Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Kevin Howarth, Ciaran Joyce, Amy Harvey, Jonathan Jones, Darren Evans
Director: Julian Richards
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
This confrontational coming-of-age thriller is a haunting look into the destruction of innocence and the depths of fear. When a gang of raucous teens play hooky in the woods, they cross paths with a mysterious drifter. Pre... more »
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Mike T. from SANTA MONICA, CA
Reviewed on 8/30/2008...
Based on an incident that happened to him as an adolescent, director Julian Richards's fourth feature, Summer Scars, captures the final moments at the sharp precipice between cocky childhood innocence and the chaotic uncertainty of growing up.
The story follows six fourteen-year-olds who manage to skip school and steal a moped before the opening credits end. Taunting each other with thick accents and egg-shell tough exteriors, the gang sets off for their hangout in the woods to drink beer, grill burgers and take turns on the "nicked" bike. The light-heartedness quickly fades when Paul (Jonathan Jones) and his disabled brother, Ben (Christopher Conway), literally collide with Peter (Kevin Howarth), a greasy-haired oddball searching for his dog, "Jesus."
Peter befriends the group, taking a few of the boys on escapades in nature, switching between fatherly guide and mischievous peer. Before long, Peter is wielding a pellet gun and refusing to let anyone leave. Peter's desperation to make an impact on the lives of his young captives elevates the action until it spins recklessly out of control - changing the lives of every character in personal and unforgettable ways.
Richards uses a familiar face - Kevin Haworth (The Last Horror Movie) - and a cast of talented and refreshingly coarse youngsters to create his dark, coming-of-age thriller. Every viewer will recognize a part of his or her younger self in one of the teens. Notably, Amy Harvey's Leanne, with braces and heavily lined eyes that can be found in any 8th-grade classroom, is a mix of bravery and fragility that strikes at the essence of modern girlhood.
Haworth's performance is impeccable, crafting a complex character in Peter, a deranged Lost Boy struggling against his age and past to be one of the innocent teens he is torturing. He remains sympathetic through much of the film, though his frustration often leads him to violent outbursts. These volatile shifts in demeanor are pinpricks that illuminate an obscured backstory, hinting at a military background, abuse and emotional immaturity.
Visually, Richards makes use of natural light and often shaky cameras - not unlike his last film, The Last Horror Movie, where the low production values were built into, and enhanced, the story. The choice here was not so obvious, but the decision lends a dirty realism that triggers terror in the viewer.
Like the best short stories, Summer Scars, at 73 minutes long, captures a singular experience with clean beauty, not forcing meaning out of something that simply is. The resolution is subtle but is there in the downcast eyes and slow, measured words of a group joined by a monumental happening and secrecy. "We gotta keep our mouths shut," instructs baby-faced Paul, perhaps wisely knowing that some of life's moments are ineffable.
STAND BY ME meets DELIVERANCE
nymus | 07/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone who recalls misspent summers of youth will understand well how a single day can echo down the years. Like the similarly resonant stories of Rob Reiner's STAND BY ME, or MEAN CREEK, SUMMER SCARS captures fragile youth at a turning point, with cracks opening up to the darker adult world.
Six friends bunk off school to spend the day in the woods. Armed with a few cans of beer and some very inadequate barbecue skills, they're free to do just what 14-year-olds do best: show off, swear, fight and spend the day just hanging out together. The first reel of Julian Richards thriller is spent solely in the company of these six. Like most real kids they're certainly no angels, and might qualify as 'hoodies' in a cruder film.
Riding a stolen moped around the bumpy woodland paths, two of the gang collide with a lone adult, Peter (Kevin Howarth). They fear the worst, and leg it from the scene, but Peter is unharmed and soon emerges to join the group. Attention turns to this unknown quantity, and the focus of the group shifts. Peter seems to be 'down with the kids'. He's sympathetic, and is soon leading the gang into new scrapes.
But Peter can't be pinned down - one minute he's offering life lessons to his young charges, the next he seems more sinister, playing divide and conquer, and easily exploiting tensions by turning friends against one another. As the afternoon wears on, events take worrying turns, and it appears Peter's agenda may be closing in on the gang.
This indie thriller (from the director of THE LAST HORROR MOVIE) makes all the right moves with an engagingly 'real' cast of youngsters. Never patronising and edgy throughout, it's a heartfelt picture of fragile adolescent faiths."
Luntz | Chipping Sodbury | 09/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Summer Scars is genuinely unsettling. Standing out from the current morass of uninspired horror films, Richards tells his story in a sensitive and intelligent manner. This is an even greater achievement when one considers that the cast of youths, in the hands of another director, might be treated too sentimentally on one hand or exploited on the other. Richards' direction is an elegant balance between these two impulses, and as such evokes films like Ratcatcher, Mean Creek and George Washington. The horrors and the thresholds of adolesence are fully mined. The performances are excellent."
Strangely unsettling look into the minds of youths
Anthony Pittore | Behind You | 11/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When six high schoolers skip school to play in the woods, they come across a mysterious drifter named Peter (Kevin Howarth). At first, all goes smoothly as Peter joins in with the kids' games. Soon, however, he turns and begins to play with the kids in more twisted ways. As the day progresses, Peter starts playing his own games. . . until he goes too far. . .
This really is a difficult film on which to comment. From one view, it seems that it's a very uneventful story about a crazy guy screwing with some kids. On the other hand, however, it's an interesting and chilling look into a madman toying dangerously with a group of adolescents in order to teach them a series of lessons. 'Summer Scars' will definitely the type of film that will evenly divide the viewing base between boredom and intrigue, but I'm definitely leaning towards the intrigue. When looking at the film from a technical point of view, it's very good. The script is fantastic, though, as I said, seemingly uneventful. The dialogue flows well and maintains a steady realism throughout, and the realism is enhanced by some good performances from the kids and a great performance from Kevin Howarth (from director Julian Richards's previous film The Last Horror Movie). The direction & cinematography utilize the forest setting well and, even when the group is just sitting around for a period of time, never rests with exploring the area visually. Adding to the atmosphere visually, the lack of a soundtrack really helps to keep things downbeat and believable (think No Country for Old Men). On a deeper level, the film attempts to play almost like a real-world fairy tale. . . do something wrong, reap the consequences, but still come out better (mentally) when it's all finished. In the end, 'Summer Scars' is not for those looking for a plot-driven film with any real amount of action. It's a character-driven thriller that toys with the minds of the youth (and the viewers) and focuses more on lessons of morality than violence and action. If that's what you want, give this one a look.
Final Verdict: 7/10.