out of Five
Running time: 75
Creepy, atmospheric, low-budget British thriller that maintains tension throughout, thanks to a disturbing performance from Kevin Howarth.
What's it all about?
Directed by Julian Richards, Summer Scars sees a group of teenagers (Ciaran Joyce, Jonathan Jones, Darren Evans, Chris Conway, Ryan Conway and lone girl Amy Harvey) skipping school to mess about on a stolen moped in the woods. However, when two of them accidentally crash the moped into a strange man named Peter (Kevin Howarth), the stranger takes the opportunity to hang out with them, claiming that he's not angry.
Since one of the boys is disabled, the group are unable to run away when Peter starts behaving strangely. Things start innocently enough with a hunt for a dog called Jesus and a laugh at a couple in a car having sex, but it isn't long before Peter's challenging the kids to hurt him, pulling a pellet gun and generally terrorising them.
The performances are excellent – this is a thoroughly believable group of teenagers and their interactions are well observed, particularly the jostling for the position of alpha male and Leanne's (Harvey) transparent fancying of Bingo (Joyce). In addition, Howarth is superb, delivering a disturbing performance that suggests Peter isn't exactly firing on all cylinders - this creates tension throughout, because both the kids and the audience are unsure what Peter will do next.
There are obvious similarities with last year's Eden Lake (only it's much tamer and the roles are reversed), but the film is also strongly reminiscent of a James Joyce story called An Encounter, in which two young boys encounter a pervert, without really knowing what's going on.
The main problem with the film is that once it's set up this extremely tense, anything-could-happen situation, it seems unsure about what to do with it. Consequently, there's nothing really scary, although there is a pleasingly nasty bit when someone has an air pellet removed.
Summer Scars is a well acted and frequently tense British thriller but there's no real pay-off to its creepy set-up and the end result is disappointing.