MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes
•  Making-of Featurette
•  Trailers
•  Original Trailer

The Pitch

Battle Royale except the kids are pussies, and Takeshi Kitano hasn’t bathed since 2006.

The Nutshell

While playing hooky from school, a gang of British youths runs afoul of a drifter who holds them hostage.

The Lowdown

Summer Scars wants to be a modern day Stand By Me so badly it hurts. And it would be if it was well written, directed, had solid identifiable characters, memorable music, tension, understandable motives, or Kiefer Sutherland. Since it has none of those things, it’s kinda useless.

Life ain’t nothin’ but biddies and money.

Supposedly, the film is based on a hostage experience writer/director Julian Richards had as a kid. If this is true, I think the lesson being taught here is that British kids are the winners and champions of the Most Naive Motherfuckers On God’s Green Earth contest. My fellow Americans, especially those of you in urban settings, riddle me this: You’re hanging out in the woods playing hooky from school, some guy in dirty clothes asks you to find his dog, named Jesus by the way, who got lost. Is this man to be trusted in any way whatsoever? Ok, I’ll grant you, there’s something pretty innocuous about looking for a lost dog, and, what the hell, you’re 13, you wanna hang with the big folk. But now pretend said professional dirtyman pulls a gun on two teenage toughs. Is this guy to be trusted now? If your reaction is anything other than “Run Like Fuck”, you have failed this portion of the life exam.

While Von Trier, Gainsbourg, and Dafoe were already established artists, the fox had blown through his residuals within weeks, and by October 2010, was already thousands of euros in debt with the North London Mafia, men who neither knew or cared about the fact that he had unborn fetuses to feed.

Sure, one could make the argument that this is the point of the film, that these teenagers who think they’re invincible are really just foolish children over their heads, but there’s a naivete here that kids from any sort of inner city simply would not have running into a dirty hobo in the woods. They let this guy teach them to fight, troubleshooting on of the weaker kids’ inner demons by telling him to stand up for himself, letting them take out their frustrations by using him to beat up on, and they get surprised when he gets belligerent and dangerous about it later. This happens time and time again through the course of the film, and they never take the fuck off, or question why they’re hanging out with a full grown adult carrying weaponry whose marshmallow fell off his s’more long ago. The drifter is a regular derelict Dr. Phil in this, and these kids let him be. Meanwhile, swap the kids from, well, Kids into this story, you’d have a very different movie on your hands, where the drifter probably gets beaten to death with somebody’s skateboard within 15 minutes. And probably winds up with AIDS.

“Don’t you fucking lie to me, bitch, or you’re dead!”
“Please don’t kill me! I’m telling the truth!”
“You’re serious!?”
“Sookie’s a fairy! I swear to God!”
“Fucking Charlaine Harris! All right, I’m cancelling HBO. Get out of here. And not a fucking word about what we just talked about!”

And unfortunately, that’s the conceit this film hangs on. You can get away with that kind of shit in a true horror film, where depending on the overall tone, you’re just looking for the first half assed excuse to send the lambs to the slaughter. But Summer Scars prides itself on keepin’ it real. Furthermore, it’s my solemn duty to inform that that phrase is not me being snarky. The film’s usage of hip hop and graffiti for its opening and closing credits couldn’t be cheesier if you had Chester Cheetah throwing up gang signs over that shit.

Summer Scars definitely has that first-film guerilla moviemaking feel to it, but aside from Kevin Howarth’s performance (which, credit where credit’s due, is rather strong, creepy stuff, and it saves many of these scenes single-handedly), the amateur feel extends to everything else, leaving just a lifeless thud of a thriller, and one that definitely doesn’t have as much to say about kids or innocence or even the secret life of hobos as it thinks it does.

Question: Is there anyone on this planet who wouldn’t automatically look cooler holding their gun sideways?
Answer: Yes.

The Bonuses

There’s commentary with Julian Richards and his producer which is pretty informative for would be first time filmmakers from a technical standpoint, but a master class in wrong-headedness in the explanation of every other creative decision. The Making-of is your fairly standard boring “What was it like to work with the director” featurette, though padded as hell for a full half-hour sort of affair. There’s the trailer for this film, some other random Danger After Dark trailers.

4.0 out of 10