Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
A group of mischievous British youth encounter a creepy mystery man near their hangout in the woods. He seems to be trying to make friends, but is he an unhinged psycho?
Is it good movie?
SUMMER SCARS is a film with plenty of familiar elements. Thereís a little LORD OF THE FLIES, a few hints of STAND BY ME and a big dollop of that Chris Penn movie THE BOYS CLUB. Itís that type of movie where the young characters are faced with a situation in which the decisions they make could determine whether they make it out alive. And getting through it makes them... you know, MEN... and stuff. While SUMMER SCARS has the virtue of some good performances that enhance the filmís believability, it ultimately doesnít end up in a satisfying place despite a semi-interesting journey.
Kevin Howarth gives an intense performance as Peter, the greasy infiltrator of the group. There are moments when I had the sense that Peter might be completely harmless. After all, the movie starts with him supposedly looking for his missing dog. But Peter also seems to be running on a lot of pent-up emotion. Heís teetering pretty close to the edge, and he seems to have a hidden agenda. This isnít an easy character to jump into, but Howarth nails all the beats. He goes convincingly from protector to tormentor and back again, often in one scene. Thereís a great deal of sadness and pain in Peterís eyes, but we never really learn his story; the characterís background remains ambiguous (this proves to be a mostly effective device). Peter eventually holds the kids hostage and there comes a scene where we know he has become an outright monster. While this isnít a horror film, it does contain a few disturbing elements.
Julian Richards directed SUMMER SCARS and uses many long, clean, deliberate takes. The film moves at a slow pace, and while the nature of the story calls for it, I couldnít help but think what a little visual energy would have done for the overall impact. The resolution seems to be a bit of shrug of the shoulders on behalf of writer Al Wilson. The characters are left in a state of limbo, with the audience left to wonder what is to follow. The real issue is that none of the significance of what happened in the previous 70 minutes is felt during these last crucial moments. Thankfully, the performances of the young actors are generally strong enough to match Howarth and the film keeps us watching.
Video / Audio
I knew where the film was headed from early on and wasn't blown away when it ended. But SUMMER SCARS is still better made and acted than most of its low-budget bretheren.