SUMMER SCARS

6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 6th June 2009

Director: Julian Richards (Darklands / The Last Horror Movie)

Cast: Kevin Howarth, Ciaran Joyce, Amy Harvey, Jonathan Jones, Chris Conway, Ryan Conway and Darren Evans

Writer: Al Wilson

Trailer:  SUMMER SCARS ** This is one of those annoying trailers that a) makes the film look sh*t and b) contains major plot spoilers….

  

.To be proofread & edited: I have a feeling that I’ve caught Summer Scars on it’s second round of sales. It’s been re-jacketed by Soda Pictures and dated as a 2013 release but IMDB tells a different story in that this great little film got made back in 2007 and saw it’s first release in 2009.  The fact that it’s actually good enough to warrant a rediscovery is a nice surprise.  I’ve only recently stumbled upon this practice via the weird and untalented Cornish film director Richard Driscoll (who made Highway To Hell then rebranded it as Eldorado and did something similar with The Legend of Harrow Woods).  It’s a shady practice renaming your under performing shit to get some extra money. Anyway who cares? On this occasion it has turned out well because Summer Scars is a good film.

Six young teenagers spend an afternoon in the local woods, farting about with a stolen scooter and sharing piss weak beer.  When the alpha male Paul (JONATHAN JONES) knocks accidentally knocks a man down with said scooter it kicks off a nightmarish chain of events.  At first the victim, Peter (KEVIN HOWARTH – THE MAGNIFICENT ELEVEN) comes across as a kindly down and out ex-soldier. But as the afternoon progresses he beings to reveal a twisted and sadistic side, playing the youngsters off against each other in a series of belittling mind games.  The sole girl, Leanne (AMY HARVEY) is the most outspoken and strongest but she also turns out to be the one with the most to lose.

Summer Scars‘ biggest strength is its young cast.  The cast are thoroughly convincing as a group of kids who are old enough to commit crimes but may not be old enough,brave enough or smart enough to outwit their tormentor.  All of them are strong with the standouts being Amy Harvey and Darren Evans (HUNKY DORY) as Jonesy, the clown of the group whois singled out as an early target for Peter.  The kids aren’t worldly enough to spot the doors close behind Peter as he sets his game up.  It appears at first that he is improvising but it quickly becomes apparent that he’s got specific axes to grind and he forces certain situations to arrive at a twisted set of his own conclusions.  the film would fail if he was the weak link but Kevin Howarth does a very good job.  The kids don’t know which way he’ll go. Will he beat them or tussle their hair?  The conclusion is inevitable as soon as one of the characters brags about his dad or brother owning a gun, then later escaping. It’s not a plot spoiler. It’s just plain obvious.

The final shot of Summer Scars is priceless though.  A handy little twist to keep the audience thinking.  The writer has a good handle on the dialogue although at times you can tell it’s been written by an older person. The script doesn’t contain all that much slang. For poor valley kids, they have a fair grasp of The Queen’s English. If the cast had been allowed to improvise a small bit giving a spin to the dialogue it would have been the cherry on an already good cake.  The film plays like an inverted Eden Lake with fewer chills. But in keeping the events more down to earth gives this film the advantage.  All incident in the film could really happen and pan out this way.  It’s the kind of story that would make local news but not national news.  Some may compare this to Stand By Me, but this has more teeth although the way the kids come together to fight against a common foe rings bells.  Summer Scars is also very lensed and the score is minimal but effective.  It’s a victory because the largely unknown cast do a sterling job. Many of the cast (according to IMDB) have not acted before or since and that’s a real shame considering how ‘well-connected’ talent vacuum’s like Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint continue to get top jobs.  Kevin Howarth seems to be on an small upswing with a leading role in the new Wesley Snipes flick Gallowwalker and the Brit-Horror The Seasoning House.  His plum role in this film should have led to some good jobs, so maybe it’s a bad agent or bad luck that’s held him back.

