Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead (The film isn’t really about twists and turns, and the details divulged really don’t do much to alter how you perceive the film).
Directed by: Phillip Escott, Craig Newman
Cast: Danny Miller, Reece Douglas, Richard Pawulski
I watch a lot of intense, censorship defying films, and very few of those films leave me feeling uncomfortable. In fact, recently I jumped into Landmine Goes Click after hearing from multiple individuals that the flick is so disturbing it’s hard to watch. All I can say to those people is, if you think that was intense, give Cruel Summer a try – that is intense.
The picture is based on factual events (which I admit I haven’t researched), and centers on an autistic teen who is targeted and beaten and stabbed to death by three of the dumbest criminals to plague the screen. These three are morons, with only one showcasing any savvy, at all. That one is not the leader of this group, the leader is Nicholas, and the lone kid with a few smarts upstairs is Calvin, and he almost does the right thing by talking everyone at of their murderous mission (they’re actually a little ambiguous with their plans). But ultimately he fails, and as a result we watch a handicapped kid who is as close to innocent as it gets, pummeled mercilessly while being degraded and taunted by a few unbelievably unlikable characters.
The flick is savage. No punches are pulled as we watch an extremely disconcerting death scene unravel over the course of about 15 painful minutes. Yes, the murder of this kid is that long, completely drawn out for maximum effect, which we unquestionably get. Is it too much? Is the intensity of the scene amplified by the reality that this story is based on factual events? Perhaps. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter much that this was based on a true story, it’s heart breaking and it’s chilling, and that’s all there is to it. This movie is designed to leave viewers feeling hopeless inside, and that is indeed what we’re feeling as the final credits head our way.
The cast has an awfully heavy burden to bear in this case, but thankfully, every last player is fully dedicated to creating a superb genre piece. Danny Miller, who portrays the aforementioned Nicholas is a total scene stealer. He sells the villainous role like a remarkably seasoned vet, and the dedication on display is respect worthy, and then some. These kids may all be young, and they may not be big stars just yet, but if they continue to showcase polished skill, and they continue to work with top notch screenplays, they might very well find themselves sitting pretty in Hollywood.
Perhaps this tale falls flat with an inferior script or performers, but as it stands the cast does a stellar job and the screenwriting is sharp and fluent. The story relies on emphasized character study, and everyone in the lineup gets proper evaluation, which leaves the viewer sitting in the driver’s seat with the seatbelt engaged, the motor running and the steering wheel in hand.