Cruel Summer is the story of Danny, an autistic young man, getting caught up in the jealousy-fueled fury. It is a tension building ride to a bloody ending (no spoilers as they give this away in the first two minutes of the movie).
Shot in South Wales in late 2015. The movie was released in foreign markets over the last two years. It is finally making its way to the U.S. market on February 27, 2018. It is being distributed by Wild Eye Releasing, which focuses on independent releases. Cruel Summer is written and directed by Phillip Escott and Craig Newman. The film is based on an amalgam of stories out of the U.K., and not one specific story. The movie is, therefore, based on multiple true events. It was shot over a ten-day period, which for the content of the film is a little impressive.
Danny Miller (the actor, not the main character) plays Nick the jealous ex-boyfriend who pursues the protagonist Danny, played by Richard Pawluski. Both performances were on target. No performance falls short as the other characters act with desperate disconnection from someone they want to be close to.
The essence of the movie is the progression from two totally separate worlds (Danny’s comfortable ordered world, and Nick’s tense chaotic world) to colliding in a violent confrontation. If you are expecting character development outside of the acceptance of Nick’s friends to accepting his violent nature, you should not. This movie should not be entered into expecting a traditional story structure. The movie is the building, under certain tensions, of Nick’s rage into one of pure sadistic violence; this makes the movie simplistic, and even lacking, but profound in its portrayal of one aspect of human nature.
The filmmaking uses music to bring about a juxtaposition in tone between these two worlds; the first world is that of Danny, and the second being the small gang Nick has cobbled together. The music on Danny is broad and soft, notes interject with a simple yet uplifting tone. The movie does its job setting up the feeling of these two world colliding. I would argue it does this in such a pointed way as rarely matched in movies I’ve seen.
The desire to fit in is built into us. We are social creatures. This can either lead to great cooperation or great division. Cruel Summer gives a solid expedition into the irrational world of revenge (Nick). The desire to fit in (Calvin) and the desire to be loved (Julia) fill tertiary roles in this tale of horror. There is even a little dominance play between Nick and Calvin, which is normal among male bonding. These are believable people. It feels like these are people you could know. Yet none of us want to acknowledge we could see people we know do these things.
There is no hero’s journey. There’s no theme of redemption. This movie builds a dichotomy of personality. It then uses violence and cruelty to bludgeon the viewer into seeing the basest expressions of unquestioning conformity and pride as a man’s main motivation. This is typically something I would lament. To prove the point of the depravity man can express, this movie hit the button.
Their Facebook calls the movie “acclaimed British horror thriller.” There was definitely a horror to the story, although I cannot see why thriller would be ascribed to the movie. The pace of the movie leads to no feelings of excitement or surprise. There was little doubt as to Nick’s intention, and there was little doubt as to where the movie was going to end up. It opens up giving glimpses into the violence later on in the movie.
The ending of the movie will leave the viewer in the same state as the protagonist. Danny, for all his planning, is left outside as a storm rolls in. All of his preparation could not prepare him for the cruelty of his fellow man. As often as we see the horror in horror movies, there can be no walking out of this experience without a sense of the malevolent meaningless looming in the psyche of someone we should be able to identify with. There will be no comforting thoughts to detract from the horror of man’s inhumanity to man. The movie is impactful with its nihilistic expression.
Cruel Summer Overall
You cannot help but walk away from this movie feeling a weight on your soul. The world around us is full of this kind of violence that escapes articulation. This movie should act as a reminder for all of us, that we are never far from these dark impulses.
Should you see this movie? If you can walk away from a movie whose whole purpose is to show how bad one male can treat another male, and how others mostly go along with it just to fit it, then yes. There’s definitely value to the movie, namely looking face to face with the evil that exists in all of us, and how circumstance can lead you on a path you may have never considered acceptable. This movie is not for everyone. If you are going to it for a thrill, I don’t believe this movie will scratch that itch.
Cruel Summer is out now on Amazon or other various digital platforms.