Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Horror Film Review

Summer School (2006):  Uber low-budget offering that's part A Nightmare on Elm Street, part Creepshow, part Groundhog Day but not nearly as good as any of them.  I went into this one with absolutely no expectations.  If I hadn't, I probably would have turned it off within the first ten minutes.

Charles (Simon Wallace), who runs a website that reviews horror movies (um...), has to attend summer school for reasons I frankly can't remember and that frankly couldn't matter less.  He shows up early and is the first to arrive in class.  It's not long before he falls asleep at his desk. He wakes up to find the everyone else has arrived and class in full swing.  He has a series of dreams within dreams the subjects of which include vampires, bug monsters, psycho neo-Nazis, and gun-toting hillbillies straight out of Deliverance.  Every time Charles dies (usually grusomely) he wakes up only to find himself in another dream. 

There's a blond girl Charles has a crush on, two reprobate friends, and a security guard who figure into each of the dreams which are produced like separate mini-movies.  The one with the bug monsters is basically a zombie story - get bitten or scratched and you're screwed.  The Nazi and hillbilly ones are heavy and a bit disturbing.  The vampire one goes for humor.  The penultimate dream...well, there is a bit of a twist or two at the end so I'll bite my tongue.  I will say that with a movie like this, you're expecting the unexpected. 

The Breakdown

Acting:  Universally icky.  Wallace as Charles is at least not distracting but the, goodness.  They could have at least gone to their local community theater to recruit a few players.  It wouldn't have cost anything and then we wouldn't have had to pay the price for using friends and family. 
Story:  Been there, done that and done better.  What I've always liked about using dreams in horror is the freedom it affords the filmmaker.  In this case, it's also a cautionary tale told tongue-in-cheek about what may happen if you watch too many scary movies. 
Direction:  Not awful.  Not disjointed.  Not confusing.  Best I can do. 
Production Values:  The dungeon-like room in the Nazi dream was very cool; super creepy.  And the hillbilly dream, shot somewhere in the woods, had a terrifying bucolic feel.  Everything else was shot in a school.  Slightly washed-out film stock actually helped the movie ooze a 70s exploitation vibe. 
Gore:  There's some good blood, and they got the recipe right so it looks like blood (pet peeve of mine).  Minimal gore.  Just a partial disembowling. 
Ending:  I was expecting to hate it but didn't.  You sort of see it coming but sort of don't.  Vague enough for you?
Verdict:  Should you watch Summer School?  Eh.  If you have nothing else to do and don't expect a lot, then sure.

My Rating:  2 out of 5

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