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SUMMER SCHOOL (2006)
Published by Miranda on 2009/6/7 (1367 reads)
SUMMER SCHOOL (2006)
Directed by BEN TRANDEM, LANCE HENDRICKSON, STEVEN RHODEN, TROY MCGALL & MIKE P. NELSON
Review by MARTIN BOUCHER
Released by ¸Random Creatureface Films
Running Time: 90 minutes
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: English Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1
Region Code: All, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: No
Special Features: A Behind-the-Scenes Footage; Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel; Short Films; Three Commentary Tracks; Teaser and Trailer
Trailer Online: Yes
A guy’s nightmarish journey into the unknown best describes this shot on camcorder film that throws punches at various genres including a slasher flick, a vampire tale, a spider-like creature feature, even a DELIVERANCE-type thriller with teen protagonist Simon Wallace in the Ned Beatty role. Poor kid, not only is he on a unlucky streak, but he just can’t seem to wake up from his highly disturbed and very episodic slumber that provides his attending SUMMER SCHOOL—directed by a slew of newcomers with a promising career, judging by what’s been shown so far.
The premise, attention-grabbing when omitting the pre-zzzz intro, focuses on horror buff Wallace’s indefinite encounters with the dark side, a sort of digital game on film where one has to find his way through many puzzling levels before time runs out. In our hero’s case it means escaping his bad dreams in one piece while sorting out the real from the unreal. Each appointed director makes do with what’s on his celluloid agenda which is aplenty depending on who got what theme. Yes, some succeed better than others but none are forgettable (well, perhaps the creature feature attack bit which is too lightning fast—not to mention very cheesily done—to be truly engaging). The most disturbing one, not necessarily the best (that would go to second to last madness-filled segment which is spot-on in its dark comedic form), is the all too realistic and very explicit rendition of teacher to students shootout. Chilling to the core, it reminds viewers just how thin the line between sanity and insanity really is.
Sleek production value aficionados beware, SUMMER SCHOOL never lets you forget that it runs on a shoe string budget. The setting is quite restrained (the school, mostly) and some actors, camera shots and special effects do verge occasionally on the sub-par side (most noticeably when regarding some fake spider web and later on one still breathing but supposedly dead hillbilly). Nevertheless the overall positive reaction one gets from viewing this film sure compensates for any apparent on-screen flaws, especially when in presence of talented Simon Wallace who makes his central character such a treat to watch. It’s because of guys like him—and all those behind the scenes people, of course—that independent features are definitely must-see materials.
Hefty are the extras on this disc (displayed by a quite impressive-looking menu), starting with a brief making of that is as trivial as the lengthier gag reel. Both have a you-had-to-be-there feel to them, alas. What is crucial viewing, however, is the five short films depicting various director efforts which vary from an Edgar Allan Poe based piece to a zombie infested Romero homage to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. All are well-produced despite its no money status. The extras also include an uneven tour of deleted or extended scenes, and an audition piece that shows the ad lib flair of both Wallace and his female co-star Amy Cocchiarella. But the biggest feature yet is probably the three sets of vocal commentaries that do a fine job dissecting the film in all its splendor and errors. The commentary that does the best job is by far the last one, the directors take, which gives all the technicalities fans need to know. The image is relatively grain free with bright colors that boast a 16mm look and the sound quality is finer if 5.1 surround is thumb-picked. All in all, SUMMER SCHOOL is definitely in the “check it out” category—if not for its impressive assessment of style and delivery, then for looking at the ABCs of low-budget filmmaking.
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