If you go down to the woods today…
Oh, to be a teenager again. Standing on the cusp of adulthood, with all the opportunities it promises, but still able to rely on mum washing your clothes and cooking your tea. But not even good old mum can help the kids at the centre of Julian Richards’ low budget thriller, whose devil-may-care push for independence ends up costing them dearly.
Fourteen year old Bingo (Ciaran Joyce) and his mates decide to skip school to hang out in the woods. Soon a day of skiving, smoking and snogging is interrupted by the arrival of Peter (Kevin Howarth), an unkempt drifter who, after winning the group’s trust, soon begins to reveal his true nature. Peter’s knockabout jibes soon turn into violent bullying, but it’s he reveals what he’s got in store for lone girl Leanne (Amy Harvey) that things really get out of hand. And, by the time the dust settles, nothing can ever be the same.
That Richards’ film starts out as a run-of-the-mill teen drama and ends up a chilling allegory about the fragile innocence of youth is more to do with his spirited young cast than the story itself. The narrative is flimsy, on paper a one-note horror that doesn’t promise much, but in the hands of its cast it turns into a short, sharp shocker. Howarth brings an unstable intensity to Peter, the fact that he’s ex-military hints at post-traumatic stress that lingers, unexplored, in his every move. And, as the kids run the gamut of emotion from swaggering bravado to disbelief to sheer terror, Summer Scars develops into something altogether more disturbing, with a climax as brutal as any Hollywood slasher. It may well be an exercise in low-budget simplicity, but it’s a neat little chiller that doesn’t outstay its welcome. 3 stars
(This review has also been published on Little White Lies )
Stars Ciaran Joyce, Kevin Howarth, Amy Harvey
Director Julian Richard
Screenplay Al Wilson
Distributor Jinga Films
Running Time 1hr 8mins
Opens June 6 (showing as part of the ICA’s New British Cinema Season, and in key UK cities)