Summer’s Blood (2009)

For a direct-to-DVD film, Summer’s Blood certainly seems to be interested in making a large bit of money. It certainly doesn’t seem to care where the money comes from, because in some markets, it is advertising to the wrong crowd. If you go searching for Summer’s Blood, you may find it under the title “Summer’s Moon“, and some varied artwork that makes the film look far different than it actually is. The “moon” portion of the title is an obvious reference to the film “New Moon“, the second film in the Twilight Saga, a series that the lead Ashley Greene appears in.

In some markets, the cover makes it look like the film is a vampire film, and heavily promotes “Twilight‘s Ashley Greene” on the cover. This is a shame, as the Twilight audience and the people most likely to enjoy this film are not the same–not by a long shot. It is also a shame because the title “Summer’s Blood” fits the film so much better. Watch it and you’ll understand, I’m not saying any more about that for fear of spoiling one of the bigger twists.

The people who are going to enjoy Summer’s Blood are older people, ones who can look past its flaws and appreciate the story it tells, while not being offended by some blood and gore appearing on the screen. Definitely not for the younger people who are Twilight‘s “biggest fan”. Summer’s Blood does have a few problems, which is a shame, because the majority of them appear at the start of the film, before you get drawn into the story. This means that some people may be inclined to switch the film off because of its issues. I implore you to get past them though, because once the story gets going, it becomes really entertaining.

The problems it has mostly come from a slow start, which makes its low production values stand out more. If it had more of a hook, particularly in the first 5-10 minutes, it would have been easier to miss what it did wrong. The most glaring issue it has is actually in the audio department, where there was a large portion of the opening that was dubbed in post-production. I get that this is sometimes a necessity, as audio sometimes doesn’t quite work out while filming, but it seemed to be almost every line in the first portion of the film. It was obvious, and took me out of the film; at this point, Summer’s Blood felt like a low-budget film, which is rarely a good sign.

As a matter of fact, I almost wanted to turn Summer’s Blood off after the first few minutes. All that happens is the following: We see a corpse, we hear narration about how family is important, and we meet our lead character, Summer (Ashley Greene). She’s hitchhiking to a small town for reasons that she’ll explain later. After making it to the town, she meets a man who offers to give her a place to stay for the night. The next morning, things actually start to get interesting.

The man who Summer stayed with, Tom (Peter Mooney) won’t let her leave. Along with the help of his mother (Barbara Niven), he captures Summer and ties her up in the basement. He wants to create a garden down there, and after the death of one of his other captured women died. We are told that a spider did the killing, and that Tom would never harm a woman, but we never get to find out how she died.

Now that something interesting has happened, the flaws of the film seem to go away. Even though I was looking for it, I didn’t notice much in regards to the aforementioned audio dubbing, which was certainly nice. I’m not sure if they actually did lessen its usage, or if I just didn’t care as much any more, but that problem seemed to improve.

Also getting better was the acting. Peter Mooney actually ends up being the most fun person to watch, having a schoolboy charm to him that creates an interesting dynamic with the actions his character takes. The acting wasn’t all that bad to begin with, although the audio dubbing made it harder to tell what the characters were thinking–it felt like everything was read off a piece of paper, with monotone being the style of deliver–but once this got sorted out, you begin to care, at least a little, for these people. Even the maniacs who capture Summer warrant some degree of sympathy, and this continues throughout the film.

The moral side of everything that happens is what keeps the film as interesting as it is. The people who capture Summer, while certainly doing bad things, actually believe there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Tom’s keeping Summer nourished and isn’t mistreating her–save for tying her up and leaving her alone for hours at a time. She’s safe there, and shouldn’t have any reason to complain, right? That’s how he thinks, and we a good sense of that throughout the film. His character, and Summer as well, change throughout the film, and these changes make you question the nature of each character within the film.

Summer’s Blood is not really a horror movie, but is more of a thriller/drama. Without trying to scare the audience outright, it allows the tension to build as the film progresses. There will be moments when you’ll cringe, just because of some of the actions that are either seen or implied, but it never really gets to the point of being scary. The film is let down slightly by its ending though, which comes too quickly to give the audience any sense of closure.

I liked Summer’s Blood. It isn’t an amazing film, but it’s a good thriller that has some interesting characters, a somewhat unique plot and enough substance to keep you engaged throughout. The beginning isn’t all that great though, and I hope that doesn’t dissuade anyone from sticking with it, as the main portion of the film is worth watching. Its ending doesn’t provide the sense of closure you would hope for, but at least it makes sense, unlike some other thriller endings. Give it a look and hope to be pleasantly surprised by this little film.

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