tough time being afraid of internet ghosts or even internet trolls. I don’t think either can harm me. Still, any supernatural horror story based in modern times has that interesting problem. Can ghosts be online? Should they be? Also, it’s probably harder to even tell a “retro” horror tale occurring before the internet, because kids today have a harder time imagining it. How do you cater to that audience? You write high-tech devices into the script unless you want to seem like Ted Kaczynski.

Our three heroes. Dark Summer - IFC Films
Our three heroes. Dark Summer – IFC Films

Fortunately, the three pals in Dark Summer all care about each other and actually don’t spend the entire movie looking at screens. They talk to each other, seem to care about each other, and are relatable. In contrast, when everyone’s eyes are glued to their internet devices, nothing is quite as scary as it used to be, and people don’t seem nearly as empathetic. This movie largely avoids these traps. It mentions the internet, but it isn’t logged into it the whole time. On top of that, it is not a found footage movie, which is a sub-genre that some people hate.  There is also a psychological aspect to how the haunting is portrayed, which gives it a bit more depth.

Still, my mind goes back to internet ghosts. Do ghosts use Skype? Can they add me on Facebook? Do they function like internet viruses? Technology has a way of cheapening ghosts, which are hard enough for me to believe in.  In a way, it’s like the Ouija board. Sure, Ouija has roots traceable to ancient China, but it’s harder to expect a Ouija board made by Hasbro to pack the same punch. Nevertheless, some people actually believe in using a magical board to communicate with spirits, not unlike the seance scene in the film. For example, rock band The Mars Volta supposedly wrote an entire album based on Ouija board material. It’s claimed that, after several incidents of bad luck, the lead singer actually decided to bury the board and never revealed its location. If so, one wonders why they released the presumably haunted album.  I can imagine the band’s detractors suggesting they should have buried that album, too (for the record:  I like Mars Volta).

Anyway, the superstitious among you may find Dark Summer easier to take seriously. Just tell yourself: It’s only a laptop,  only a laptop, only a laptop.

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

Check Also

Spike Lee’s ‘SUMMER OF SAM’ (1999) – 25th Anniversary Retro Review

Growing up, I got sick a lot. My parents just went off to work, and …