Film

Dark Summer Takes a Novel Approach to the Teen Horror Film

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In the teen horror film Dark Summer, screenwriter Mike Le delivers a novel way to keep a protagonist in a haunted house: Put him under house arrest.

Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), who’s so into hacker chic that he’s got ones and zeroes painted on his ceiling, is wearing a tracking anklet for cyber-stalking his classmate Mona (Grace Phipps). With his mom away, he’s pretty much alone aside from his duty officer and two friends who secretly keep him company.

He’s also contacted by Mona, who kills herself during a videochat. Now her ghost is causing him to hallucinate, carving symbols into his chest, and generally haunting his house…a house he can’t leave.

Paul Solet’s direction relies on disorienting tight shots as Daniel creeps through the halls, followed by never-quite-frightening appearances by Mona in her bloody hoodie. Nonetheless, there’s an arresting séance scene, and a later Bone Collector–style investigation reveals a clever twist, even if the camerawork is too murky to make the most of it.

The climax, however, a step-by-step incantation, feels by-the-numbers, like some sort of mystic hopscotch. More interesting is friend Abby’s (Stella Maeve) unrequited longing for Daniel, but even that spark eventually succumbs to the weight of plot contrivance.

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