6.5 out of 10 – Thoughtful and enjoyable little thriller. Reminiscent of Eden Lake. It’s elevated by very good acting from it’s small and talented young cast. Recommended if you like your horror mild, non-gory but extra edgy. DON’T WATCH THE TRAILER – IT GIVES THE WHOLE PLOT AWAY….

 Review Below by Joe “Ewok Worrier” Pesci II (yes, worrier NOT warrior)

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “SUMMER SCARS

  1. SUMMER SCARS by Joe Pesci II

    Here’s an unexpected gem, though gem is the wrong word for a film which scrabbles around so much in the mud. And it’s a cautionary tale (for a moment I thought it as a fable but it isn’t; it has a simple unambiguous message which I’ll try not to reveal, even though the trailer – which is a heavily shortened version of the film – does).

    It’s like the Children’s Film Foundation has been infiltrated by someone who wants to show kids ‘the truth’ without all that nonsense about helping aliens escape or saving newts. A bunch of ne’er-do-wells decide not to bother with school one day and head off to the woods with stolen moped, cheap beer and a general intent of not doing much. Unfortunately they run into a mysterious man. If you’ve seen WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, forget about that. In that classic some kids stumble on an escaped convict who they mistake for Jesus Christ. These kids are more worldly and don’t make that mistake. But they do make the mistake of not running, and they keep making that mistake. Maybe if they’d gone to school they’d know what to do in these situations…

    The stranger seems at first to be just a homeless drifter, possibly somewhat simple-minded. But things take a series of sinister turns and it all ends in threats and tears, and the old, old law of stage plays (‘if a gun is mentioned in act one…’) holds true.

    SUMMER SCARS succeeds because it is straightforward, brief, simple and unpretentious. The children who make up most of the cast are a well chosen bunch, and seem to have been generally first-timers (and in some cases only-timers). This works well as they, for the most part, have energy and rawness and in no way resemble their contemporaries in certain bigger budget, better behaved films that one could mention.

    Only Kevin Howarth as the drifter has any significant previous form, what with him being a grown up proper actor. But even he (and, honestly, this is a compliment) comes across as someone who’s just wandered in off the streets (or woodland path). He is disturbingly natural here, and it’s surprisingly difficult to dislike him, and easy to see him as being misunderstood, misguided etc. (There’s one bit where he holds his head to do some ‘mad acting’ which seems a bit actorish but that just demonstrates how good he is during the rest of the film and I bet he was told to do it by the director.) In fact he’s one of the most agreeable nutters you’re likely to meet in the movies, and it makes sense that the kids don’t run away. He just doesn’t seem to be a danger, even when he’s being a danger. (That’s not to say he seems weak or useless, like Bertie Carvel in the National Theatre’s dire and diabolical staging of Damned by Despair but that’s another story and a criminal waste of £12).

    This is allegedly based on an event from the director’s childhood (presumably, unless he was mysterious man they met) (I really must do more research before writing these things). I’m not sure if I believe that or not, but it doesn’t matter as it feels very real. This fact (if it is a fact) perhaps explains why the film doesn’t really develop much: it is simply a film version of a short story rather than a novel, and there’s a lot to commend that. My colleague Brit Pic Dick suggested that the film might have benefitted from allowing the children to improvise, and introduce slang which an adult writer might be unfamiliar with. I respectfully disagree. The film 1 DAY is handicapped by this (subtitles just brought home how much of the script was in some sort of Brummie drug-dealers’ code), whereas SUMMER SCARES avoids a gimmick which could easily have dated the film. After all a film is a film, not a depiction of reality, no matter how grimy they can sometimes be.

    At one level this looks and feels like some sort of worthy film, harnessing local kids’ energy, putting it to good use, and all that sort of thing. The kind of film that Arts Councils like to give money to because they’re good for the community and keep people off streets and all that sort of thing. And all this is true and valid. But it’s also a rather good little thriller. There’s real, tangible threat, but there’s also confusion, and bewilderment. There’s a sense of characters really existing as well. It’s true that it doesn’t really go anywhere and not much happens, but that’s the point. Think of it as a superior supporting feature, and as a corrective to the frankly insane worlds of Enid Blyton and teddy bears’ picnics.

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